October 4, 2010 A SENIOR manager at Australia's aviation regulator took an executive job at an airline - now under police investigation over a $30 million Defence contract scandal - shortly after his office issued it with a new operator's certificate, prompting conflict-of-interest concerns. Last year's departure of the Brisbane office director of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Clive Adams, to Strategic Airlines has led to a call for CASA to follow the rest of the public service and introduce a ''cooling off'' period to prevent its senior staff from immediately joining firms they had been regulating. Both Mr Adams and CASA have denied any conflict of interest, saying the authority's former Brisbane manager played no role in approving Strategic Airlines's request for a new operating certificate - despite the matter being handled by his office.
The Strategic group has attracted recent controversy after The Age revealed how its directors discussed being ''fed'' information about a $30 million-a-year Defence Department 2005 tender to fly Australian troops to the Middle East by two Defence officers they later employed as senior managers. The Australian Federal Police is investigating whether any criminal offences occurred during Defence's 2005 tender involving Strategic Aviation and the two Defence officers, David Charlton and John Davies. Despite the police inquiry, Defence last week awarded a short-term contract to Strategic Aviation to continue the Middle East troop flights while an external audit of this year's tender process - won by rival firm Adagold Aviation - continues. CASA last year received a formal complaint about Mr Adams's departure to Strategic Airlines after his office re-activated an air operating certificate belonging to failed airline Ozjet, which allowed new owner, Strategic Airlines, to add an Airbus A320 aircraft to it. The complaint, which is believed to have come from a former owner of Ozjet frustrated by CASA's unwillingness to make changes to the airline's operating certificate, was lodged with the authority's then industry complaints commissioner, Michael Hart, before being passed to general aviation operations manager, Greg Hood. Despite the complaint reaching high levels in CASA, its director of aviation safety, John McCormick, told Senate estimates in May that he was not aware of any concerns about ''that particular scenario'' involving Mr Adams and Strategic Airlines. CASA said in a statement that Mr Adams declared shortly after Strategic Airlines's application for an operating certificate that his involvement could be subject to a potential conflict of interest. It is believed Mr Adams had at that time been in discussions about taking an executive role with the company.
''CASA believes all appropriate steps were taken to avoid any conflict of interest between the manager and the application for an air operator's certificate by Strategic,'' it said. Mr Adams said he played no role in Strategic Airlines's dealings with his Brisbane office and had disclosed to CASA's leadership the potential conflict of interest.
The Skull has lost control of his silo. This is not new news,just the tip of the iceberg. CASA`s HR department also approved for staff to go on unpaid leave and work for specific AOC holder's. When questioned over the legality of this or whether this constituted a conflict of interest HR people at the highest level said that THEY make the rules and do and say or allow whatever they see fit. This is a government department out of control, no checks, no balances, and run by a bunch of misfits at the highest level who themselves have clouds of integrity hanging over their heads. Senator Nick ought to slice through the centre of this untouchable and unacountable empire as it has totally lost control, and at the hands of all things a Human Resouces star chamber.
A full senate inquiry is in order, and is justifiable. Dangerous waters or should I say skies indeed.
It must be asked why else did Strategic move its original dealings with CASA from the Melbourne Office to the Brisbane Office.
Just the usual answer about the CASA Manager's job from Strategic, "It was Advertised'
When will this stop.
Situation 1. David Charlton and John Davies joined Strategic from DOD after they won the 2005 tender for "Advertised Positions"... If Strategic didn't win the tender, Michael James would probably have stayed at Adagold and there would have been no Strategic and there was no positions.
Situation 2. As stated in a previous article in the Australian, a partner of one of the high ranking positions on the tender board was given an "advertised job" by Strategic while her partner was on a rotation to the middle east.
Situation 3. CASA Manager given an "advertised job" after Strategic moves it original AOC application from the Melbourne CASA Office to the Brisbane Office and then it is processed much quicker and with success.
Situation 4. QLD transport official joins Strategic with the QLD internal Air Services tender on the horizon hmmm....
THE French arm of the aviation group starting flights between Townsville and Bali, Strategic Airlines, is seeking to relaunch its grounded European charter business by obtaining a new air operator's certificate from Luxembourg. Strategic Airlines France had its operator's certificate revoked by France's Directorate General of Civil Aviation earlier this year after a flight to Tenerife was grounded because of a hydraulic leak and a replacement flight was grounded by a cracked windshield. French magazine Le Point reported the decision followed the mishandling of passengers from these delays. Strategic's head of commercial Damian Vasta said the airline had an unblemished safety record in Europe and Australia. He said the airline was in discussions with the French regulator over its preliminary decision not to renew its operator's certificate, but had also applied for a Luxembourg air operator's certificate because of changing business requirements in its European operation. A decision is expected shortly.
"The granting of a Luxembourg AOC will satisfy our European business requirements and we would subsequently close our discussions with the French," Mr Vasta said.
"Suffice to say, we reject any suggestion of breach of safety protocol as correct process was followed at all times.
"Strategic has an unblemished safety record in both Europe and Australia." Mr Vasta said the Australian regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, had just renewed its air operator's certificate for a further three years without restrictions. He said in the past week the Australian Defence Force had awarded Strategic a short-term contract to continue passenger and cargo services to the Middle East. Strategic has held a contract to provide the services since 2005. Australian aviation broker Adagold Aviation, using aircraft provided by a Portuguese carrier, earlier this year won a tender to provide the defence services and was due to take over at the end of this month. However, the tender process is under an external audit to examine how the broker using a foreign carrier was selected as preferred tenderer. Strategic's French operations involve two Airbus A320s. Strategic flies from Perth to Derby and Denpasar, and Brisbane to Port Hedland and Denpasar with A320s. It will start Brisbane-Townsville-Denpasar services from December 3 with A320s.
