25 September 2017

Great Sunair reporting SunLive



Tauranga airline Sunair remains grounded after a CAA official has resigned over the issues. Northland politician Shane Jones is accusing the authority of “stitching up” the airline. Sunair was grounded for the second time on September 8. The Civil Aviation Authority suspended the Air Operator Certificate of Sunair Aviation Ltd, and also suspended the Certificate of Airworthiness for the Sunair fleet of aircraft. A CAA spokesperson says it was initially for 10 days, but on Friday September 22, Sunair owner Daniel Power says they have heard nothing from CAA. Northland resident and NZ First's Shane Jones says the grounding of Sunair is related to the resignation of CAA deputy director chairman Peter Griffiths, who resigned last week after passing on information regarding the suspension of Sunair to Great Barrier Island-based Barrier Air, which he owns 25 per cent of. “I'm astounded at the Cynical Aviation Authority, that they have been allowed to get away with this stunt at a time when they should be working with this provincially important operator,” says Shane. “They have taken a nut cracker approach. The fact that the deputy chairman has had to resign only further strengthens my belief that the chairman should have gone as well. It's been a gross collapse in governance. You need to bear in mind that the CAA have form in conflict of interest. They were investigated a number of years ago and found to be wanting. Their conduct towards Sunair I think is reprehensible. Sunair are valuable contributors to our tourism and our economy up in the north and also they have held an important contract in relation to our DHB. All these things are extremely important to us.” CAA chairman Nigel Gould confirmed on Stuff that Griffiths acted before the latest suspension was in place, in the press release acknowledging the error. “…When he initiated the contact with Barrier Air he did not realise that the suspension was not yet in place," says the CAA. "It should be acknowledged that Peter's intent was to offer Barrier Air assistance to Sunair in order to minimise the adverse effect on its customers. Despite that good intent, Peter freely admits to an error of judgement and has submitted his resignation from the board." The CAA says the decision to ground Sunair is the result of an audit of Sunair records which found a number of anomalies and omissions in maintenance records. "These findings created a reasonable doubt about the airworthiness of the aircraft operated by Sunair and the Operator's maintenance control and the quality assurance systems intended to ensure their airworthiness," says an earlier CAA statement. Daniel Power says the airline's last audit was a year ago, and on maintenance practices it was found to be excellent. “And now we find for reasons that we don't fully understand, they now have concerns,” says Daniel. “And in the last 12 months our maintenance practices and procedures have not changed.” The airline was previously grounded by the CAA on December 6, 2016 over concerns about the airline's management structure. The CAA became concerned the company's senior team was too small for the size of the business. That issue was successfully resolved and Sunair returned to the skies on December 16 2016. When contacted for comment, the CAA released the following statement to SunLive. When asked why it was necessary to suspend Sunair's Air Operator Certificate and the Certificate of Airworthiness for its fleet when Sunair had reported the issues under CAR Part 12 and they were being deal with. The CAA reply is: "The decision to suspend Sunair resulted from an audit of Sunair maintenance records, conducted as a component of a recent change of their Maintenance Controller. The findings of this audit highlighted a number of anomalies and omissions in maintenance records that called into question the reliance that could be placed upon the operator's control and conduct of aircraft maintenance. These findings created a reasonable doubt about the airworthiness of the aircraft operated by Sunair and the Operator's maintenance control and the quality assurance systems intended to ensure their airworthiness. For this reason, the Director of Civil Aviation suspended the Sunair Air Operators Certificate, along with the Certificates of Airworthiness of its aircraft. (See section 17 of the Civil Aviation Act.) Sunair has the right to appeal these decisions to the District Court in accordance with section 66 of the Civil Aviation Act." When asked if CAA considers it acceptable practice that a senior member of its board has acquired shareholdings in two air transport operators while he is the role, and when he is in the position of being privy to commercially sensitive information, CAA's reply is: "By way of context, it is important to highlight that the Board is not involved in regulatory decision-making. This is done by the Director of Civil Aviation utilising powers that are independent of the Board. Having established that important fact, while acknowledging the obvious risks of having people with sector knowledge or involvement on the Board, there are also advantages to be gained from at least some of those providing governance of the CAA being familiar with the sector it regulates. Section 72A(5) of the Civil Aviation Act recognises this fact when it requires the Minister of Transport to consult with aviation industry bodies on the appointment of two of the CAA Board members. On balance, providing that conflicts of interest are managed correctly and Board members do not act on information held then the benefits of having some sector knowledge/involvement on the Board outweighs the risks." CAA's answer to the question why it was necessary to suspend Whitianga operator FlyStark's operations for three months from May to July 2017 over an incident of superficial damage to one of its aircraft's wings, CAA replies: "The aircraft in question was a Gippsland GA-8. Wingtip damage requires a maintenance inspection before the next flight, yet FlyStark flew. The maintenance manual for that aircraft requires that any damage to the outboard wing area, regardless of how minor it may appear, must be inspected by a maintenance engineer before the next flight (see section 17 of the Civil Aviation Act). "For this reason The Director of Civil Aviation decided to suspend the aircraft certificate of airworthiness until such time as an inspection had been completed and to suspend the Air Operator's Certificate while the root causes were being investigated. Although this CAA investigation was completed within a couple of weeks, FlyStark management elected to extend their operational suspension until they were fully satisfied that they were ready to recommence safe air transport operations."

21 comments:

  1. How could Griffiths offer Sunair assistance when they, Barrier Air, have only 2 operational aircraft, one of which appears not to be IFR, the other being fully utilized servicing Great Barrier Island and Kaitaia. Quite frankly the explanation defies even some modicum of belief. When the issues of Mitch Jones et al are added to the list, the ongoing conduct of closing people/businesses down on Friday nights etc, it is clear that somebody with the authority and the guts should have a REALLY good look at the culture and actions of CAA and in particular those all at the top who set the tone and culture of the organisation. Is there actually anyone out there with the authority and backbone to step up to the mark? Unfortunately I think not. GA in NZ is set to go down a very disturbing path.

