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Aero Tropics

Airline grounded for safety violations

Jun 29, 2008

REMOTE islands in the Torres Strait are without regular scheduled air services after the aviation watchdog grounded a Cairns airline for safety breaches.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority moved on Friday to suspend the operations of Lip Air Pty Ltd, trading as Aero Tropics, because it believed there were "serious and imminent risks" to the safety of the carrier's passengers.

The regulator will apply this week to the Federal Court to extend the suspension of Aero-Tropics's operator's certificate for up to 40 days while it decides whether to ground the airline permanently. Aero Tropics flies more than a dozen six- to 11-seat aircraft on routes through Thursday Island to 11 other destinations in the Torres Strait.

CASA has been investigating the airline since last year. It said it had taken action several times against the airline and key personnel to achieve improvements.

The problems centred on the airline's pilot training and checking systems, it said.

"However, in recent days CASA has discovered further evidence that safety standards in Lip Air have not improved and have, in fact, deteriorated," the authority said.

"CASA has serious concerns about the capacity and commitment of Lip Air's management to manage their safety obligations.

"CASA believes the deficiencies are indicative of a total failure of the airline's management structure.

"This has created an unacceptable risk to aviation safety."

Aero Tropics indicated yesterday that it was prepared to take Federal Court action as early as today in an attempt to get back into the air.

A recorded statement to customers said: "It is with great regret that I must advise the communities of the Torres Strait that we're forced by the authorities to cancel all flights until this matter is resolved.

"It is my expectation that this matter will be tried in the immediate future before the Federal Court early Monday morning. There is a possibility that Aero Tropics can recommence operations sometime on Monday."

CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said the Aero Tropics investigation was not part of month-long safety sweep of aviation operations across northern Australia. The grounding had cut regular public transport services between the Torres Strait islands.

Airline grounded for safety violations

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