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The Empire Strikes Back! on Colour Defective Pilots

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The Empire Strikes Back! on Colour Defective Pilots

Old 8th Aug 2014, 04:35
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Is it rapidly getting to the stage where every bloody medical needs a trip to the AAT to settle? What is it with these guys?. The Ryan ruling is pertinent and sets them straight sets them straight. I know of one poor bugger, never been even DUI...Ah, what the hell..

Looks like someone found Karma's number and 'dropped a dime', as the US boys say. She is slow, but oh boy, what a bitch kitty.
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Old 8th Aug 2014, 12:06
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It's a fascinating pathology. I wonder whether a PMO's appointment is subject to a condition requiring the appointee to undergo regular pyschological and psychiatric examinations.

I also wonder when someone will get around to conducting a study into the risks to aviation safety caused by the unnecessary stress imposed on pilots by zealots on an unjustified medical crusade.
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Old 8th Aug 2014, 18:54
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".... as I told you . . .it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways . . inconceivable."


Last edited by Fantome; 8th Aug 2014 at 19:15.
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Old 8th Aug 2014, 21:11
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Passing strange notions and good rulings.

Just reading through and pondering on the Ryan decision, the ignominious, invasive medical pro-forma and the kingdom of Shambollocks medical ethics. So, OK, you get done DUI and then, truthfully put that information on the medical form; the Pooh-Shambollic system grabs your signed confession, which it translates into "[is] of the view that Mr Ryan may have a problem with alcohol abuse." (my bold).

You would think that going from the "may have" supposition, to the absolutely proven "has" would have some bearing. But no, off to the AAT ($5000 minimum) to get a ruling so that only the system may determine, from quarterly blood tests whether or not Ryan can hold his ticket, this all to be done without reference to 'independent' impartial advice.

It's a flawed argument, based on supposition, deceit, and quite possibly 'entrapment'.

It's poor medicine, it's punishment without proof that physiologically and psychologically, beyond reasonable doubt that one (or even two) DUI a dipsomaniac makes. However, once your brief has been pulled, rehabilitation is your problem. Now the amount of 'beyond reasonable doubt' evidence you must provide to regain your licence (AAT) bears no resemblance, whatsoever, to the pathetic "may have" supposition used to take it away.

Deputy President P E Hack is to be complimented on having enough nouse to throw the silly little bugger out of court, 'research' and all; a flea in his ear would have been just great, but I'll take the win. The deeper I look into the Avmed rock pool, the more alarmed I become; there really are some true 'horror stories' out there in the kingdom of Shambollocks.

Toot toot

Last edited by Kharon; 8th Aug 2014 at 21:43. Reason: Not a real anaphora, but I tried...Churchill was a master of the art.
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Old 9th Aug 2014, 03:38
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Angry what next?

after reading Ryan I was just stunned...

Creamie's comment about "...the unnecessary stress imposed on pilots by zealots on an unjustified medical crusade." seems to go to the heart of the real medical threat to aviation safety.

And the little gem about the consequences of reporting a DUI conviction (unconfirmed but inferentially a singular event):

That disclosure prompted the Authority to require him to provide an assessment by a psychiatrist in relation to his alcohol consumption and its associated risk.
also stunned me, not only for the potential for an immediate effect on open reporting but also for the reasoning that would allow the imposition of the cost and inconvenience of a psychiatric assessment which, prima facie, would seem extremely unlikely to serve any useful purpose.

Methinks the PMO has exceeded his usefulness in that role...

Stay Alive,
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Old 9th Aug 2014, 06:54
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Maybe this is the problem:
‘Madness in great ones must not unwatched go’. So says King Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I was reminded of the phrase when reading David Owen’s fascinating book, The Hubris Syndrome. Lord Owen was Britain’s youngest foreign secretary in the late 1970s, then leader of a new political party, the Social Democratic Party, so he has seen most of the world’s top leaders at close quarters. He was also a doctor before he became a politician, so he neatly combines medical and political insights.

His thesis, in a nutshell, is that the ‘hubris syndrome’ –over-confidence leading to self-destruction - is a particular kind of mental illness which affects not just politicians but military commanders and heads of large companies. The idea that power goes to people’s heads is not of course new. Lord Acton gave the thought classical expression when he remarked that ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. But Owen has taken exceptional care to identify ‘patterns of behaviour’ which are evidence of the existence of this illness in leaders.

