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Leading Edge: A collaborative undertaking

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

March 22, 2012  By Stacy Bradshaw

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

As a leader in many facets of aviation, Canada has long been lauded for its achievements on the world stage – be they in product development, training, navigation or implementing processes. Such positive acclamation extends to the safety realm as well.

As Canada’s director general of civil aviation (DGCA), Martin Eley, suggests in Wings’ cover story, “Building a new model,” pg. 18, “Canada’s safety record is among the best in the world, and Transport Canada (TC) is committed to maintaining and improving aviation safety.”

But while TC continues to work hard to strengthen its civil aviation performance management regimen and improve its inspection schedule, inspector training performance monitoring and quality assurance, there are cracks in the armour – and professional associations nationwide are more than a little concerned.


A spate of recent accidents to close out 2011, particularly in northern Canada, coupled with cuts in the number of TC inspectors, changes due to internal reorganization, and the introduction of Safety Management Systems (SMS) has many in the industry (and in the mainstream media) questioning the strength and service levels of our national regulator.

Based on feedback from industry leaders I have spoken with over the past couple of years, it’s a valid criticism. And as David Olsen notes in his piece, stark questions are being asked about the current regulatory model and whether or not the framework needs to be changed. Should TC be re-established as a statutory authority for civil aviation safety at arm’s length from the government which, like the Transportation Safety Board, reports to Parliament and not solely to the government of the day? Is there a better model for TC – and what’s the best way to foster and implement change?

The answer is yes, there must be a better model – the current one needs to be carefully analyzed by industry and government and changes need to be made in the auspices of creating the safest regulatory environment possible.

Fortunately, leaders from key industry associations have shown their commitment to finding potential solutions by establishing a sound action plan for change. Last May, the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) presented an action plan at its symposium on “Transport Canada Level of Service” to deal with just these issues. The plan details 21 recommendations on communications, deregulation and targeted service improvement. ATAC president/CEO John McKenna is currently waiting for a date to discuss it with TC.

The working group’s vision of a new system centres around improved communication with stakeholders, more deregulation to industry and improved service via the creation of a Civil Aviation Advisory Board to provide a forum for effective two-way feedback between certificate holders and the authorities. Establishing a TC working group made up of industry leaders and department leaders to review key regulatory priorities is another key recommendation.

As Dennis Lyons, president of the Manitoba Aviation Council (MAC), aptly points out, the current regulatory system in Canada is not broken – its processes are simply burdensome and confrontational, instead of collaborative. Having the opportunity for TC and key members of the industry to meet and address issues to create a more a viable system makes sense. “This new system would very likely look different from what we have today, and if done properly, I am sure there would be some services delivered by other agencies allowing TC to focus on oversight of all the industry,” Lyons suggests.

Wings applauds the work done by ATAC and supports industry leaders on both the rotary- and fixed-wing sides who are working to make the regulatory framework as efficient and safe as possible. Change only comes through careful analysis and an open-minded collaboration on all fronts…a buy-in from both industry and government.

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