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CASA accused of 'misconduct' by Australia's light aircraft association

The industry body representing Australia’sultralight and light sport aircraft sectors, Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus), has accused the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of “misconduct” with regards to its treatment of local manufacturer Jabiru Aircraft over proposed limitations on aircraft equipped with Jabiru engines due to reliability issues.

Bundaberg, Queensland-based Jabiru manufactures four-cylinder 2200cc and six-cylinder 3300cc engines which are fitted to more than 1,000 aircraft operating in Australia, including its own range of light aircraft.

In a consultation draft published in November, CASA proposed to limit the operation of Jabiru-powered aircraft in response to “an extraordinary high rate of partial and complete Jabiru engine failures”, due to “several failure modes”. The restrictions include operating under visual flight rule conditions only, being away from populous areas, prohibiting the carriage of passengers and use for solo operations by student pilots. Responses were due to be submitted by 27 November.

CASA says the proposal is precautionary and “no conclusive determination has been made about the integrity of Jabiru engines”.

RA-Aus expresses “serious concern”’ over CASA’s actions. “While we concede that the actions taken are in relation to the reliability of Jabiru engines and agree that said engines display markedly lower reliability figures than competitor engines, it is our belief that irreparable damage has been caused to the already fragile Australian aviation industry as a result of the regulator’s actions,” it says.

CASA has embarked on a “destructive path” that threatens the existence of Jabiru and associated businesses, it adds. RA-Aus says the issue highlights CASA’s “adversarial” relationship with industry, which was highly criticised in the Forsyth Report – a government-appointed review of Australia’s aviation safety regulation by an independent panel that was published in May.

RA-Aus says CASA has provided no specific failure data relating to the engines, other than to suggest an increasing rate of failures.

Jabiru has called for CASA’s operational limitation proposal to be withdrawn immediately. The manufacturer says data provided to CASA indicates 40 engine incidents this year, including 12 in-flight stoppages that required forced landings with no serious injuries or fatalities, out of nearly 41,800 flying hours and 92,700 flights in Australia. Jabiru says CASA is basing its proposed action on the fact that the Jabiru incident rate is higher than that of competitor Rotax.

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