Paul Phelan/CAIRNS

Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) chairman Dick Smith resigned on 22 March following an emergency board meeting. The move was the outcome of a growing division between Smith and CASA director Mick Toller over the pace of reforms Smith had been pushing.

Smith told transport minister John Anderson: "The decision by some sectors of the industry to personalise opposition to reform into constant attacks on, and criticism of me, has effectively stymied the progress of reform."

Following a Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (BASI) recommendation to shut down an airspace management trial in mid-December, Smith had accused BASI, the air force, the airlines, the pilot unions, air traffic controllers and CASA staff of complicity in blocking the trial he had sponsored. He had also charged CASA staff with "cronyism" and their "capture" by the airlines and by other aviation sectors. He demanded an investigation into BASI, which had sought CASA board minutes as part of its safety investigation into the airspace trials. In the week before his resignation, he had again confronted the airlines, this time over their opposition to his plan to establish basic radio communications at dozens of uncontrolled regional and remote airports at the airlines' expense.

Commenting on Smith's resignation, Anderson says: "While the board's concerns about the pace of regulatory reform are shared by the government, we recognise there is a certain inevitability that reform will come more slowly than we had hoped, because the issues are complex and the aviation industry is inherently conservative and resistant to change."

Smith had previously headed the former CAA. He resigned from that post in 1992, after a furore over the award of an A$600 million ($378 million) air traffic systems contract to Thomson-CSF and the forced resignation of the CAA chief executive and another officer, whose appointments he had sponsored.

Source: Flight International