Transport Canada to cut pilot evaluators for large airlines, risking safety: critics

Changes will take place April 1 for airlines with planes that fly more than 50 passengers

Transport Canada is planning to stop evaluating pilots who perform checks on their counterparts at the country’s largest airlines and will instead give the responsibility to the operators, a change critics say erodes oversight and public safety.

Documents show Transport Canada made the decision in May when the House of Commons transport committee was reviewing aviation safety and subsequently recommended more on-site inspections generally of the airline industry instead of paper audits.

A risk assessment document and an internal letter from Transport Canada’s director of national operations for civil aviation were obtained under an access to information request by the Canadian Federal Pilots Association, the bargaining agent for about 450 pilots, most of whom work for the federal government.

READ: 55 WestJet flights delayed in ