Dennis is an aviation veteran. Over a career spanning 53 years, he has witnessed improvements to the way aviation safety is approached and has broad experience as a pilot, aerodromes inspector, held key management positions within the New Zealand CAA, and as an international consultant for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). From 2017, he was appointed Director of the Cook Islands Civil Aviation Authority (CICAA) and has held key positions on the PASO Council on behalf of the Cook Islands. In 2021 he was due to retire from CI CAA and return to consultancy work, and he was keen to ensure they were set up for success before he finished up.
As the Director, Dennis was ultimately responsible for ensuring that all aspects of the Cook Islands aviation system was safe and ready for an international restart. Like most Pacific States in 2020/21, time was running out for an impressive list of certifications and renewals he needed to sign off on.
Dennis had a few problems though. For a start, he had been stuck in New Zealand with border closures since February 2020. A quarantine free travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Islands for essential workers from February 2021 meant he had “a travel window” to return and get critically needed Inspectors on the ground with PASO’s help.
“From my point of view, the buck stops with me as Director. I needed to do due diligence and have very detailed audits and safety check done to show we were still operating safely,” says Dennis.
“All our pilots’ licences are issued by New Zealand CAA and three pilots were due in April 2021 for their flight examiner rating renewals under Rule Part 61. These pilots check the rest of our pilots – they become the examiners once they have been certified every two years – so it was critical to get Graeme Young, PASO’s flight examiner Inspector in quickly in March to oversee the three renewals. It was a very narrow window with only two flights per week making it difficult to coordinate.”
PASO’s Senior Operations Coordinator, Jessica Fred, took up the challenge.
“This time was much more complicated than usual to get our team on the ground. It took about two weeks to organise, especially with travel agent arrangements and ticketing changes, COVID-19 travel insurance challenges, and liaising with the Cook Islands and Inspectors about immigration entry requirements,” explains Jessica.
“Ultimately ensuring our Inspectors were (COVID-19) safe and quality services were delivered were our main goals. We started with Graeme in March for the three flight examiner renewals and the re-certification of the Air Rarotonga Part 119 air operating certificate, and then another Inspectors’ trip in May. It was a good trial for when our Members’ borders open-up and we can return to our normal face-to-face auditing service delivery.”