Argument over Australia/UK bilateral clouds certification attempt

UK type certification of Gippsland Aeronautics's eight-seat GA-8 Airvan utility aircraft has been stalled by the cessation of the reciprocal agreement between the UK's Civil Aviation Authority and its Australian counterpart, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The CAA is seeking a commitment from either the manufacturer or from CASA that its costs will be met before the agreement can be re-established.

The CAA says that the UK's bilateral with Australia was suspended after the former Australian Civil Aviation Authority restructured into two units, CASA and the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB). The CAA says that, in order for the Airvan to be certificated in the UK, it either has to be submitted from scratch, or else the bilateral can be restored and the CAA can accept CASA's certification.

Unlike most other countries' airworthiness bodies, however, the CAA is a "cost-recovery organisation" says the authority, which is not funded by the government. Because of this, all work has to be funded by the parties concerned. In this case, either a three-man team would be sent over to Australia to inspect CASA's facilities, or the CAA could accept the findings of another aviation authority with which it has a current reciprocal, such as the US Federal Aviation Administration, which has just re-established its own bilateral with its Australian counterpart.

A dispute has broken out in Australia as CASA has asked Gippsland to pay for the CAA team's visit, or the cost of the CAA studying the FAA's audit. Gippsland says the CAA is welcome to conduct any audit it chooses, but that the regulatory function should not be compromised by industry payments and that the issue of certification capability is between the two authorities.

The Airvan is now fully certificated and in operation in Australia, and was certificated by the FAA last year, although it is now undergoing recertification to meet more exacting energy-absorbing seat requirements.

Gippsland has boosted production to 20 units a year, with significant sales in other certificated territories including Canada, Indonesia and several African states.

The Aircraft Manufacture and Export Group of Australia (AMEGA) is urging the Australian government to develop a dedicated "cell" to speed up certification of new aircraft. The cell would also provide specialised aeronautical engineering services to the ATSB. According to AMEGA, CASA will not be able to satisfy the FAA without such a cell. AMEGA complains that Australia's failure to seek reciprocal agreements with many "mature aviation" countries has left a "significant regulatory cost imbalance".

Source: Flight International