HIGH FLYER: The Federal Government announced last week that it had appointed highly regarded Mildura aviation industry veteran Tony Mathews as the new chair of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, a role he will hold for three years.

By JOHN DOOLEY

SUNRAYSIA aviation industry identity and Mildura resident, Tony Mathews, has been appointed chair of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Michael McCormack, made the announcement in Canberra last week.

Mr Mathews will chair the organisation for the next three years.

Highly regarded amongst his aviation peers, Mr Mathews brings a wealth of experience to the role, having been a former commercial airline pilot, Qantas regional airline manager and Royal Flying Doctor Service manager.

He has also been deputy chair of the Board of Airservices Australia, a role he was appointed to in 2014.

Mr Mathews is pleased to be appointed to the new role.

“The Ministry of Transport search for suitable candidates from within the aviation industry, and various aviation bodies put forward numerous names, and somebody obviously put my name forward,” he said.

Member for Mallee Andrew Broad congratulated Mr Mathews on his appointment.

“Hailing from Mildura, Tony has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to aviation and is a great fit for the role,” Mr Broad said. “It’s great to see him step up to this role where I’m sure he will be very successful.

“Australia’s aviation industry continues to grow significantly and CASA plays an integral role in ensuring our air safety regulations are world class.”

Endorsing Mr Broad’s remarks, Member for Mildura Peter Crisp said this is a role that Mr Mathews is eminently qualified for through his lifelong commitment to aviation in the Mildura region and beyond.

“The Mathews family were pioneers in regional aviation in Mildura, and Tony brings with him a wealth of knowledge,” he said. “Tony has also served the community in other roles, including on water boards, and it’s a real feather in the Mildura community’s cap to have someone as highly skilled and as highly regarded as Tony living amongst us.”

The accolades continued to flow with Mildura Mayor Mark Eckel noting the significance of the appointment.

“This announcement once again displays Mildura’s prominence and respect held by government and the aviation industry for our region’s expertise in aviation, and I wish Tony well in his new role,” he said.

Mr Mathews spent Monday in Canberra meeting with the CASA CEO, and other members of the management team, to discuss his transition into the role, and received a briefing on current issues. 

“Obviously I need time to acquaint myself with the current state of affairs within CASA, what they have done in recent times and where we are heading, and so that will take a little time,” he said.

“My conversations in Canberra indicated that the organisation is progressing well, I just need to get my feet under the desk and familiarise myself with the task at hand.”

When asked about safety in-and-around regional airports, something aviator Dick Smith has raised concerns about in the past, Mr Mathews said it was not as big of an issue as was flagged.

“There are some airports that needed to be reviewed and they were,” he said. “I know Dick and he’s a very passionate person about aviation and has some pretty good ideas at times.”

Mr Mathews said that the accidents that occurred in the general aviation sector were probably on a par with other places around the world.

“One of the issues is that our general aviation people aren’t as well trained as their commercial counterparts, therefore well-trained commercial pilots encounter fewer problems than a junior, less experienced pilot learning to fly.

“Sometimes people push the boundaries a bit – generally speaking there isn’t too much wrong with our aeroplanes – it’s just what you do with it. 

“Running out of fuel is unfortunately often a cause of some accidents.”

Mr Mathews said he had seen first-hand the development of Mildura Airport into a modern, busy port that today handles large passenger volumes. 

“We’re now carrying upwards of 230,000 passengers each year in and out of Mildura, which makes it quite a substantial airport and in the top 20 in Australia,” he said. “This is great for the community – travel to our capital city is more than six hours by road – yesterday I went Mildura to Melbourne to Canberra and back in the day comfortably, and so we have a lot of opportunities because of that service capability.”

Mr Mathews said that he had seen what Regional Express had to say recently in regard to possibly reducing its services into Mildura, and said time would tell what impact it may have.

“Let’s see where that goes, they may not have the loads that warranted the level of services they are running, and as a commercial operator, they do need to have sufficient revenue to make the routes viable,” he said.