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Defence Publications

Sea King Board of Inquiry

Airworthiness Management System


The Australian Defence Force (ADF) owns and operates aircraft for the defence of Australia . The ADF Airworthiness Management System sets a framework of practices to safely manage the ADF aviation fleets.

The Airworthiness Management System comprises a network of military aviation experts, who develop, approve and implement regulations and certifications addressing safety of aircraft operations.

Why was the Airworthiness Management System introduced?

A series of accidents and incidents throughout the 1990s led the then Chief of the Defence Force to commission a Review of ADF Aviation Safety Management. As a result of the review, the Chief of Air Force was appointed as the ADF Airworthiness Authority and tasked to establish, manage and monitor an ADF Airworthiness Management System for aircraft and aviation systems.

Since the ADF created a single Airworthiness Management System in the 1990s, ADF accident rates have reduced significantly, despite a much higher operational tempo.

What is Airworthiness?

Airworthiness is a concept which defines the condition of an aircraft and provides the basis to determine its suitability for flight.

The ADF Airworthiness Authority has established an airworthiness management environment to regulate and control the ADF use of aircraft and aviation systems and includes operational and technical regulatory frameworks.

As a self-regulator, the ADF ensures that its aircraft and support systems are designed, constructed and maintained (Technical Airworthiness):

  • in accordance with approved standards and limitations;
  • by authorised individuals, acting as a part of an approved organisation, whose work is certified as correct and accepted by the ADF.

And also that aircraft and support systems are operated (Operational Airworthiness):

  • by trained, qualified and competent operators;
  • within an authorised organisation;
  • in accordance with approved limitations, publications and procedures.

Airworthiness System Application

There are four tenets of the ADF airworthiness system.

Regulation - the ADF has developed and established the regulatory framework for ADF aircraft.

Authorisation - authorities apply the regulations to ensure airworthiness is managed appropriately at all levels of the organisation.

Compliance Assurance - a series of evaluations, checks and audits are conducted to ensure compliance with regulations and approved practices. Identified deficiencies are addressed through formal corrective action processes.

Review - regular reviews are conducted to identify and implement improvements to the airworthiness management system.

ADF Aviation Accident Record

Figure 1 illustrates the total number of fatal aviation accidents over the last 37 years.

Prior to 1993, the fatal accident rate averaged 4.04 per year. Following the introduction of technical (1993) and operational (1998) airworthiness regulations, the rate of fatal accidents has reduced substantially.

Since 1993 the accident rate has averaged 0.38 fatal accidents per year representing a ten fold decrease.

Since 1999 the ADF has had to operate at a higher tempo than at any time in the previous twenty-five years. However, our fatal aviation accident rate is at its lowest.

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