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Air Canada pilots angry at federal colleagues

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Air Canada pilots angry at federal colleagues
Air Canada pilots are challenging allegations of serious safety problems at the airline, including the claim that one plane unsafely refuelled with passengers aboard and took off with ice-covered wings.


December 2, 2009
By Administrator

Dec. 2, 2009 – Air Canada pilots are challenging allegations of serious safety problems at the airline, including the claim that one plane unsafely refuelled with passengers aboard and took off with ice-covered wings.

The accusation was one of a litany of horror stories the Canadian Federal Pilots Association (CFPA) outlined before a House of Commons committee on Monday.

The CFPA, which represents federal inspectors responsible for air safety, said the Air Canada flight took off after an unscheduled refuelling stop in North Dakota despite a warning from a passenger,  a veteran pilot, that the wings had ice on them.

But Paul Strachan, head of the Air Canada Pilots Associations, calls the accusations "sensational" and "unsubstantiated" and he wants them withdrawn.

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"You have undermined public confidence in Canadian pilots and the safety of flying in Canada," he wrote in a public letter Tuesday to the CFPA.

Strachan said there were emergency vehicles on hand for the North Dakota fuelling and that the co-pilot inspected the plane's wings and found them safe for flight.

He said the crew acted professionally, followed all the rules, and insisted that no Air Canada pilot would fly an unsafe aircraft.

In an appearance before the Commons transport committee Monday, the CFPA said the North Dakota incident violated Canadian law.

"That pilot decided to become a test pilot with 100 passengers and crew aboard," said spokesman Jim Thompson. "It is very dangerous."

In a statement Tuesday, the CFPA said it wasn't pointing fingers at the Air Canada pilots, calling them "professional and highly competent" but at what it sees as lax safety management at Transport Canada.

The group said Transport's new Safety Management Systems, which rely largely on airline self-monitoring, don't work and the North Dakota incident is a prime example.

"Operators know they can break the rules without suffering any consequences of enforcement action from Transport Canada, provided the company notifies Transport Canada of its transgression and follows up with a corrective action intended to address future transgressions," the association said in the statement

"When you examine this incident in this light it certainly appears that Transport Canada's SMS actually provides an opportunity for airlines to bend or break the regulations."