REX SAFETY: Company responds to bullying claims
Regional Express Airlines has slammed claims staff were bullied out of raising concerns about safety defects, saying the accusations were "cowardly" and "despicable".
The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association has urged the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to strip the airline, known as REX, of its licence to maintain its planes - which would effectively ground its whole fleet - because of a "culture of fear" jeopardising safety, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
In a complaint to CASA filed in May, the association made claims of "serious breaches of safety obligations" at the regional airline.
"Coercion, intimidation and bullying of employees has reached a point where employees are reticent to report aircraft defects, including major defects, for fear of recrimination," the complaint said.
"The apparent discouragement of reporting of maintenance defects has created a circumstance where an unknown number of serious defects may have not been reported and aircraft have operated with a serious and imminent risk to air safety."
The report included complaints from a REX engineer and the engineer's association. CASA said it was investigating the claims.
In one example raised in the report, a REX engineer was allegedly disciplined for finding corrosion on a propeller during a routine check, which delayed the flight.
Corrosion had been one of several contributing factors to an incident in 2017 in which a 100kg propeller fell from a REX plane as it flew from Albury to Sydney, landing close to suburban homes.
A source familiar with the investigation told the Telegraph "people won't report stuff".
"I won't fly REX anymore - I'll either go QantasLink or I'll walk," the source said.
REX, based in Mascot, Sydney, operates 57 aircraft on 60 regional routes in all Australian states.
The airline has hit back at the report, saying it included "wild accusations" from a "disgruntled" worker.
"We believe that our safety culture, as part of the safety management system, is second to none," REX's chief operating officer Neville Howell said.
"Realising that these baseless accusations are not getting any traction, some are now taking the despicable and cowardly approach of launching anonymous malicious attacks on REX in the press.
"REX will not be making any further comments on this matter, and we will leave it to the safety authority to judge if our safety culture is lacking in any manner."
Regional leaders have called for urgent safety checks of REX planes and warned grounding the fleet would isolate their communities.
"I fly (REX) regularly and I want to make sure the plane is well and truly looked after," Parkes mayor Ken Keith, from central west NSW, told the New Daily.
"To ground the fleet would be a major imposition on the Parkes community.
"It would be a very drastic step … it wouldn't be a good thing unless it was well founded."