Symptoms include over-ambition; obsession with presentation and the need to occupy centre-stage; self-identification with the state; a messianic sense of mission; the belief that one is accountable only to God or history; loss of contact with reality; a tendency to allow the ‘broad vision’ to overcome practical considerations; and inattention to detail leading to incompetence in execution. Surprisingly Owen omits what I would regard as the chief symptom of a leader’s hubris: his belief in his own indispensability.

The disease grows the longer the leader stays in power. ... This excessive self-confidence leads him into misinterpreting the reality round him and into making mistakes. Eventually he gets his come pence and meets his nemesis which destroys him’.
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Old 9th Aug 2014, 07:24
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I think it would also fit quite nicely as a cut and paste in the AJ thread.
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Old 9th Aug 2014, 23:06
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A Sunday ramble – on the dark side.

The Ryan case set me to thinking about how Avmed (CASA) could deal with the 'false' or lay accusation of substance abuse; clearly some form of response is required. So, digging down a little further I wondered how Avmed is or could be alerted to a potential problem, and what is the 'best' option (solution) – for everyone. There are countless scenarios but, just for this exercise:

The easy one. Caught on the job; a staff member turns up, someone thinks it's time for a DAMP test; positive=clear path; negative=same-same. Proof positive on the spot, not of history – but of the instance. This seems to be a relatively straight forward process; positive? medical 'suspended'; do the tests and there is a clear trail from start to finish of a 'fair and reasonable' process. The random 'on the job' filter and the 'Booze bus' are reasonable deterrents to 'honest folk'.

The tricky one. Take the Ryan example, were there 'reasonable' grounds for suspending? Given the history offered, it may, conceivably be reasonable to ask for an independent, external 'expert' evaluation. Ryan made a signed confession of DUI etc, but as subsequent testing identified 'no chronic or future' problems, that should have been an end of it; even a 'blood test' specified at the next routine medical would have been acceptable (to be sure, to be sure). Ryan honestly admitted the incident, Avmed acted reasonably in the first instance. The twisted logic which got him to the AAT is where the system fails; additional unwarranted testing not only decries the 'expert' opinion, it presumes that Avmed knows better. If indeed Avmed do know better, why then the farce of demanding 'external' opinion from experts. Same thing with 'sugar' and 'cardiac' issues – where expert, self funded opinion is simply brushed aside – does Mummy always know best?

The evil one. There is a fellah over at – Tiger - who has (allegedly) been 'accused' of narcotics abuse (Cocaine is the rumour). (Sorry - there have been some posts before my effort removed, so it's a bit disjointed). As presented, there is no, non whatsoever substantive proof or empirical evidence (that we know of), just a vague reference to 'someone' informing the ATSB, the CASA and the parent company that the Captain (Guy for ease) was 'using'. Say you were at company 'management' level, supervising Guy and the accusation (not allegation) was anonymously slipped under your door, or whispered in a corridor, how would you treat it?. If the 'accusation' was sent through company channels, how would you deal with it?: if CASA out of the blue suspended Guy's medical on a 'tip off', what then? Where to start?

A browse through the return statistics from DAMP and a couple of other 'authoritative' studies indicate that mathematically at least, the chances of having a dipsomaniac or drug fiend on the books are pretty remote. Government have spent a small fortune to establish this as 'fact'. A look back through Guy's track record and circumstances would give a clearer indication of 'character', a chat with his colleagues would lead to further detail being revealed.

In short, before the company suspended Guy and made it 'official', a whole world of 'investigation' and protocol would be gone through. IF there was an identified problem, company DAMP policy would swing in and the road to rehabilitation taken. If there was no problem identified, then the exonerated Guy should be returned to duty. A professional pilot would (should) understand the reasons for company 'caution' and whereas feathers may be ruffled; no serious lasting harm has been done, his mates will always support; his enemies will always slip one in; the neutrals will just get on with life.

But it's a bit rum, when an anonymous complaint has been vindictively made and CASA weigh in without a skerrick of 'proof' to aid and abet what is essentially an unfounded rumour, made by a layman. Then, having been proven wrong, take steps to protect the accuser from righteous indignation and civil action. You can't accuse a kid of lifting a bag of lolly's without 'proof', beyond reasonable doubt, let alone a senior Captain of being a drug fiend...

