Cairns aviation firm grounded over 'safety risks'
THE Civil Aviation Safety Authority yesterday suspended all operations by a Cairns-based charter company because of alleged serious safety risks.
The federal authority said it had evidence Barrier Aviation, which has a fleet of 34 aircraft, was operating aircraft with serious and known defects and was directing its pilots to fly with known aircraft defects.
The company is also accused of failing to record those defects on aircraft maintenance documentation when they became known.
A CASA pokesman said Barrier Aviation had been under investigation for six weeks, but more alleged maintenance problems had come to light in the "past couple of days''.
"There was an increased level of risk which was just too high," the spokesman said.
The five-day ban could stretch to another 40 days if the Federal Court agrees to extend the suspension while CASA carries out further investigations.
Managing director of Barrier Aviation, David Kilin, said the company was examining the suspension notification and would take legal advice on the matter.
"We will be challenging the allegations in the Federal Court," he said yesterday.
He said about 50 staff, including 37 pilots, would be affected by the suspension but the company had not had time to consider their options yet.
"We will also be notifying clients and helping them with alternative arrangements."
CASA acknowledged the timing of the suspension was "regrettable" for passengers and Barrier's employees, but its "primary and overriding consideration" was safety.
In its statement yesterday, CASA said:
"The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has suspended the operations of Barrier Aviation Pty Ltd with immediate effect from 23 December 2012.
"This action has been taken because CASA believes permitting Barrier Aviation to continue to fly poses a serious and imminent risk to air safety."
Barrier Aviation provides charter services, aerial work and is a flying training air operator with bases in Cairns, Darwin and Horn Island.
It also offers interstate, international flights,scenic flights over the Great Barrier Reef, and the carriage of dangerous and difficult cargo throughout PNG.
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Suspended: Barrier Aviation aircraft have been grounded by CASA for five days.