It’s now been eight months since I joined RAAus and I can honestly say that it’s been eye-opening – in a good way.

The level of professionalism displayed by our members and, in particular, our flight training schools, continues to impress me. Just as impressive is when I’m out and about at airfields and see the tremendous range of aircraft our members operate, the engineering skill demonstrated by our amateur-built aircraft owners and the will of members to improve operational and safety performance, whilst still keeping it simple. This is why RAAus is truly great!

One of the areas I would like to improve is our safety reporting culture. Safety reporting allows us to learn from others, and for initiatives such as formal education programs or technical support services to be developed. I’m not just talking about pilots reporting safety occurrences. It’s equally as important for maintainers or aerodrome operators to make reports.

Over the years, I’ve worked in some fairly complex aviation organisations that have lived and breathed safety culture. These organisations still had all the issues we normally see in large organisations, such as “interesting” relationships between the “workers” and management. But the common thing with these organisations was a solid foundation of Just Culture. This no-blame philosophy doesn’t mean that if you make a mistake you simply report it and then walk away scot-free. It means that the Safety Management System (SMS) kicks in to support those affected and to learn from the occurrence, whilst more broadly applying these lessons to the wider industry, thus improving safety.

Safety reporting is vital in ensuring our SMS works effectively and for this reason, RAAus does not take punitive action where a report has been put into the system because someone has made an honest mistake. If someone is wilfully breaking the rules, well, that’s a different story. We operate with an ethos that 99.99% of folks out there want to do the right thing, but that sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Safety reporting is simply about all of us learning from each other to improve safety outcomes.

So the next time you have a bird strike, do a heavy landing, find corrosion, or see something that’s not quite right, pop a report in the RAAus Occurrence Management System (OMS). You have it from me that our focus is solely about safety improvement.

You will have received an E-news back in June outlining our plans for the coming financial year, including advice that some of our fees have increased. We recognise that this is unwanted news, but I would like to assure you that we’re taking steps to minimise expenditure and to implement organisational efficiencies, all of which aim to slow the rate of future fee increases.

Importantly, having compared RAAus fees both within our industry and with other non-aviation leisure activities, I’m confident that we continue to provide great value to our members, and that we will continue to make sure this remains so.

In lighter news, I’m really excited about the coming 12 months regarding the activities we’re planning for our members. Our Let’s Get Flying campaign aims to create another reason for us to go flying and to come together as a community. These regularly organised fly-ins around the country will enable you to meet other like-minded people, ask RAAus staff questions, and support our affiliated clubs. It’s great to see the response to our call-out for members to showcase their aircraft, so thanks to those that responded. We’ll also be continuing with our educational programs for members, including focused forums for our higher approval holders.

Finally, I’d like to address one of the most common pain points raised by members, and that’s about airport landing fees. There has been concern over recent years that we do not have the authority to share aircraft owner information with aerodrome operators for the purposes of charging landing fees.

Having delved deeply into this issue, I can say with confidence that our Privacy Policy, as published on our website, is compliant with the requirements of the Privacy Act 2007. This has been tested with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner on several occasions. Notwithstanding this, your voices are heard loud and clear. We are certainly looking at alternative ways to both demonstrate the value that our operations bring to local communities when we fly-in, and to do such things as publish the details of RAAus friendly aerodromes that have good facilities, easy transport into town and that are either free or incur a small landing fee. I would like to give a shout out to those members that have raised these matters with me, because each of them has done so respectfully, with a drive to resolve the matter, and by putting forward possible solutions. This will continue to be a live issue that we will work through, but I trust these initial steps will go some-way towards addressing members’ concerns in the interim.

I hope to see you at one of our fly-ins later in the year!