It is, without test results difficult to prove. The question is of course, why did the 'complainant' not demand a DAMP test AT THE TIME? – why the delay?– why was the company system not alerted before Avmed got involved? Two options, either the company system is so flawed that only direct contact with 'authorities' could guarantee that action would be taken, which implies 'everyone' knew but did nothing. Alternatively, this was a cowardly, vicious personal attack executed as an underhand act with much malice and aforethought.

It is easy for the layman to become an instant 'expert' on – DRUGS – and – BOOZE – easy to arrive at a wrong conclusion and easier again to make an accusation without foundation. I can see why, with a failed DAMP, the company would suspend; I could even understand why the company would suspend against a genuine 'suspicion', properly lodged and supported. What beats me (without all the data) is why? an unsubstantiated 'accusation', without clear proof, is so completely supported and protected by the regulator.

Just imagine the "the risks to aviation safety caused by the unnecessary stress imposed on pilots by zealots on an unjustified medical crusade". CP.
How about the case where the 'regulator' failed to demand a DAMP test against a 'suspicion' when all facilities and witnesses were freely and readily available; then waited for six months to lodge a 'complaint' in a very disingenuous fashion asking for and receiving the maximum punitive action that could be taken at a critical time. No failed test evidence was provided, lies were told (and discovered) and Avmed were encouraged to and happily obliged in enforcing a further 24 months of quarterly testing; despite clear, qualified, expert evidence there was not, never had been or was there likely to be, a problem. No matter, the Chinese whisper is much more effective than evidence anyway.

The Ryan finding is a most satisfactory ruling – but will it stop Avmed from colluding with every rag bag complaint which hits their email? Apparently not. Must we all now accept that the era of psychic testing, by ESP has arrived?. I'm certain there is much 'research' to support the construct..

End Sunday ramble. FWIW. How do you turn off the curiosity thingummybob?


Last edited by Kharon; 9th Aug 2014 at 23:14. Reason: Interesting reading from Creamy – Ta..
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Old 10th Aug 2014, 00:40
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Was not a fully paid up member of the "Iron Ring" overheard remarking to a Pollie "But minister if we had to provide proof, we'd need to employ another hundred people"??..says it all really.
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Old 13th Aug 2014, 00:32
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CVD letter from Truss' office

Just received the below email broadcast from AOPA containing a response from the Minister's office addressing their concerns raised over the CVD issue:

It seems the Minister is being poorly advised by his department and isn't comprehending the full story. Here's a thought - wouldn't it be nice if he listened to Senator Fawcett instead?

if any changes are proposed to CVD regulations and practices in the future there will be full consultation with the industry before any changes are made.
...any proposals for future changes would be consistent with CASA's ongoing commitment to the use of safety cases to support such changes and involve detailed consultation with the aviation industry in the consideration of any change proposals.
Minister, CASA have already changed the "practices" and without any consultation. Where is the "safety case" to support such changes?

Even their own website makes this clear under the Medical FAQ section:

How does CASA deal with pilots with a colour vision deficiency?

CASA has reviewed the application of Civil Aviation Safety Regulation Part 67 – which covers the medical certification of pilots - as it relates to pilots with colour vision deficiency (CVD).

CASA is not changing the regulations relating to CVD but is putting in place new procedures to better align with the existing regulations.

There will be no impact on existing pilots as the new procedures will relate to new applicants only.

If the Ishihara test is failed, a certificate will be offered restricted to day VFR only. If the applicant wants this restriction removed, they must pass one of the tests as per Part 67.
If you're a brand new pilot going for either a Class 1 or 2 medical today and you fail the three levels of CVD tests, you will be restricted to daytime VFR flight only. This is a very definite change in "practice" to what has occurred in Australia since 1989. You will no longer be able to have a career in Australia even if you are issued with a Class 1 medical with those two restrictions. Who is going to want to employ a pilot who can only fly in the daylight in good weather, especially after all the letters sent to AOC holders suggesting they posed a safety risk?

Although CAsA maintains that existing pilots will not be affected, we all know where the PMO's crusade is headed if he is allowed to continue in his role any longer.

PMO, it's time to resign so that a level of mutual trust can be restored between pilots and AvMed. How can you "regulate" safety when you have been responsible for developing a culture of fear amongst the pilots every time they go for their medical renewal?

As Kharon says, it's rapidly getting to the stage where every time there's a medical issue it needs a trip to the AAT to resolve it, simply because of the PMO's "unique" medical opinions, which fly in the face of all the evidence and external opinions of those who really matter.

