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CAA Entitled To Suspend Air NZ Link Flights: Court Of Appeal

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
CAA Entitled To Suspend Air NZ Link Flights: Court Of Appeal

Wellington, Feb 17 NZPA - The main concern of the nation's Director of Civil Aviation is with safety, and he is allowed to take a risk-averse approach, say the senior judges who upheld the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) temporary suspension of a small charter airline's operator certificate.

The CAA suspended Air National operations on January 28 for 10 days.

The company appealed the suspension in the High Court, which ruled on February 2 it should be lifted.

The CAA then appealed the High Court ruling in the Court of Appeal, which quashed the lower court decision on February 7, and today said that interim order under section 8 of the Civil Aviation Act "should not have been granted".

The suspension followed an audit in response to a perceived "high risk profile" of Air National, which was founded in 1989 and provides daily return services between Christchurch and Oamaru, and Christchurch and Hokitika for Air New Zealand Link.

Complaints about safety and compliance concerns were conveyed to the CAA -- the day before the audit -- by the Auditor-General, who also raised concerns about the stance adopted by CAA in its oversight of the airline.

The audit indicated some training records had been "falsified", the airline's training manager had been flying other aircraft in breach of rules, and carrying out competency checks on other pilots for which he was not qualified.

One pilot had flown a plane without the airport identity card required for aviation security.

Air National sought a judicial review and said that the CAA director's decision was invalid because he had made an unreasonable decision, failed to take account of relevant matters, and failed to give the airline adequate chance to address the concerns.

It said the suspension would have devastating, "perhaps fatal" consequences for the future viability of its business: it operated 2- to 50 flights a week and employed 60 staff

But the Appeal Court judges, Terence Arnold, Ellen France, and Rhys Harrison, said in the reasons they released today for their decision that CAA concerns about safety could just as well extend to training or competencies as to defective aircraft.

They did not accept that CAA was obliged to carry out its full investigation of whether there was a systemic problem, before suspending the airline operations. "He had material which indicated there may be such a problem".

"Although the evidence is at this stage incomplete, we do not consider that Air National has demonstrated that it has a strong case that the decision to suspend was not reasonably open to the director, or was irrational," they said.

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