Meybe the French government takes an interest in the welfare of their citizens? Quite right to pull an AOC if passengers are stranded. Should be more of it. Shows not fit and proper to be transporting the public. Surely they had an obligation to move pax by alternative means, or at least accommodate them pending repairs? If a school bus contractor left my kids stranded on the side of the road I would be after having their permit revoked. Similar thing.
BRISBANE-based Strategic Airlines is living up to its name.
It is pushing ahead with a targeted network expansion after the Australian regulator recently granted it a three-year unrestricted air operators certificate.
The full-service niche carrier had been operating on a restricted 12-month AOC issued when it started operations last year and sees the Civil Aviation Safety Authority as a seal of approval for its safety performance.
"We're really happy about that," head of commercial Damien Vasta said yesterday. "It gives our market a little bit more confidence that they're dealing with a more established Australian carrier that's got a clean bill of health from CASA."
The airline, which has three Airbus A320s and a wide-body A330 registered in Australia, currently flies from Perth to Derby and Denpasar as well as Brisbane-Port Hedland-Denpasar.
It plans to start a Brisbane-Townsville-Denpasar in December and is planning direct east coast-Bali flights after recently winning additional capacity to Indonesia from Australian gateway airports in a three-way tussle with Qantas and Virgin.
The International Air Services Commission gave Strategic 1514 seats -- the biggest share of the 4000 seats available to the three airlines -- on the grounds it would help promote competition.
Mr Vasta said Strategic had enjoyed a strong response to the its existing services and said passenger traffic to Bali had risen from 400,000 people a year two years to more than a million.
"It's not just Perth, the east coast has gone crazy for Bali again -- they seem to have fallen in love with it," he said. "We just thought that while the sun's shining we'll make hay and we'll put the A330 on some of those east coast direct services. And if we get the capacity to do it we'll be able to offer Melbourne and potentially Brisbane direct."
The new carrier is now looking at potentially acquiring a second A330 and has applied for capacity to Thailand with idea of filling the void left by V Australia when the Virgin Blue long-haul carrier redeploys its Boeing 777 aircraft.
Other potential destinations include Ho Chi Minh City and Honolulu.
Strategic also runs a charter operation using three A320s in Europe and has just successfully transferred its base from France to Luxembourg.
The IASC decision to allot more DPS capacity is still in draft.
As I said before, it looks like more and more RPT services instead of charter work.
Strategic had their French AOC withdrawn. Luxembourg is very central to much of Western Europe, is relatively quiet in terms of passenger movements, most of the locals speak at least 4 languages including English, has no income tax and is quite a nice city to live in imho. Not a bad choice I thought.
Mr Vasta you are the King of SPIN. "Suffice to say, we reject any suggestion of breach of safety protocol as correct process was followed at all times."Strategic has an unblemished safety record in both Europe and Australia." "Strategic also runs a charter operation using three A320s in Europe and has just successfully transferred its base from France to Luxembourg." I guess that's why the French pulled your AOC .You make it sound as though your move to Luxembourg is a reward for good performance instead of punihment for bad practice. You would not have left France if they hadn't pulled your AOC for bad performance As for the 3 year AOC ,it is no great achievement. It simply means you are now where your competitors have been for ages and that you appear to meet CASA's requirements. Unfortunately a "clean bill of health "from CASA doesn't excuse your questionable commercial practices which leave a lot to be desired and will hopefully return to bite you some day.
Dand3gs I wasn't refering just to their military work but all their operations. They seem to always hire staff from any organisation that may be to their future commercial advantage. i.e. people with inside knowledge and at the risk of being challenged you see it in their recruitment from ADF,Charter brokers, Government departments both State and Federal etc. Then you have the litany of lies put about by SA in his visits to the region which so far have been found out but eventually if you tell lies long enough some mud sticks. Interestingly whenever someone accuses them of foul play they immediately threaten legal action. Talk about Pot calling Kettle black. Their commercial practices are questionable at best but due to the level of self interest in this industry and region their methods although immoral often work.
Friggit, it’s quite apparent that you have very little experience in large scale commercial operations. As a result, you have no understanding of how the “real world” works. Please, just step aside and let the real players do their thing. Stop your yap, yap, yapping.. It’s annoying. Congratulations Strategic!.. “TOUCH-DOWN!!”.. I can’t wait to see your next move.
Vertigo it's good to see you defend your employer but don't assume you know the qualifications of others when you obviously don't. This being your first post suggests your hiding something!! I know very well how the real world works but it doesn't mean I have to approve of some peoples less than ethical methods of operating in that world. So don't get personal as we are all entitled to an opinion even misguided folk like yourself. BTW don't think of Strategic as a large commercial operation as the big boys will show you just how small you are if they find you an annoyance.
Last edited by Friggit; 15th Oct 2010 at 02:07.
It's incredible how many 1st-time posters pop up in defence of Strategic - it's all far too obvious and I think j3pipercub is possibly not too wide of the mark.
Vertigo, you would be well served to have a read of some of friggit's posts over the past and I'll think you'll find he has a greater understanding of airline matters than you give him credit for. Care to tell us what your status is in this regard? ................... No, I expect not.
As for the "real world" you speak of, do you think the legitimate airlines in Australia get up to the same skullduggery that SA has - I don't see QF, for example, needing to shift their AOC base ....................... I think SA are perceived to operate in the "unreal world" where ethics, honesty and scruples have been thrown out the window. Plenty of evidence to that extent so please don't go bleating on otherwise.
The "real players" ARE trying to do their thing, they unfortunately have to contend with the likes of SA, SAW etc that are a blight on the industry and do more harm than good.