Minister, it's time to act.
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Old 13th Aug 2014, 01:06
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Ha! AOPA didn't get a response from the minister. They merely had their details inserted on exactly the same letter that I and anyone else who was naïve enough to write to the minister received.

Don't waste your time on Truss. Our only hope is with Senators, Xenophon and Fawcett.

As for the PMO, it is quite interesting speaking to DAMEs off the record and getting their views on what they really think of this clown.
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Old 13th Aug 2014, 03:35
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Please CASA: Just apply and comply with the law

If the Ishihara test is failed, a certificate will be offered restricted to day VFR only. If the applicant wants this restriction removed, they must pass one of the tests as per Part 67.
That is a failure by CASA to comply with the law. Pure and simple.

An applicant who passes any one of the tests in CASR 67.150(6) has demonstrated compliance with the colour perception standard. Full stop.

(Keep an eye on that website text, brissyp. I anticipate that it will magically change, shortly.)

It's obvious to me that Avmed has one too many zealots on a medical crusade, unhindered by mere trivialities like compliance with the law.

It's no wonder the AAT decisions are so simple.
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Old 17th Aug 2014, 08:59
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Was not a fully paid up member of the "Iron Ring" overheard remarking to a Pollie "But minister if we had to provide proof, we'd need to employ another hundred people"??..says it all really.
The then CASA DAS/CEO no less. This was not long after the one and the same told the National Press Club that, effectively, CASA should be subject to "different" rules, in part because, "some times, Judges got it wrong" , by which he meant that "not guilty" verdicts in aviation matters were unacceptable.

Tootle pip!!
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Old 25th Aug 2014, 03:41
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DAS Farewell

CASA Briefing: August 2014

From the Director of Aviation Safety John McCormick

This is the last time I will be communicating with the aviation community in my role as CASA’s Director of Aviation Safety. My slightly extended term as Director is completed at the end of August 2014. The last five and a half years have been challenging, satisfying and at times difficult. I firmly believe that as I leave CASA it is a better and more effective air safety regulator and I know it is respected by leading regulators around the world. Like any good organisation CASA is a team of people with a mix of skills, knowledge and experience that when constructively managed deliver excellent outcomes. In 2014 I look at CASA and see a clearer focus on priorities, documented processes and procedures that are followed as required, better training and support for staff and an understanding that decision making must be transparent and fair. Safe skies for all is the goal that drives CASA.

Never-the-less I know CASA and myself in particular have our critics. Some of the critics offer constructive criticism and this is welcomed and indeed valued. I have never pretended CASA has all the answers to every issue relating to aviation safety. Right through my term I have encouraged and facilitated consultation, information sharing and debate. I know this work to get the best possible safety outcomes through joint efforts by CASA and the aviation community will continue. However, I firmly believe that as a regulator CASA also has a responsibility to make judgements, take decisions and to act in the interests of protecting and improving aviation safety. Naturally these actions must be based on evidence and solid data and be taken following sound processes and procedures that ensure fairness and transparency. It follows, of course, that when a regulator takes actions not everyone is happy. Again, I have had no problem with people putting their point of view and arguing their case as that is their right if they disagree with CASA. But just because some people may disagree it does not mean CASA is necessarily wrong or should step away from its position. Sadly when some of CASA’s critics have not got their own way the debate has degenerated and become personal, which is not constructive and does nothing for aviation safety. It is a fact of human nature that some people will personally attack others as a way of diverting too close an examination of themselves.

The future for CASA will be positive. Our people are committed to their work, their organisation and Australian aviation. I am sure any changes made to CASA in the future will further strengthen the organisation and the outcomes it delivers for all Australians. I look forward to watching CASA become an even more effective safety regulator as Australian aviation grows and prospers.

Best regards
John F McCormick
Perhaps we've missed something, but where's the 'consultation' been with the CVD pilots in Australia prior to the significant changes AvMed announced in June?

Where's the 'evidence' and the 'solid data' that proves that CVD pilots are a safety risk, despite not a single related incident or accident here in 25 years?

Where's the 'sound processes and procedures' and the 'fairness and transparency' in forcing many pilots over the last few years to appeal decisions in the AAT at great financial and personal cost?

Why is it that the AvMed department and in particular the decisions of the PMO have been proved 'wrong' numerous times in the AAT and yet nothing ever changes?

