Barrier Aviation faces longer ban
THE Civil Aviation Safety Authority has extended the suspension of air operator Barrier Aviation until February 15.
The Cairns-based company was initially grounded for five working days from Sunday, but an application by CASA to the Federal Court on Monday continues the suspension of all operations, including those from the airline's bases in Darwin, Horn Island and the Gove Peninsula.
CASA said it believed "permitting Barrier Aviation to continue to fly poses a serious and imminent risk to air safety" and that it had been operating aircraft with "serious and known defects".
The authority said it had extended the suspension because "investigations into Barrier Aviation will not be completed by the end of the initial five-working-day suspension period".
Principal lawyer representing Barrier Aviation, Derek Perkins, said yesterday the move had been disastrous for the charter company.
"This has had a devastating effect for northern and remote Australia in transportation," he said.
"It affects the transport of Reef shipping pilots, the courts and transportation of magistrates, quarantine services and we are also back-up for the flying doctors. We have indigenous communities that rely on us for transport, not to mention miners."
The company said the action had grounded the entire fleet of 34 aircraft, deprived 4500 passengers of air travel service to some of Australia's most remote destinations, affected holiday regional tourism, affected student flying school training and caused grave reputational damage and catastrophic economic consequences for Barrier Aviation.
In an earlier statement, the company said it "deeply regrets the action taken by CASA which suddenly, over the festive season, poses a risk to the delivery of essential services in Far North Queensland and has impaired the holiday travel of many commuters in the region".
Mr Perkins said the company was disappointed the suspension applied across all of Barrier's operations from Cairns, Darwin and Gove.
"The main concerns were coming out of Horn Island operations," Mr Perkins said.
Six of the aircraft at Horn had maintenance releases, while one was still awaiting clearance because the paperwork was with CASA, he said.
"Clearly, Barrier regrets the inconvenience to customers but our primary concern is safety."
The company has operated in north Queensland, Northern Territory, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands for more than 20 years.
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Safety fears: CASA has extended the suspension of Barrier Aviation's operations.