Australia’s CASA Looks To Boost Technical Staffing Levels

Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER
Credit: Rob Finlayson

BRISBANE, Australia—Australia’s aviation regulator is taking measures to try and address its own shortage of technical staff that is limiting its ability to help the MRO industry deal with post-pandemic pressures.

The country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has lost a lot of experienced technical staff over the past 10 years, said Darren Dunbier, Virgin Australia’s general manger for engineering operations. This means CASA is “resource-constrained” in meeting industry needs, he said at Aviation Week’s MRO Australasia event in Brisbane.

Karen Blair, CASA’s national manager for regulatory services, agreed with Dunbier’s assessment. “We have wonderful people, but we don’t have enough of them,” she said.

The problem is recognized by the government, and the issue of CASA’s staffing cap is being considered at a ministerial level, Blair said. CASA is also undertaking a review of its distribution of staff, she said. This is in recognition of the fact that CASA needs more technical staff.

“It’s not a quick fix, and it’s going to take some time,” Blair said. However, CASA is “working through establishing a recruitment process now” to bring in more technical capability, she added.

Some applications for CASA approvals are experiencing delays of up to 3-4 months at the moment, Blair said. For this reason, she is appealing to the MRO industry to submit any requests as far in advance as possible, and to let CASA know of any time constraints.

This will allow the agency to “prioritize and triage” applications coming through, Blair said.

CASA has recently made major changes to the locations of its regulatory services offices. Two years ago, CASA centralized its regional offices in an effort to improve standardization, but it also found that its engagement with industry declined. So, now it has reestablished its regional offices, Blair said.

The agency is contending with many of the same workforce issues as the broader aviation industry. CASA recognizes that the MRO industry has been facing skilled worker shortages for many years, said Ben Challender, CASA’s manager for airworthiness standards. However, since the coronavirus pandemic this has shifted from a “broad, general shortage to a quite severe shortage” in Australia’s engineering operations, he said.

CASA is “doing what it can to help address that,” Challender said. For example, the agency is looking to refine the process for licensed engineers from other countries to be certified to work in Australia.

Adrian Schofield

Adrian is a senior air transport editor for Aviation Week, based in New Zealand. He covers commercial aviation in the Asia-Pacific region.