Perhaps the soon to be ex-DAS can take the PMO with him out the door when he leaves next week?
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Old 25th Aug 2014, 04:23
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just because some people may disagree it does not mean CASA is necessarily wrong or should step away from its position
I'm assuming that includes the AAT and expert clinicians .....

Talk about judge and jury
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Old 25th Aug 2014, 05:33
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Naturally these actions must be based on evidence and solid data and be taken following sound processes and procedures that ensure fairness and transparency.
Which is why your treatment of pilots with colour vision deficiencies has been particularly egregious, Mr McCormick.
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Old 25th Aug 2014, 21:15
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Hasn't your Pilot's Union any balls?
That knobber has just published a string of lies, falsehoods and dishonest ,misleading statements.......he has made a good case against himself for dereliction of dutyand malicious misuse of office. I am sure that Aussie, with it's renowned sense of "fair goes" coulf field a solicitor capable of dragging the fellow to Court to face the public whom he has cheated.
He needs publically shaming .
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Old 26th Aug 2014, 21:48
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The Sphinx questions.

CS - Hasn't your Pilot's Union any balls?
Oh, if it were only that simple. Steve I'm going to try and answer your question, to do so briefly means adjusting your thinking – slightly. The UK and to some extent the USA 'systems' are complex, rigid and on occasion difficult to deal with – it's the nature of the beast. A frisson of friction between regulator and regulated is to be expected. I think that 'tension' is a sign of a 'healthy' system, provided there is discourse, sanity and no fear of retribution. Australia is decidedly different, although the difference is difficult to detect with the naked Mark 1 eye-ball:

For starters, the regulator is a bitterly divided camp 'white hats' v 'black hats'. The internal politics are vicious, conducted clandestinely and played without any notion of honour, dignity, probity or indeed loyalty to whoever is the latest 'second best mate'; although some small groups 'stick together' making certain their pig-a-back system works.

For example; before McComic a few of the less desirable units were parked in the pencil sharpening and document shedding cupboards; never to be set loose on industry. The public statement for 'elevating' the undesirables was "If they have managed upset the industry so badly, they are the ones doing their jobs properly" (words to that effect). So we have a big black hat paving the way and encouraging some of the most abhorrent, never exposed behavioural misfits, all fully supported by the top floor. There are many fully documented cases where outright lies; manipulated evidence and other unspeakable methods have been wilfully used to 'enforce' a predetermined outcome; which stand alone is despicable. What is not fully documented is the ongoing vendetta against individuals. Take a careful look at the John Quadrio case; or PM me – I'll send you all the 'facts and circumstances'. The case is not isolated; it one of several cases which must be openly examined by reasonable men, as part of any meaningful reform. It is truly disgusting; but, entirely typical of what the 'Empire black hats' have been encouraged and supported to inflict on industry and individuals, all in the name of safety of course.

For example; most operators at the smaller end of town **** blue lights when CASA come a knocking, particularly if the CASA are of the 'black hat' variety. The solution is to 'go along to get along'; there have been some serious operational 'fairy stories' hammered into SOP, then ruthlessly and rigidly enforced. The operator/chief pilot left with little option but to just nod, agree and make the best of it; just to get out from under and to be left to trade in peace. The culture of fear has allowed some of the worst operational nonsense to be cast in stone; forcing a subculture into existence "say nothing"; "write less", "minimum compliance" and (whispered) don't let CASA catch you doing it the company way; if they do, you are on your own hook.

For example; Naw!! – it just goes on and on, I'll stop there. There are enough 'black hats' now promoted within the system to ensure the McComic philosophy remains. Unless the white hats are given enough encouragement to regain control; that means political will from the minuscule, down to the board flowing outward into the regional office managers and the troops they manage. The CVD issue gives you a tiny chink through which you may catch a small, fleeting glimpse of just how low the unique Australian regulatory system has sunk and how much power the black hats have, and will continue to hold if something doesn't change. Logic, facts and reasoned arguments – water off the ducks back.

Is it unacceptable? – Oh yes.

Can anything be done? – Not a snowflake in hell chance; at least not at the moment.

Real reform, with malice and aforethought is required. Leadership from the DAS and board support is needed. The industry will, (with a huge sigh of relief) as always assist as best it may. Students of Australian industry history will confirm this as unlikely; but hope springs eternal.


