Pilots frustrated by Civil Aviation Authority's inaction on safety complaints

A survey of hundreds of pilots and engineers has found widespread frustration with the country's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Respondents have claimed that many safety-related complaints sent to the Government regulator go unanswered - and even the CAA agrees it needs to do better in some aspects.

A close encounter over the Rimutakas has been used as an example of the CAA's failures. Pilots were forced to pull away from each other, neither of them knowing the other one was in the same airspace, because there's no common radio frequency for the area.

The CAA was notified, but no feedback was ever received.

"We think there should be more proactive communication on their viewpoint, and also the industry needs a bit more context around some of the decisions that they are making," said Aviation New Zealand chief executive John Nicholson.

The survey, conducted by the General Aviation Advocacy Network, documents how 26 others also got "no response" when they raised safety concerns.

One noted: "We have had CAA staff tell us... they don't have the staff and resources to look into them all, so only 10 percent get viewed".

The CAA says it is adequately resourced. It acknowledged that in the near-miss Newshub highlighted, while it did not meet the threshold for an investigation, feedback should have been provided.

It said its "failing [to provide feedback] has not been uncommon and we have been striving to improve." 

Mr Nicholson's group did not carry out the research, but agrees there's a degree of frustration.

"What we struggle with sometimes is knowing what exactly is going to be investigated," he said, "and I think we need a transparent process so we understand what is happening."

Lack of openness, inconsistent decision making and poor relationships are also cited in the survey.

One respondent noted: "the aviation environment has become toxic and demoralised".

But the CAA said "there is much in the documents that is unbalanced, misleading, incomplete or simply wrong".

It accepted conflicts do occur and went on to say it "make[s] no apology for the hard decisions we take".

"I've seen the criticisms that have been made and I'll be discussing them with the Director of the CAA in my next regular sit-down with him," said Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

The Minister believes the CAA is adeqautely resourced but says if other groups also have concerns, he'll listen.

If you have more information, contact Michael Morrah in confidence michaelmorrah@mediaworks.co.nz.