Aviation (CASA)

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is an authority established by the Civil Aviation Act 1988 (Cth) (CAA). Its functions are to regulate Australian aviation safety by licensing pilots, registering aircraft, creating and promoting safety guidelines, and enforcing safety guidelines. Its powers and guidelines for safety standards, amongst other things, can be found in the CAA and the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 (Cth) (CAR).

Immediate Action

CASA is obligated to act upon any safety related information they may receive through surveillance or receipt of complaints made by members of the public through its online form. Therefore, where CASA has reason to believe that the holder of a civil aviation authorisation has engaged in, is engaging in, or is likely to engage in conduct which constitutes, contributes to, or results in a serious and imminent risk to air safety, they may suspend the individual’s aviation authorisation (e.g. pilot license). An imminent and serious risk to air safety is where an aviation accident or incident is reasonably likely to happen at any moment. A suspension of authorisation is to be sent to the Federal Court for a confirmatory order. If an application to the Federal Court is not sent before five business days after the holder is notified of suspension, the suspension will end on that fifth day. If confirmed, the order remains in place for no more than 40 days, to allow CASA time to complete its investigation. CASA can apply to the court to extend the order, but for no more than 28 days. Once a confirmation order has been granted CASA must investigate the matter fully.

Formal Investigation

CASA can enforce the safety regulations through administrative action (the main topic of this article), compliance-related action, enforceable voluntary undertakings, and prosecution. Administrative action is for serious breaches, compliance-related action for less serious breaches (which is not reviewable), voluntary undertakings for minor safety breaches where remedial action is believed to be a better option, and for certain extreme breaches, CASA may refer the matter to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

Once information concerning a breach of safety regulations has been received by CASA, an initial investigation by Operational or Technical Staff may be conducted. It is then decided whether the Coordinated Enforcement Process (CEP) (CASA’s investigation process) is required to be initiated. Minor contraventions are not generally sent through CEP. CASA’s investigation process involves the creation of a Show Cause Notice outlining how they have come to the decision that administrative action needs to be taken. This investigation (Show Cause Process) involves technical and operational staff, in conjunction with the legal division, who gather and present evidence as to why the action needs be, or does not need to be, taken. The authorised holder (e.g. license holder) is given an opportunity to respond to the Show Cause Notice through a Show Cause Conference. After this a decision is made as to what administrative action should be taken.


The main tools of enforcement CASA implements, are:

  • Suspension for the purpose of an examination required to be undertaken;
  • Suspension because of a serious and imminent risk to safety;
  • The acceptance of an Enforceable Voluntary Undertaking;
  • Administrative action – cancellation, suspension or variation (including the imposition of conditions);
  • The issuing of an infringement notice: where instead of referral to the CDPP a faster ‘trial’ is conducted by CASA (this requires proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt) and a cheaper fine being an Infringement Notice may be issued;
  • Referral to the CDPP: which may eventuate in fines or prison time;
  • Detention of an aircraft;
  • The imposition of demerit points: where demerit points and fines can be accrued for multiple, minor breaches in a specified period and may eventuate in suspension of authorisation (e.g. Private Pilot License).

In most cases, after a decision has been handed down, appeals can be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if an unfavourable outcome presents itself.

An example of a recent case before CASA concerned a pilot involved in a ground collision during which his aircraft sustained major damage. The pilot did not obtain a valid medical certificate, an aircraft inspection, and a flight review before taking off to return to the aerodrome from which his flight originated. As a result of this, the pilot’s Private Pilot License (PPL) and Recreational Pilot License (RPL) were cancelled.

How can we help?

Investigations by CASA can have serious implications for your career moving forward. Robertson O’Gorman is committed to assisting clients faced with CASA investigations throughout the administrative decision-making and formal hearing process by making oral and written submissions and appealing to higher courts or tribunals where necessary.