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Alliance Airlines considering switch to NZ AOC

Australia’s Alliance Airlines could switch its aircraft onto a New Zealand air operator’s certificate owing to headaches in dealing with Australia’s air safety regulator.

Speaking to Flightglobal in an interview, managing director Scott McMillan says that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has repeatedly failed to consult with industry when developing new rules and regulations, which has caused Alliance to bear a number of costs.

As an example, he points to a uniquely Australian requirement that forced Alliance to spend €5 million ($5.43 million) to retrofit global navigation satellite navigation systems to its fleet of Fokker jets.

“We’ve been forced to put GNSS in our aircraft and take out a system that we developed here in Australia that was more accurate and more reliable,” he says.

Fellow Fokker operators Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, Skippers Aviation and Qantas’s Network Aviation unit have also been forced to stump up the considerable cost to develop the retrofit.

McMillan says that despite approaches by Alliance and other operators to CASA asking it to take a cost-benefit approach to the unique retrofit, but got no joy.

“[CASA] bureaucrats will say, ‘how good are we!’ But at what cost and what benefit?”

Alliance has also locked horns over CASA’s proposal to introduce fatigue risk management systems (FRMS) for pilots. While the airline is happy to run FRMS, it bound by prescriptive annexes that would not give it the flexibility its business requires.

“Obviously safety is first,” says McMIllan. “If you bring in an FRMS and it tells you certain things, you’ve got to do it, but you’ve also got to win on the upside.”

He points out that New Zealand allows more flexibility with pilot rostering and fatigue management than the proposed Australian rules, making it appealing to switch jurisdictions.

“A pilot with a New Zealand license can fly with much greater flexibility already than an Australian one – and we’re going to make it less flexible,” says McMillan.

“We are seriously considering moving our whole operation to a New Zealand air operator’s certificate. We satisfy almost all the requirements already.”

Australia and New Zealand have a mutual recognition agreement, which allows carriers from both sides of the Tasman to operate within each others' domestic markets. That allows Airwork to operate Boeing 737 freighters for Toll Express within Australia, while Jetstar’s domestic New Zealand services are flown under its Australian AOC.

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