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Aussie lives at risk from understaffed air safety workforce

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft lands in Sydney in May 24, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Source: Getty)

Australian travellers are at risk because of ‘chronic’ understaffing at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), an aviation union has warned.

According to Professionals Australia – ACT Branch and Australian Government Group director Dale Beasley, there are 122 technical air safety inspector positions across Australia.

However, only two thirds of them are filled, with current workers struggling with an “unsustainable” workload that was putting travellers in danger.

“Right now, these technical air safety staff are struggling to cover 41 vacant positions and have been doing so for 18 months. It’s an unacceptable risk for air travellers and is unsustainable for air safety staff,” he said.

Sydney and Melbourne were missing 25 per cent of their technical air safety staff, while Brisbane and Adelaide are missing a third of their workforce, he pointed out.

In Darwin, there are seven total positions available – but only one is filled.

(Source: Supplied)

“Clearly this is a highly stressful and dangerous situation for the air safety inspectors involved and puts Australia’s air travellers and flying operations at risk,” said Beasley.

“CASA’s understaffing of air safety across Australia has reached crisis point.”

However, he said CASA does not plan to fill up the available positions until an anticipated restructure planned over the next 18 months to three years.

The director added that concerns had been raised with CASA regarding the rising safety risks and hazards, but that the Authority’s response has been “flippant and dismissive”.

“Rather than simply filling the vacant positions, they’ve told staff it’s their responsibility to step forward if they’re feeling under pressure.”

If technical air safety roles are not filled, we could see disasters akin to the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crash, which resulted in 189 deaths, said Beasley, who urged CASA to fill the roles.

“If CASA fails to fill these vital technical air safety roles and support existing staff, we’ll be counting the cost in lives, not dollars.”

Australian Federation of Air Pilots industrial and legal officer Paul Ferguson said CASA was not giving flying operations inspectors sufficient support, with flying training falling short of maintaining pilot qualifications.

“The minimum yearly 39-hour requirement of flying currency training is not being met,” he said. “Stalled recruitment has resulted in significant staff shortages, which is now compromising the effectiveness of CASA.”

“As Christmas approaches, it is critical that these gaps are filled to ensure the safe travel of all Australians at one of the busiest times of the year.”

Community and Public Sector Union national vice-president Lisa Newman added: “As Christmas approaches, it is critical that these gaps are filled to ensure the safe travel of all Australians at one of the busiest times of the year.”

Yahoo Finance has reached out to CASA for comment.

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