Last edited by Kharon; 26th Aug 2014 at 22:03.
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Old 27th Aug 2014, 09:04
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Tone Deaf and Colour Blind

Looks like the CVDPA folk have been able to get a reproduced copy of Australian Aviation's article this month:

Tone Deaf and Colour Blind

With the ink barely dry on a scathing review of its performance, CASA finds itself in another controversy

Though CASA has made no public comment about the Aviation Safety Regulation Review released at the end of May, the results of the government-ordered inquiry could hardly have been received as a compliment. Appearing to foreshadow a significant overhaul of the air safety regulator, the review described CASA as inappropriately adversarial, a poor communicator, and so out of touch with the industry it oversees that its leadership was only dimly aware of how deeply it was resented.

If those judgments left CASA feeling chastised, however, it didn’t immediately show. Barely a week after the review was released, the agency was back in the news over an episode that, to critics, displayed exactly the kind of heavy-handed touch for which it had just been criticised.

At issue were regulations governing pilots with colour vision deficiency, or CVD, often referred to as colour blindness but, in fact, a spectrum of conditions affecting an estimated one-tenth of the male population who are able to perceive a smaller number of colours than most people. Among Australia’s roughly 36,000 licensed pilots, about 400 have a color vision deficiency of some measure, including around 140 commercial pilots.

For almost two decades, Australia has had some of the most flexible regulations in the world regarding such pilots, but based on letters sent by CASA to air operators in early June, that position appeared to be shifting.

The letters referred to "recent medical research" that, according to CASA, "indicates that the safety-related implications of an individual’s CVD may be more significant than they were initially considered to be." As a result, the letter said, CASA was "reviewing the situation" and operators were urged to do the same.

"I write to you now, as the holder of an air operator’s certificate (AOC) who may employ one or more affected pilots, to encourage you to consider whether it is safe to allow those pilots to continue to exercise flightcrew privileges under your AOC, subject only to the existing condition, and what adjustments to those arrangements you may consider to be appropriate, in the interests of safety, pending CASA’s further determination of the matter," the letter, signed by Peter Fereday, CASA’s executive manager for industry permissions, read.

Though the letter did not specify what medical research it referred to, it is understood the reference was to a recent study conducted by New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority principal medical officer Dougal Watson. Published in the February edition of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, an academic journal, the study compared how 78 countries assess and regulate CVD pilots. Despite International Civil Aviation Organization requirements that pilots be able to perceive colours "necessary for the safe performance in duties," Watson’s study found no clear definition of what that standard meant and wide discrepancies between how it was applied from one country to the next.

At one extreme, the study found, an applicant making a single error on a standard colour perception test, known as an Ishihara plate, would be disqualified from a Class 1 medical assessment. At the other end of the spectrum, a pilot "failing every color vision test required by the regulatory authority may be issued a medical assessment allowing commercial and airline copilot privileges," Watson wrote. Such wide divergence, Watson warned, could encouraged "aeromedical tourism" where pilots might shop around for the country with the most lax regulations.

The paper does not, however, appear to include significant new evidence of safety risks associated with CVD pilots, as CASA seemed to claim in its letter to AOCs. In the study, Watson acknowledged a "paucity" of aviation mishaps to which the colour vision deficiency of pilots had been identified as a contributing factor. Watson also acknowledged a lack of adequate research regarding the degree of colour perception required for safe aircraft operations, or which colours mattered most. The research, in short, identified a problem – a lack of uniform standards – but not the problem CASA seemed to claim.

To say that CASA is a frequent target of conspiracy theories is putting it strongly. It is fair to say, however, that to its many critics the agency’s perceived lack of transparency and fair dealing are often seen as cover for an agenda that, if not exactly hidden, is less than openly stated. This produces theories with an often rather conspiratorial appearance.
Thus, in this case, the apparent disconnect between the new medical research and the argument CASA seemed to be making on its basis, and the opaque manner with which CASA presented that research in a letter that didn’t make clear what it was referring to, has led critics to alternative explanations for CASA’s renewed interest in CVD.

The most common one is a case pending before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal brought by John O’Brien, a regional airline pilot with CVD who is challenging a decision barring him from becoming a captain. Dr Arthur Pape, an aeromedical examiner and colour deficient pilot whose own 1987 appeal before the Tribunal led to the current regulations allowing CVD pilots, said the O’Brien case, set to be heard on July 21, had produced a "tsunami of hysterical and irrational activity" within CASA. That tempest had been further inflamed by an "unprecedented interrogation of CASA on this topic in the Australian Senate" during Senate Estimates in late May.

