CAA briefing 24 Mar 2020

What we are doing to support you

As I advised in the CAA Briefing I sent out last Friday we are very conscious of the need to be flexible and responsive in our regulatory approach during these unprecedented times. The impact on the Aviation industry will be significant and long-lasting. We need to ensure we support you to find new ways of operating in a very different environment. We also need to ensure we minimise the regulatory burden as much as possible over the coming months, without compromising safety and security.

There will be a number of common challenges faced by operators. Where these are identified to us early, we can be proactive in working with you to find solutions to them. A good example is the inability to access flight simulators internationally for training purposes due to the current border restrictions in place in many countries. We have already issued advice and guidance on how operators can manage this, which is available on our website. We are continuing to identify alternative solutions to this challenge.

Another example is the timeframe imposed by the Safety Management System transitional rules, which require all operators to have a certificated safety management system by 1 February 2021, and, more specifically, an agreed certification date prior to 1 February 2021. The significant burden of the other challenges being faced by operators at this time will make achievement of these deadlines very demanding and attempting to do so runs the risk of distracting them from effectively managing those challenges.

We are currently working on an approach that would enable us to pro-actively issue exemptions to operators who have yet to be certificated, without the need for them to apply. These exemptions would provide a longer timeframe within which the SMS certification could occur. In doing this we will need to assure ourselves that doing so will not significantly compromise safety, but where we can be assured of this, we will be able to provide operators with some relief while they respond to the challenges COVID-19 has created.

We are also aware there will be some operators who are keen to continue with the current timelines, and our approach will also support this.

We are currently developing flexibility options like that we intend to apply to the SMS certification requirements for upcoming organisational re-certification, medical certification and currency requirements. Wherever possible we will be taking a proactive approach to this, issuing exemptions or other relief without the need for operators to make contact or apply for such relief. We are actively working on these approaches right now and will provide more information as soon as possible. We expect to be in a position to provide more detail on this work early next week. If you have an urgent case that we need to consider before then, please contact us. We are also considering how we can undertake our oversight functions in a way that minimises the impact on operators. More information on how we intend to do this will be made available as soon as possible.

As I indicated on Friday, for other issues that may arise for you, if you foresee the inability to comply with a safety regulatory requirement due to the impact of COVID-19, then please engage with us early. It may be that you can find an alternative way of mitigating the risks addressed by the regulatory requirement and we might be able to accept that alternative means. We will take a flexible and pragmatic approach to working with you and assisting you to find solutions to the challenges you face. The greater the advance notice that you give us of such matters the greater the likelihood we can get a positive outcome.

Government announces air freight capacity support package

The Government has today announced more details about its aviation support package, which includes $330 million to ensure air freight capacity is available on key routes for at least the next six months.

Under the air freight capacity support package, airlines and other air freight businesses will be invited to submit proposals for the Government to provide financial support for them to deliver freight capacity on key routes.

Proposals will need to cover how critical imports of medicines, medical supplies and high value exports will be prioritised, and prices to be charged.

Visit Government working to keep air freight moving(external link)

Moving to Alert Level 4

And finally, New Zealand's move to Alert Level 4 means further restrictions, especially for private/recreational aviation - e.g. private and recreational pilots cannot operate their aircraft. You should be making plans to ensure that as a private/recreational pilot that you comply to ensure the government’s COVID-19 measures achieve the outcomes we all seek.

We understand the impacts of COVID-19 measures are significant for the aviation sector as a whole and that there is currently considerable uncertainty both about the effect of the measures and about the future. We are working with the Ministry of Transport to seek certainty and clarify the challenges arising from these measures. We will keep you updated - please the COVID-19 page on our website for more information.

CAA staff are now working from home - it’s a new way of working for us and the sector so there will be some teething problems.We ask that you are patient as we transition to this new way of working with the other demands that come with it, such as supporting our families and friends.

Rest assured, I am meeting daily with my leadership team and we are well connected with the rest of government as we work through COVID-19 and respond to these challenges. We will keep you informed and there will be an ongoing series of communications with you. I ask again that you keep checking the COVID-19 page on our website. We will keep updating it with information as it becomes available. It’s currently even more important than normal that government and the sector work together to respond to the significant challenges and changes facing the aviation sector. Keep safe and help us stamp out COVID-19. If you need help – tell us.

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui

Graeme Harris

Clarification about private flying

Stay on the ground while we are at Alert Level 4 unless your flight is absolutely essential.

In introducing COVID-19 Alert Level 4 the Government is severely restricting travel, business operations, and human contact.

Only movement needed for essential activities will be allowed during the four weeks from 2359 hours on Wednesday 25 March 2020. Very clearly many types of commercial aviation and virtually all private/recreational aviation fall outside the ‘essential’ category and won’t be permitted during this period.

This is in line with advice being given about other types of transport. For example, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said today that people should “only go out in your vehicle if you need to go and get essential medical supplies, essential food supplies or medical treatment”.

Given the many individual circumstances in which civil aviation takes place, it’s virtually impossible for us to provide advice via this channel about every possible situation or combination of circumstances involved with air operations. But in the vast majority of cases, private or recreational aviation would not be considered an essential activity.

We are aware, however, of cases where pilots are involved in farming (and are therefore essential workers) and use aircraft to get around their station or between different properties they farm, and to access food and medical supplies.

So long as they’re using their aircraft for those purposes, and that they have no passengers (unless they’re the people they’re isolating with) we would consider their flights would fit the category of ‘essential’.

I cannot overemphasise the importance of minimising travel and contact with other people in coming weeks. Isolation is the most powerful tool we have to slow the spread of the virus and make sure it doesn’t overwhelm our health system – that’s the last thing anyone wants to happen.

For all the official government information, visit covid19.govt.nz(external link).