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Dilemma for gyrocopter pilots

Monday, 21st May, 2018

Senior investigator Paul Campbell Senior investigator Paul Campbell

By Myles Burt

Gyrocopter pilots are making money in the Far West without proper accreditation, but no one in Australia can deliver the training to get it, pastoralists heard on Friday.

A senior investigator with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said some graziers had been offering mustering services on neighbouring properties for money.

“There was a number of these guys, not just gyros but also helicopter pilots, who were not commercial pilots but were conducting commercial operations,” CASA senior investigator Paul Campbell told the Pastoralists Association of West Darling Annual General Meeting on Friday.

“They’re not actually entitled to operate gyroplanes commercially,” Mr Campbell said.

“CASA hasn’t been proactively trying to find these people, but once CASA receives a compliant on any of these issues we will conduct an appropriate investigation,” he said.

“What we’ve just found in a number of instances is that they’ve been used outside their regulatory constraints.”

Pastoralists could gain an air operators certificate, enabling them to become commercial pilots, but this only applied to helicopters.

“CASA still has provisions for gyro pilot licences, gyro commercial pilot licences and a gyro syllabus for flight training,” Mr Campbell said.

“So there’s nothing stopping people from doing that, other than there’s no one in the industry who can deliver that training in Australia.”

An experienced flying instructor said it was “common knowledge” in the Far West that pastoralists were using gyrocopters commercially without proper accreditation.

“But there’s no one to give a qualification in Australia through CASA to give a general aviation licence for flying a gyroplane, which would then mean they could go on to become a commercial operator with that licence,” said Australian Sports Rotorcraft Association (ASRA) chief flying instructor, Ian Morcombe.

“So we’ve got ourselves a catch twenty-two there.”

He said ASRA had all the training syllabuses that align with CASA’s requirements for commercial gyrocopters.

But he said pastoralists would need to lobby parliament for change.

Webster Limited’s General Manger of Livestock Paul Martin said concerns were raised with CASA and Recreational Aviation Australia at a safety forum in 2014.

“Unfortunately, nothing transpired out of that meeting, so I think people are a bit negative towards CASA in that regard,” Mr Martin said.

“But I think we just need to maintain a bit more of a positive focus, take Paul on his word and engage with CASA and the local flying community here.”

Mr Martin said that pastoralists in the Far West all want to be safe and do the right thing.

“Through necessity, people are breaking the rules out here,” he said.

“So everyone’s ... doing what they need to do to make their businesses work.”

Mr Martin said follow-up training for piloting gyrocopters in the Far West was non-existent.

“That’s where I think there’s a huge gap in services out here.”

He said most pilots in the Far West were not authorised to fly below 500ft, but they had to because it was the nature of their work. 

“There needs to be some sort of compromise and change of attitude by both sides.

“Any pastoralist out here who thinks they can fly their whole life and not be assessed by someone, is absolutely deluding themselves.

“It just needs a commitment to accept that I could learn a little bit more, I could be a little bit better tomorrow.”

“If we can acknowledge that and get CASA to engage with us to change the laws to accommodate what’s going on out here, I think it’ll be a much safer operating environment and it’d make us legal as well.”

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