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  2. The grounding has impacted my business and it's bloody annoying - I feel sorry for sunair and I hope they're back flying ASAP!

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    1. CAA don't care one iota about your business and the financial impact it's having. I doubt any of those making these decisions have ever had any commercial experience or put their own money at risk

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  3. there are 2 sides to every story, which one do you know?

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    1. Obviously what's written above and what's in the media. Tell us the other side? :-)

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  4. I think some are not appreciating how many hoops CAA must jump through to ground an airline. It's not something that is done without good reason.

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    1. Exactly. It's pretty laughable how some people will jump to the defense of a dodgy airline when they only have half the story! How about thanking the regulator for making the difficult calls needed to keep people safe? I'm sure CAA don't enjoy shutting an operator down.

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    2. Well I think you're jumping to conclusions!! :-) I can't see that anyone is defending a 'dodgy' airline. Are you supporting Griffiths decision to advise his company of a competitors suspension prior to them being advised? Do you think this is how the regulator should act?? It is an absolutely disgusting act made more so by goulds attempt to justify it. Remove your personal feelings toward Sunair from the equation and look deeper in to whats happened here.

      If the commenters here have only half the facts, feel free to elucidate

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    3. You're talking about two completely separate issues. No one is defending the board member for his actions, but those actions have absolutely nothing to do with the shutdown of the operator - they occurred after the fact. To suggest the board are somehow involved in operational processes at CAA is ridiculous. It would be like equating a decision by Air NZ operational staff to offload an unruly passenger with some clandestine board tactic to 'get at' that person - nutty in the extreme.

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    4. No one is defending the board member...??!

      Quote from above:- "CAA chairman Nigel Gould confirmed on Stuff that Griffiths acted before the latest suspension was in place, in the press release acknowledging the error. “…When he initiated the contact with Barrier Air he did not realise that the suspension was not yet in place," says the CAA. "It should be acknowledged that Peter's intent was to offer Barrier Air assistance to Sunair in order to minimise the adverse effect on its customers. Despite that good intent, Peter freely admits to an error of judgement and has submitted his resignation from the board."

      And you say these actions occurred AFTER the shutdown? I think you are very wrong :-)

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    5. Semantics. I meant after the operational decisions had been made, in which the board would have had no involvement. I stand by my comment that no one is defending him. Quite the contrary.

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    6. No one is suggesting the board has influence on operational decisions, that is indeed ridiculous. So Gould saying he had "good intent" is not defending him?? I have not seen/read any evidence of the board or CAA condemning his actions? It was griffiths decision to resign was it not?

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    7. When I said 'no one', I was referring to people who work for CAA, of which I know a few - they are quite understandably pissed off. Gould's comment is obviously ridiculous. Spare a thought for the front liners who have to grin and bear the criticism when all they've apparently done is their jobs. They don't have the luxury of running to the media.

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    8. And they should be pissed off. Their hard work and dedication is being undermined by the clowns at the top. Unfortunately the regulator is like any large organization or the military, staff get promoted one level above their competence, or they get promoted to get rid of them. With the steady exodus of the real 'world experienced' staff and constant replacement with ex airforce people (who have never had to risk their own money, reputations, livelihood or make any decisions with real world repercussions), things will only get worse. And these are now the guys at the front line. Don't get me wrong, there are many very competent and very talented CAA staff, but there are just as many, or more, incompetent/indifferent ones.

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  5. Has everyone forgotten the Heli-Logging case heard last year? Heli Logging has won the right to sue CAA over their closing down and the Court has also thrown out CAAs subsequent appeal to have the case dismissed. Read the Courts decision. It makes for very sobering reading. While the case has still to be finally heard The Supreme Court does not allow "out of time" cases to go ahead without some very good substantiating facts. Reading between the lines CAA has, once again, organised lies and misinformation to get in the way of facts. It appears they have manufactured a setup - we will see. However, dont let the facts get in the way of a good story but it does seem over the years that regardless of Court decisions CAA continues to go in the opposite direction. Take the time to sort out the Lib 4 case etc and especially the then Directors comments after they lost that case. In some other country he would have been done for contempt of court but in good old NZ nothing was done - why?

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    1. Please explain relevance to this story?

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    2. It demonstrates the steady decline in CAA's integrity. The focus has gone off a VIABLE and safe industry now the CAA is predominately staffed with highly trained bureaucrats who lack any real world experience and have little accountability

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    3. I would hazard a guess and say that these two cases are completely different. The Heli-Logging one was based of one persons assessment that the Wessex was incapable of doing the job in which they intended it for. We now know that this person didn't have the qualifications that they said they had so there goes this persons credibility.
      From the reading of this article it appears that due to paperwork irregularities CAA decided to revoke the AOC.

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    4. Obviously you havent read the decision - it is more than one person who gave false/misleading information and one certainly did have the qualifications and had done so previously. I would defy any business to have perfect paperwork at all times, especially when you have different auditors requiring different paperwork for the same thing - it does happen that way. So if you want to achieve a particular outcome you send a particular person briefed accordingly. If you dont believe me, ask around a few operators and you may be surprised at the answers. When you have a regulator with unbridled power who chooses to act on small operators, then where do you turn? And the cost? Well in excess of $50k and that is only the start. Have a go by all means but make sure you have extremely deep pockets or shut up.

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  6. Does anyone actually know what is now happening at Sunair? Are they back up and running or likely to do so in the near future?

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  7. Still Grounded?

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