13
Dec 2018

Ergon suspends Qld helicopter contractors on cusp of cyclone for manageable 'issue'

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KAP Leader and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter has slammed Ergon Energy for grounding all Queensland R44 Helicopter contractors hired to assess powerline damage and outages – all based on an information bulletin from Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), reminding pilots to be vigilant of a manageable issue that has always existed.


The news comes on the cusp of a cyclone forming in the midst of wet season – rendering helicopter pilots without work and no end in sight as Ergon promise to ‘write a report’ before anything can be done with no timeframe given.


“Ergon will not use the small Robinson helicopters anymore because of CASA stating there are certain problems that need to be addressed, these ‘problems’ have always been there, they just need to be managed like any other aircraft. Everyone knows that, every operational machine that flies in the sky has certain things that you need to watch out for, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Mr Katter said.


“CASAs dirty work has resulted in a cut back on aircraft - where there used to be 100 light aircraft in Cairns I doubt there are now 50, there used to be 20 in Townville I count hardly 10, there used to two in Mt Isa, now there is only one, in Charters Towers there used to be one on and off for 30 years and now none. It has forced aviation out of the sky. Dick Smith’s famous statement comes to mind, ‘what we have to achieve is affordable safety’.


“CASA wants to go around skiting ‘look how safe we’ve made the skies’ – well if there are no planes in the skies we will be safe. There is a cyclone beating down on Queensland and normally these pilots would be getting ready to deploy, and Ergon is ‘writing a report’ and will in the meantime hire larger helicopters to fly in from the big companies who can afford them. This will cost $3000ph, rather than $800ph, guess who will pay that bill? Electricity prices will soar.”


Pilot Trevor Riley from All Terrain Helicopters in Georgetown said he was in the air when he received the news.


“I was literally in the air when we received the suspension notice on Friday afternoon. I’ve got a business to run, this ban is Queensland wide and there are 7 or 8 operators that would be affected in my area alone (Hughenden, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Longreach and surrounds) we’ve all been suspended until further notice,” Mr Riley said.


“The work we do for Ergon is about 40% of what I do – my main business is cattle mustering and when it finishes for the year we rely on Ergon throughout the wet season for work. This has been an overreaction to a standard notice informing pilots if they’re having issues to check – it’s nothing new,” Mr Riley said.


Mr Katter said KAP are taking action to get the R44s back in the air as soon as possible, “We can stop all the road accidents by taking all the cars off the road, this is ridiculous. We are in communication with Ergon and contacting local owner operators who badly need the work to defray mustering costs, their little helicopters are of immense importance in the wet season for saving lives, the costs of mustering will go through the roof and the contracts will be taken off the helicopter owners in small inland towns and handed over to big foreign corporations that own the big helicopters.,” Mr Katter said.

Contact Details

Innisfail
P: (07) 4061 6066
F: (07) 4061 6566
Visit: Cnr Edith and Owen St
Post: PO Box 1638
Innisfail, Qld 4860

Mount Isa
P: (07) 4743 3534
F: (07) 4743 0189
Visit: 42-44 Simpson St
Post: PO Box 2130
Mount Isa, Qld 4825

Canberra
(when Parliament is sitting)
P: (02) 6277 4978
F: (02) 6277 8558

Local Call within the electorate
P: 1300 301 942

Email: Bob.Katter.MP@aph.gov.au