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CASA, Dick Smith and Murdoch in Air Safety Stoush

Brad Edwards, Chief Pilot. Cessna Citation CJ2 Private Jet

Cessna Citation CJ2 Private Jet


“Flyers burnt by air safety U-turn” is the title of a recent News Corps article.

From the comments:

“…Mr. Edwards has been brave enough to come forward and state his case, he is to be congratulated. He treads where few others dare, the draconian powers of CASA are, in most cases, more than enough to silence criticism.”

“The Civil Aviation Safety Authority promised charter aircraft operators an exemption from having to install a cripplingly expensive new air navigation system, but backed down after Airservices Australia reversed its position and insisted on no such breaks”, writes a Murdoch journalist in The Australian.

Murdoch press goes on to relate that two years ago, the then head of CASA, John McCormick, said Airservices would allow exemptions from the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system.

“ADS-B is an advanced air navigation system based on satellite GPS, which relays aircraft positions via ground stations to air traffic controllers.”

Airservices wants all commercial aircraft, including smaller operations like that of Edwards Aviation with 7 aircraft, to have the system installed some three years ahead of the United States, in 2017 as opposed to 2020 in the US.

As the current cost of installing the system is prohibitively expensive, Mr Edwards has teamed with other small operators to request a stay of execution until such time as the system is fully developed and much cheaper to install. Currently the cost for one aircraft is $125,000, but Mr Edwards says that this figure will be reduced by perhaps 90 per cent in just a few years.

Mr McCormick met with Brad Edwards about the request for an exemption and in correspondence replied in the affirmative, quoting a precedent on other advanced navigational equipment, at which point Mr Edwards and his fellow operators breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Not long afterwards an Edwards Aviation flight to Uluru was refused clearance to the required cruising height of 37,000 feet due to lack of ADS-B, despite his protestations that he had a CASA exemption. Cruising at the lower altitude, the jet was using around twice as much fuel and as a result the flight from Tasmania to the heart of Australia had to be interrupted by an unscheduled fuel stop in South Australia, with all the associated costs and passenger upsets.

At this point renowned aviator Dick Smith was contacted, and he spoke with Mr McCormick who told him Airservices had changed its mind.

Expletives deleted, one would imagine.

Murdoch papers quoted Mr Smith as saying, “CASA is the safety regulator, why are they letting a profit-making business decide safety issues?”, and goes on to quote an Airservices spokesman stating something which sounds distinctly like doublespeak.

A later article in the same newspaper claimed that Mr Murdoch had joined forces with Dick Smith to do battle with CASA, which seems quite a turnaround given Mr Smith’s very public jibes in his direction, in particular about the low tone on his newspaper’s front pages as mentioned in this article.