Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority is working to improve regional airline safety following an accident report that cites its poor safety oversight as a contributory factor. The final report into the May 2005 crash of a Transair Fairchild Metro 23 at Lockhart River, Queensland, contains 18 safety recommendations.

The crash killed all 13 passengers and both pilots, and resulted in a difficult investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau because the cockpit voice recorder was unserviceable and the aircraft was so badly damaged. Causal factors included the commander's failure to follow standard operating procedures, and multiple management and training deficiencies at the operator, plus CASA's poor oversight, says the report. CASA chief executive Bruce Byron, however, says that he is "unable to accept the conclusion in the ATSB report that CASA contributed to factors that caused the accident".

The Metro was operating a public transport schedule from Bamaga to Cairns via Lockhart River when it crashed into terrain 11km (6nm) north-west of Lockhart River aerodrome during an area navigation global navigation satellite system non-precision approach in poor weather.

The investigator believes that the pilot-in-command was flying the aircraft with an inexperienced co-pilot who was not qualified in GNSS approaches. The pilot used approach speeds and descent rate greater than specified in the airline's operations manual, says the ATSB, adding that the pilot had a history of such flying.

Transair, which has since ceased operations, was found to be sub-standard in pilot training and checking, supervision of flight operations, safety management and management processes. The report says: "If CASA's guidance to inspectors on management systems and its risk assessment processes had been more thorough, the accident may not have occurred," and observes that Transair had recently changed from being a charter to a scheduled public transport operator with a rapid growth rate.

CASA says it has since increased its oversight of regional airlines. It now plans to introduce additional training requirements for pilots and operators. The 18 safety recommendations include autopilots to be compulsory on all aircraft operating scheduled services maintenance rules for CVRs and flight data recorders should be more specific improved standard operating procedures for two-crew instrument approaches better design of approach charts and stricter rules for RNAV GNSS approach design.

The Australian government is establishing an industry task force to set key directions and priorities for aviation regulatory reform in the next five years. CASA has been undergoing a major reorganisation since 2004 and the new taskforce will guide that to a successful conclusion, says the government.

Source: Flight International