A Wagga mother said she will be “devastated” if the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s proposal to introduce a new minimum safety standard for community service flights affects Angel Flight Australia.
Angel Flight claims a raft of proposed changes to improve regulatory and safety standards could see the loss of up to 80 per cent of its volunteer pilots.
Angel Flight’s CEO, Marjorie Pagani, said in the last 10 years, the charity has coordinated more than 1000 flights for Wagga residents to access medical help and the proposal discriminates against rural people.
“What CASA is saying is, I can fly you from Wagga to Sydney any day of the week for lunch, but as soon as you say you’re going there for medical purposes, I’m not qualified to fly you,” she said.
“It is completely baffling.”
Linda Roesler’s son suffered from renal failure and while waiting for a transplant, needed to be in Sydney at least once a month.
“It was not viable for us to fly commercial or drive every time,” she said.
“It’s another barrier for accessing medical services regionally and it’s even worse for those further out west.
“I can’t image how they would cope without Angel Flight.”
Ms Roesler’s son is now healthy and well after a kidney transplant and she will be “forever grateful” to Angel Flight and hopes CASA makes the right choice.
“It didn’t just help Jarrod, it helped me not having to drive or worry about the cost,” she said.
Ms Pagani said one of the changes proposed would increase minimum pilot hour requirements, which would bar some of the volunteers with lower hours.
“Another requires aircraft engines to be maintained to commercial charter standards, which could cost $85,000 or up to $120,000,” she said.
Ms Pagani said CASA ignored the usual regulatory process, and if it were serious about lifting the standards it should start that process.
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said it recognises community service flights provide an invaluable service across Australia, especially for regional communities.
“These services rely on the goodwill of many volunteer pilots, some who fly professionally and others who fly for recreation,” the spokesperson said.
“Unlike an airline operation that has stringent safety oversight, CSF flights are conducted privately and rely solely on the individual pilot.
“CASA has proposed a new minimum standard for pilots conducting CSF flights to ensure that the people that use these flights are afforded the right level of safety.”
The public consultation period closed on January 31 and CASA is now considering the feedback.
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