Indeed, Pape and others point to comments by CASA director John McCormick before a Senate Estimates committee as presaging the June letter to AOCs. During the hearing, McCormick told the committee that Australia’s liberal policies with regard to CVD were at odds with those of most other countries.

"When we get to the point where we are pushing the boundaries, where we are pushing the science, looking for other ways to get around what could possibly be indicated from the clinical side is a dangerous thing to do, we are starting to impact on my ability to discharge my duties under section 9 of the Civil Aviation Act, and that is to provide safety," McCormick said.
Needless to say, the safety of passengers trumps the right of anyone in particular to pilot an aircraft, and that most other countries have more restrictive regulation with regard to colour vision might seem a reasonable cause for concern. But Pape and others say there remains no evidence that CVD pilots pose a risk – and plenty that they do not.

The 1987 Tribunal case brought by Pape after he was refused an endorsement to fly at night included what is widely seen as the most comprehensive assessment ever undertaken of the role of colour vision in flight. The Tribunal’s ruling in favour of Pape was based largely on the argument that most colour cues in the cockpit were redundant. For example, indicator lights for landing gear, usually red, turned green when the gear was deployed, but there were generally three green lights and only one red light. Colour deficient pilots could still perceive differing intensity of light, and while they might see red as orange, they could still tell it was different than white, or no light at all. Two years after the Pape case, the tribunal reaffirmed its decision, this time with regard to a commercial pilot.

As Pape and others are quick to point out, in the years since no flight incidents in Australia have been attributed to the colour vision deficiency of a pilot, despite hundreds of such pilots having had successful careers. The only known incident overseas, the 2002 crash of a Boeing 727 freighter that hit trees on its approach to landing in the United States, remains a subject of some dispute. Though the first officer’s CVD was listed as a contributing factor in the crew’s failure to establish a proper glidepath, a report by the NTSB largely blamed crew fatigue and the failure of the captain and flight engineer to monitor the approach. According to Pape, the report contains no discussion of the role the first officer’s CVD played in the accident.

"It is my view that CASA’s actions and the responses by the director and the principal medical officer to the Senate Estimates Hearings reflect an absurd and indefensible position," Pape wrote in an online commentary. "Claims of ‘medical evidence’ by both in support of their stance cannot be substantiated because such evidence does not exist."

That view has received the backing of pilot unions, with the Virgin Independent Pilots Association weighing in against what it described as a discriminatory move. "Whilst VIPA always recognises that aviation safety remains paramount, we condemn CASA’s new procedures relating to CVD pilots," VIPA executive director Simon O’Hara said. "The fact is, there are hundreds of commercial pilots with CVD who have passed check and line training requirements and subsequently have thousands of hours flying without incident, who will be impacted by these restrictive practices."

In a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss, the Australian and International Pilots Association also linked CASA’s position to the upcoming tribunal case and said its bellicose approach undermined whatever hope for change had come from the recent review Truss had ordered.

"In many ways, this cynical attempt by the senior executives of CASA to attack the long-standing CVD policy position of Australia, in concert with their intention to use the [Tribunal] to wind that policy back, has dulled some of the glimmer of hope that the industry attributed to your Aviation Safety Regulatory Review," AIPA wrote.

"Given the path that CASA seems determined to follow in regard to CVD pilots, AIPA strongly recommends that you accept the evidence of many years of safe operations by CVD pilots in Australia that this is not a safety issue and that you consequently intervene to direct a more sensible and less expensive approach to whatever procedural issue that is motivating CASA to further alienate much of the Australian aviation industry."

For its part, CASA sought to dial down the controversy after an initial round of news reports suggested it might be moving to ground colour deficient pilots. The agency’s spokesman, Peter Gibson, told the ABC no such grounding was in the works.

"We’re not grounding any pilots, we’re not putting any further restrictions on any pilots, we’re simply saying there is some new information out there which we’re considering," Gibson told the national broadcaster. Any future changes, Gibson added, would only come after months or years of consultation.

Perhaps, as Gibson seemed to suggest, this was all being blown out of proportion. But if nothing else, the incident was yet more evidence of how little stock most of the industry places in CASA’s idea of consultation.
Well done Mr Gisick
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Old 28th Aug 2014, 05:07
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Here's hoping that common sense prevails over the coming months.
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