air safety

Dec 6, 2014

ATSB to gain in credibility and competency no later than Monday

A replacement for the ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan is expected to be announced by the deputy PM and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, no later

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

A replacement for the ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan is expected to be announced by the deputy PM and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, no later than Monday.

At the moment the prime, but unconfirmed person being mentioned for the role in industry circles is Chris Manning, a former Qantas chief pilot also noted for being a safety consultant who guided Tiger Airways toward to the required compliance with Australia’s safety regulations after its grounding by CASA in 2011.

Captain Manning has been a high profile critic of defence handling of air traffic control procedures at shared civil military airports such as Williamtown (Newcastle) and Darwin. He was, at the behest of Qantas, a voice of caution and concern over the use of common radio frequency self separation procedures at busy airports when AirServices Australia had insufficient staff to meet its ATC obligations.

However in his response to the Aviation Safety Regulation Review to parliament last week, the Minister, in accepting almost all of the recommendations, also said an additional commissioner with aviation technical experience would be appointed to the ATSB or Australian Transport Safety Bureau. Captain Manning’s career would make him a strong contender for either appointment, but nothing has been officially confirmed.

The only thing that is certain at this stage is that Mr Dolan is being replaced. In the aftermath of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s peer review of the ATSB’s procedures and methodologies in arriving at its controversial and much criticised findings concerning the 2009 Pel-Air ditching near Norfolk Island it is clear that Mr Dolan’s position as chief commissioner is untenable.

While the anodyne version of that quite detailed peer review is that it found that errors had been made by the ATSB the actual document details a shambles in the management of the investigation, and failures to properly collect and assess information.

The ATSB’s accident report was however defended by the current secretary of the department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Mike Mrdak, and Mr Dolan.  A Senate committee that inquired into the conduct of the ATSB (and CASA) in relation to the production of the report unanimously expressed dissatisfaction with Mr Dolan’s testimony.

The committee included coalition senators Bill Heffernan, its chair, and David Fawcett, as well as independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who not only pursued a range of issues in the two aviation authorities, but helped bring to light previously undisclosed documents related to a confidential Pel-Air audit in CASA and associated matters.

Those disclosures reflected adversely on CASA and the ATSB.

The inability of the ATSB under Dolan to adequately and convincingly deal with a relatively minor accident set off a festering controversy that brought the safety investigator and CASA, the regulator, into disrepute. That episode may be coming to an end, but the task of rebuilding respect and ensuring the best safety outcomes in both bodies remains.


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4 thoughts on “ATSB to gain in credibility and competency no later than Monday

  1. comet

    There should be yet another inquiry into the ATSB.

    It needs to be one that not only states what is wrong, but also reveals the reasons why the ATSB chief commissioner refused to adequately deal with the Pel-Air crash.

    Finding out what motivates these people is necessary to stop it happening again.

  2. Simon Gunson

    I hope Capt Chris Manning does not share the same catastrophically closed mind that Dolan had?

    I will seek the first opportunity to put to Capt Manning question why even at this stage the ATSB refuses to reverse calculate the drift pattern of an object 24m x 13m, frankly as big as the wing of a Boeing 777, spotted by satellite back in March?

    The reverse drift leads back to a location somewhere about 44/45 South, 85 East. Any debris which impacted there would have drifted clear through to the Pacific east of New Zealand and I have used drift modelling software to confirm this.

    Under Dolan the ATSB calculated had MH370 impacted along the Southern Arc then debris would have drifted ashore on Sumatra after 123 days, by mid July, but any fool and his dog can see it hasn’t, therefore by a process of Occam’s Razor MH370 obviously impacted further south than ATSB calculated.

    This poses a threat to the Malaysians as it disproves their claims that MH370 jinxed and dodged around the Straits of Malacca. Put simply MH370 only had the fuel endurance to fly south of the current search area if it flew direct from Vietnam as a ghost plane.

    There are even grounds to doubt whether the 7th BTO ring was correctly calculated given the wide variance of BTO signal delays and high BFO Doppler shift from MH370 whilst still parked at the gate. This suggests severe overheating of the Rockwell Collins CMU-900 processor before take off.

    The truth is if the already knew MH370 debris had not shown up along the coast of Sumatra by July then they had no business commencing a huge seabed search along the official southern Arc from September until presently.

    A cynic could well conclude that the current seabed search was conducted fraudulently already knowing MH370 could not be located there.

    Captain Manning should halt the squandering of taxpayer funds on a fools errand and conduct a full review of what is known to date. that needs to include reverse calculation for a debris field of 300 large objects accompanying the wing sized object back in March.

  3. discus

    What’s the mail on a replacement for Dolan, Ben? I expected something quite soon.

  4. Ben Sandilands

    That’s the mail I received from good sources. I will be travelling a bit this week and next, so fully expect that all the good stories will break while I’m midway through a long flight or in meetings!!!

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