stuff.... random stuff....

Why I don't like CAA today

, posted: 21-May-2011 19:26

Today while attending a fly-in (plane geek speak for get together with planes) I found out that CAA are going to stop funding for MetFlight-GA. At first I didn’t think much of it until it began to sink in. 

For those non plane geeks let me give you a quick introduction to MetFlight-GA. MetFlight-GA is a service provided by MetService and funded by CAA (up until June/July 2011). Just like boats need a marine forecast (provided for free to all of NZ by funding from NZ Govt) planes need a special forecast that gives specific information about winds, cloud types etc. Prior to every fly most pilots will log into MetFlight-GA and check that there is nothing nasty about, even if it looks like a perfect day.

In 2004 the CAA decided they would fund MetFlight-GA as the current user pays / limited weather info supplied by Airways wasn’t doing the trick. Im going to quote from the CAA website stating why funding MetFlight-GA was a good idea:

 General Background

The provision of meteorological information to the GA community has, for over a decade,
been on a user-pays basis. Under Civil Aviation Rules, the pilot-in-command of an aircraft
must obtain and become familiar with current meteorological information. The CAA
considers that pilots who do not obtain appropriate meteorological information
compromise aviation safety. 

The Current Situation

The GA community can currently access a basic level of meteorological information, freeof-
charge, from the IFIS system operated by Airways Corporation for use in pre-flight
planning. This is supplied to Airways under contract by MetService. It comprises a North
and South Island general briefing, a limited number of aerodrome forecasts and reports, as
well as any current significant weather warnings. The deficiencies with this set of
information include the lack of detailed forecasts for specific geographic areas, and lack of
coverage of a number of aerodromes. 

The CAA’s Safety Initiative – MetFlight-GA

The CAA considers that the cost of providing an enhanced and free-of-charge weather
forecasting service for the recreational and training GA community is significantly less
than the cost of weather-related incidents and accidents.” 

So in 2004 the CAA thought that what we had access to wasn’t good enough. Now we no longer have the Airways service so we have even less once MetFlight-GA is gone!  

You will still be able to purchase a subscription at around $100 pa per pilot so what’s the big deal? The simple fact of the matter is a vast number of recreational pilots in NZ will not bother. Why? Because they are either stupid and or lazy! People will die. You may think well hey if they go flying without the correct weather information then they kinda deserve it… That may be the case, but what about their passengers? If the same thing was to happen to all recreational boaties there would be an outcry! 

It stands to reason that if we take away a service that is designed to add safety to users then people will die. So how much does this service sap from the tax paying public? Must be some big bucks for the folk at CAA to pull the pin right? Wrong… the total cost of the service is $95,640 per year. Surly the reduced cost of accident investigation would pay for that let along the human cost???

Unfortunately the recreational aviation scene in NZ is a quite one. Recreational pilots generally don’t get up and arms about much they just quietly get on with the hobby so I don’t see much use in partitions or any other regular way to draw attention to this issue!

So that’s pretty much it. I think it’s bad call from the CAA I think it will kill people and it makes me sad and angry I will be purchasing a subscription as I am internet savvy and can see the value. Sadly a lot of pilots will put it in the too hard basket and will make to with substandard forecasts and people will die.

If anyone has any ideas how to draw attention to this I would be very keen to hear from them. Given the relatively small number of people affected I expect this will be one of those dumb decisions that just happens.

More info from MetService on this here:

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Comment by Technofreak, on 21-May-2011 20:49

I have always wondered why there was a free marine forecast from the met service but someone has to pay for the aviation equivalent.  It's never made sense to me.

Total cost if your figures are correct is chicken feed to the CAA even then I seriously question it actually costs this much. 

As for a $100 subscription, local flights don't require a forecast, it's the longer cross country flights that do and the average recreational flyer probably does two or three of these a year and isn't likely to consider $50 per flight good value for money.  A couple of phone calls to mates along the way to check the weather and they'll be off.

The irony is that the met service is still producing the forecasts
 anyway, they have paying customers (commercial operators) who require them.  There is no extra cost for recreational pilots to have access to this data.

As for CAA, this sort of short sighted action doesn't surprise me, though they are almost broke from what I hear, if they were a business the receivers would be running the place.  I guess they had to pay for their expensive shift to the city some how.  Perhaps this explains the reason for this change.

Comment by oxnsox, on 26-May-2011 11:36

So could this be the thin end of the general public user-pays wedge?

If the GA community don't get up and fight it (which I agreed they are unlikely to do), then whats the chance that downstream we'll see charges for recreational boaties?

Of course part of the argument then will be 'we've been charging recreational fliers for years'.

Would it not be better (in both instances) to charge a reduced fee that is levied thru user organisations, Flying clubs,boating/yachting fishing clubs????

Most recreational fliers/fishers/sailors wouldn't begrudge a $5 levi to cover met information.  And $5 from (say) 50% of the user community has got to be better than the $100 they may get from the few percent whi care to subscribe.

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Chris Hoffmann
New Zealand

Areas of Interest:
Network Security
Computer Forensics


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