Standards for pilots who take community service flights (CSF) are set to change pursuant to an imminent CASA ruling. Reforms are due to take effect on March 19th and are designed to introduce a more stringent set of safety and licensing standards for pilots, many being volunteers, as well as stricter medical requirements for the pilots themselves, most of whom are involved in ferrying critically ill patients from remote and rural areas.
The changes have been implemented following two Angel Flight crashes back in 2011 and 2017. CASA spokesman Peter Gibson explained, “It’s very important that the pilots who do these community service flights have a bit more experience than just your basic pilot who has just come out of training….It’s not just jumping in your plane on the weekend. It’s an important flight getting sick people to important medical appointments from remote places.”
In contrast, Angel Flight’s CEO Marjorie Pagani considers the changes to be too extreme and feels that they will have a wholesale negative affect on her organisation: “We have over 3,000 pilots and most of the changes will affect each and every pilot — whether they’re airline, commercial or whether they’re private pilots.”
Current CSF standards mirror those which apply to any regular private flight however, an industry consultation which closed at the end of January put forth the following proposed new safety standards:
- requirements for pilots to have taken off and landed in the same type or class of plane within 30 days;
- for private license holders to have had a minimum of 400 hours flight time;
- an increase in the level of maintenance needed for private planes to meet commercial flight standards.
It is the requirement to have flown within the previous 30 days which has many CSF volunteers up in arms. Rockhampton resident Neil Richardson, a pilot for more than 12 years, explained that he doesn’t always have the time to fly once a month and so, “If I got a call tomorrow I’d have to decline. I’m safe enough, according to CASA’s regulations, to fly myself and anybody right around Australia, into Sydney International Airport — that’s all fine. But I can’t take a poor person needing some medical treatment from, say, Theodore to Rockhampton.
“That’s the crazy part,” he said.
Angel Flight noted that they had thus far helped about 100,000 people over 46,000 flights but are furious that two allegedly weather-related accidents might now put that ongoing service record in jeopardy.