University of South Australia Aviation Academy quickly complies with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations

In 2006 the Civil Aviation Safety requiring all flight schools to keep detailed reports of all student training flight programmes. "I am particularly impressed with the infinite number of report parameters now available to us. We can generate reports on student flying activity, student progress reports, competence-based training matrices for each student, aircraft fuel consumption and hours, instructor workload, daily flying schedules, finance journals, and many more all with ease and in less than half the time of before." Frank Pellas, Business Manager - Division of IT, Engineering and Environment, University of South Australia

Challenge:

In 2006 the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) announced it was introducing new competency based training (CBT) regulations requiring all flight schools to keep detailed reports of all student training flight programmes.

To comply, the University of South Australia (UniSA) Aviation Academy had to maintain an achievement record, training summary, training matrix, achievement matrix, lesson plan template and lesson and assessment record for each student. The additional reporting would now require data entry from flying instructors who had to quickly learn how to use the new FlightFile as well as adopting the CBT’s into their training environment. The Academy trains an average of 50-60 students in a training year, with an average of 70 flights a week. An upgraded system needed to be implemented that would cope with the student learning competency requirements and still be user friendly enough for administration staff and flying instructors to pick up quickly. The upgraded system had to replace the existing one without any interruption to the Aviation Academy’s student flying schedule.

Frank Pellas, Business Manager - Division of IT, Engineering & Environment, University of South Australia had previously designed a system using Filemaker Pro to record and track flying operation costs to ensure that the operation costs were covered by the students’ tuition fees. This original system had been performing successfully from 2003 to 2007 however, Pellas explained, “We needed a solution to centrally store detailed data on our aircraft, employees, students, flights, performance and aerodromes.”

The introduction of the new CBT by CASA provided an even greater challenge as this required data entry by flying instructors. The original data base had been managed by the Aviation Academy Administrator and this person was the only one responsible for data entry. The new database had to incorporate all the features and operational functions of the original system, plus the added requirements for student competency records on each training flight, and be quickly embraced by new users.

About The University of South Australia Aviation Academy:

The UniSA Aviation Academy was the first Australian university to offer a tertiary qualification to pilots. Located approximately 13 km north of the City of Adelaide at the Parafield Airport, the academy’s aim is to train pilots to the Commercial Pilot standard. To complete the Bachelor of Applied Science (Civil Aviation) students undergo both theoretical and practical flying training.

Solution:

The UniSA Aviation Academy’s Pellas decided that an upgrade was needed for the Academy to improve on the accurate reporting of its flying costs and effectively manage the recently introduced CASA compliance burden. The Academy had previously used FileMaker Pro 6, so decided its first step should be reviewing the features of FileMaker’s latest version to see if it could meet its needs. Pellas was pleased to discover that the database had everything the Academy needed in order to develop a tailored administration system that would meet CASA's compliance regulations, and help the Academy to continue manage the operational costs of each flight.

Pellas commented, "Over a period of nine months we custom-developed a database application which we called FlightFile using FileMaker Pro 9, to concurrently manage the competency based training (CBT) of student pilots and the financials of our flying operations.”

Pellas said, "We are the only training organisation in Australia to have developed our own database for simultaneously managing flying costs and CASA’s CBT requirements. The day after we implemented FlightFile we were audited by CASA on our regular training activities and the new database received CASA's full tick of approval. CASA was also very impressed with our original use of the FileMaker Pro 9 software, as all the other training organisations they had audited were assembling competencies for students using spreadsheets."

FlightFile records student performance against the appropriate competency units for each training flight and reports this activity in a matrix to conform to CASA requirements. It also allows the Academy to store all its important data in one central location, which means that it can run reports on correlated data to recoup operational costs.

Pellas continued; "For each flying trip FlightFile records the aircraft used, the student and instructor details, the duration of the flight, the flight lesson, fuel used, and the location and number of landings. These data are then used to calculate the cost of each flight, and to debit this amount to the student’s cost centre. This is done by exporting to an Excel spreadsheet and is then uploaded directly to the University’s Finance One program. This process also ensures that a portion of each flight is credited to the cost centre of the aircraft to provide for operating costs."

Product:

FlightFile custom-built in FileMaker Pro

Key Benefits:

“FileMaker Pro has enabled us to build an intuitive, staff-compatible, secure and reliable management tool that controls our flying training operation. FlightFile was operational right from the first time it was loaded onto the Academy Administrator’s computer," said Pellas.

The UniSA Aviation Academy noticed the benefits of implementing FlightFile built in FileMaker Pro within the first three months of installing the new system. Some of the key benefits include:

Data entry is quick and intuitive. Instructors can easily enter all of their own flight data at the same time they enter the student’s competency element scores. The creation of automated financial journal operations has streamlined the process and removed potential user error, cutting the amount of time spent on these reports in half.

All Academy details are now entered into the central system allowing for standard data requirements to be auto entered into CASA compliance reports. Information that was being handled up to five times is now dealt with once only.

All flight data and training competencies are entered directly into FlightFile by the instructors. Password protection and appropriate precautions are built-in to minimise data error.

All authorised employees have concurrent access to FlightFile across the Academy's entire network which comprises of four computers on site at Parafield and an additional three located at the University's base campus over three kilometres away connected to the network via VPN.

The cost of each flight is automatically calculated by FlightFile based on the aircraft used, flight duration and the number and location of all landings. These costs are then easily exported to the University’s central Finance One system to be on-charged to each student.

The creation of CASA compliant reports ensure all relevant competencies for each flying lesson are recorded in accordance with CBT standards.

FlightFile has the ability to generate invoice requests on a UniSA standard request form for non-training flights. FlightFile also handles all GST-related issues to ensure that it is charged only when required. (NB: Flying training as part of acquiring a professional licence is GST free where all other flights attract GST)

The automated production of flight authorisation records prior to each scheduled training flight has improved report completion efficiency.

Training instructors can now record all flight details in a CASA compliant record template that is signed off by the student to ensure the instructor complies with best practice requirements.

Pellas concluded, "I am particularly impressed with the infinite number of report parameters now available to us. We can generate reports on student flying activity, student progress reports, competence-based training matrices for each student, aircraft fuel consumption and hours, instructor workload, daily flying schedules, finance journals, and many more all with ease and in less than half the time of before."