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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Australia’s Helicopter Industry Readies to Tackle Issues

By Emma Kelly, Australia and Pacific Correspondent

Australia’s helicopter industry will meet at Sunshine Coast, Queensland, in May for its first major gathering since the sector’s new representative body – the Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) – was formed in late 2012.

The Rotortech 2014 event comes as the Australian helicopter sector continues its enviable growth, although slightly slowed compared with previous years. Up until 2013, it had achieved growth in the region of 9 percent per annum, but is now around 6 percent. Australia now has the sixth largest helicopter fleet in the world at more than 2,100 helicopters, according to AHIA, which anticipates a fleet of 3,000 within seven years.

The meeting also comes as the sector is facing new regulatory issues under the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s protracted regulatory reform program. In particular, CASR Part 61 (Flight Crew Licensing) and the associated Manual of Standards (MoS) are of concern to the industry. AHIA representatives have been active in discussions with CASA on the new regulations since the association was formed. CASR Part 61 was originally due to be implemented in December 2013, but has now been delayed until September 2014 as CASA said more time was needed for education and communication on the new regulations. AHIA argues that the MoS is very confusing in parts and the demands placed on the helicopter training industry will require enormous costs to comply.

The next regulations to affect the sector are CASR Part 133 (Australian Air Operations – Rotorcraft) and CASR Part 138 (Aerial Work Operations – Rotorcraft), with notices of proposed rule-making expected later this year.

AHIA warns there are “a lot of changes on the horizon; many with unknown economic ramifications.”

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