Pilots in a spin over fee hikes

PILOTS are reeling after a change in licensing rules that see some costs leaping from $1500 a year to more than $10,000.

One Jandakot-based company that operates five aircraft says its costs could rise from anywhere between $50,000 and $300,000 a year.

Pilots warn the hikes will inevitably lead to higher costs being passed on to customers and could threaten the viability of marginal commercial operations.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority quietly introduced its new licence regime in September.

Royal Aero Club of WA chief flying instructor Trevor Jones says the changes affect about 300 of the club’s 1100 members.

“The changes are enormous…they run into 800 pages and we’re still trying to get our head around them,” he told the Herald.

Jan Ende, a former Royal Flying Doctor Service pilot, says the changes could mean the death knell for his 55 years in the air: “Previously the licences were concurrent so that if I sat my renewal test for flying by instruments alone I wouldn’t have to sit my night-flying test,” he explains.

“And because I fly single-seater planes, turbo props and corporate jets I have to sit separate exams and I have to hire the planes to do it.

“A turbo prop costs about $3000 an hour and a jet would only set me back about $5000 to $6000. Previously I’d do the test in a turbo prop and that would be it.”

“That means my costs has gone from around $1500 per year to well over $10,000.”

Stuart Burns, chief executive of Jandakot-based Complete Aviation Services, says the changes add at least $50,000 to his annual costs.

His 23-year-old business operates five aircraft.

“If I have to employ two more deputies, like CASA is suggesting, there’s $200,000 before you blink. And that’s not paying CASA for new approvals to meet the requirements for new pilots.

“Then I need to employ people to write manuals and the bureaucracy of getting them passed by CASA, so I’m looking at $200,000 to $300,000.”

CASA spokesperson Peter Gibson says the new rules are intended to improve safety, not to confuse pilots or increase costs.

He concedes however that pilots who fly different types of aircraft or do specialised work may need to sit several tests.

“I guess the simple point is that there is a need for safety. [The intention] behind the review is to make sure pilots are competent to safely fly that particular aircraft so the pubic can have confidence.

“The vast majority of the 36,000 registered pilots are private and only fly one aircraft, so the changes won’t affect them unduly.”

Mr Gibson says pilots can bundle their tests together provided they relate to the same type of aircraft.


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