The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has been called in to help improve general aviation safety in Australia. The program that has helped tens of thousands of U.S. flight instructors revalidate their FAA teaching certificates went "walkabout" in March, holding two modified Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics (FIRC) in cooperation with Australian aviation officials.
The ASF FIRCs, conducted jointly with the Aviation Safety Foundation Australia (ASFA) and that country's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA—the Australian equivalent of the U.S. FAA), were held on March 19-20 in Sydney and March 22-23 in Melbourne. Some 60 Australian flight instructors attended the sessions.
Officials of the Australian Aviation Underwriters Pool (representing aviation insurance companies) had asked for ASF help after research showed that the Australian general aviation accident rate was some 45 percent higher than the U.S. rate, despite generally better Australian flying weather. Australia also has one tenth as many GA aircraft as the United States.
Moreover, while the U.S. GA accident rate has declined by more than 30 percent in the past 15 years, Australia's rate has remained almost constant.
Working with ASFA Executive Director Bill Mattes, Underwriters Pool officials offered to fund ASF aviation safety activities in Australia. In the formal invitation to ASF for FIRCs in Australia, Mattes said that "the FAA and...ASF have established effective reward systems (in the United States) for pilots and flight instructors that have contributed to the improved safety performance. Australia should...apply them here, too."
The teaching certificates of all Australian flight instructors are renewed only through official checkrides. There is currently no FIRC system in Australia as a means of updating instructor knowledge or allowing certificate renewal.
ASF Vice President for Training Richard Hiner worked with ASFA and CASA officials to develop a FIRC curriculum for U.S.-based ASF instructor Bill Gunn to teach general aviation subjects such as aerodynamics, flight maneuver analyses, and decision making. Local instructors taught Australian-specific topics such as regulations and licensing procedures.
Both ASFA and CASA officials expressed satisfaction with the joint ASF FIRC sessions and are planning future cooperative programs.
The Australian FIRC programs were funded entirely by Australian Aviation Underwriters Pool.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation was established in 1950 to help improve GA safety through research and pilot training. Since then, the U.S. GA accident rate has declined by almost 90 percent.
ASF is funded primarily by donations from individual pilots and companies interested in promoting GA safety in the United States.