Implementing Senior Base Pilots

Introducing Senior Base Pilots into the organisational structure of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operators allows significant streamlining of the organisation. When implemented correctly, this significantly reduces the day to day workload of the Chief Remote Pilot and increases the flexibility of the organisation.

The job of a Chief Remote Pilot (CRP) can be challenging; there is a legal obligation to carry out constant monitoring and supervision of operations, training obligations, alongside administration requirements. With the imminent introduction of the Part 101 Manual of Standards recording requirements, staying on top of the role’s responsibilities is vital. For most Chief Remote Pilots, their primary employment role involves other duties such as surveying or engineering. The offence provision for failing to carry out the CRP duties do not contain an excuse for having insufficient time; it is incumbent on each CRP to find the time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many CRPs reflecting on their ability to meet their responsibilities successfully. How does a CRP comply with their legislated duty to actively monitor the standards and activity of their Remote Pilots when they cannot, for the most part, move freely throughout Australia to attend operational sites?

Fortunately, there is a way to make life easier for the Chief Remote Pilot and the organisation as a whole. One of the most exciting changes to CASA’s approach to RPAS operations is to make a move further toward the ways of piloted aviation and encourage load sharing between the crew, primarily with the use of Senior Base Pilots.

A Senior Base Pilot (SBP) is a crew member who is delegated some of the duties of the Chief Remote Pilot. A good example is the flight operations of Qantas; Captain Dick Tobiano, Qantas’ Chief Pilot, could not possibly check the competencies of each of the over 3,500 pilots operating the flying kangaroos. Responsibilities of duties are delegated to several levels of type specialists, including a Chief Technical Pilot and Check and Training Captains.

Not only does the use of Senior Base Pilots reduce the administrative burden, used correctly it can all but remove the requirement for the CRP to travel to the particular operations areas, reducing expense and saving time. Senior Base Pilot structures are particularly useful for large drone operators such as mining where a single Remote Operators Certificate may cover multiple mine sites located throughout Australia.

Importantly, while the CRP can delegate duties, the responsibility remains with the CRP, so it is of the utmost importance that the CRP is able to trust the judgement, expertise and capabilities of the nominated Senior Base Pilot. Proper training is key to a successful Senior BAse Pilot appointment. Just as important is setting up an appropriate command structure and associated management procedures so that all staff know where responsibilities lie, and that appropriate communication and reporting is utilised. The use of a digital compliance tool, such as AVCRM, is recommended ensuring transparent and timely sharing of information.

Upskilling key personnel to assist in Chief Pilot functions, together with the use of technology to monitor operations, allows a scalable organisation without the increased risk of non-compliance.

- Irwin Jefferies, Chief Remote Pilot Aviassist

Aviassist has a depth of experience in complex aviation crew structures. Our insights from Piloted and Remotely Piloted aviation can help you design the best Senior Base Pilot system. Add our Senior Base Pilot training package, and your Chief Remote Pilot can sleep easy in the knowledge that their operations are in capable hands.

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