Air Vice-Marshal Mark Skidmore in his element, courtesy Australian Aviation

Opinion Retired RAAF Air Vice-Marshal Mark Skidmore has been accorded polite, even deferential media on his being appointed as the new director of safety at CASA.

He has in this brief report in Australian Aviation said he will be a ‘good listener’.

With respect to the new DAS, he will also have to be a reformer, and a remover of various CASA identities, to bring the body back to one that merits respect and carries out its obligations to properly and effectively regulate aviation safety in this country.

The regulatory reform process has been so atrociously mishandled by CASA that four years after the Pel-Air crash the regulatory issues that were exposed in the ditching of that medical evacuation Westwind jet near Norfolk Island remain unresolved.

As a declared good listener, retired RAAF Air Vice-Marshal Skidmore needs to sit down with Senators Bill Heffernan,  David Fawcett, Glenn Sterle, and Nick Xenophon to learn how they came to distrust the testimony of his predecessor John McCormick and the chief commissioner of the ATSB, Martin Dolan, after reading as of course he would have already done, the Hansard of the proceedings and final report of the committee that inquired into the procedures that were followed in the ATSB arriving at a seriously compromised final report into the accident.

It’s not about a ‘small’ plane crash. It’s about a large issue of honesty and transparency.

If the legacy of disrepect and distrust of CASA caused by these and other events isn’t addressed (including the withdrawal of the second rate accident report) Skidmore has no chance of fulfilling his commendable ambitions for the regulator under his direction.

Other bloody incidents that hang over CASA are the 2008 Barry Hempel crash and the 2005 Lockhardt River crash.  It is respectfully suggested that DAS Skidmore not read any of the media coverage reported on Plane Talking or mainstream publications on these matters, but the actual coronial documents and testimonies that are covered by legal or parliamentary privilege.

These are serious matters. They cannot be forgiven, ever, given the deep harm done to the public by CASA’s inability or reluctance to carry out its obligations, but the culture that tried to defend and bury these scandals can be broken by a strong and determined DAS.

To remake CASA, Skidmore will need to risk his own appointment. He will need to say and do things that the Minister won’t like, and he will need to take the public, as well as the industry, with him.

If it turns out that Skidmore gets himself terminated through being courageous and principled, that sacrifice will in itself render the state of CASA so unacceptable even to the Government of the day, that major and constructive reforms of the air safety regulator will at last ensue.

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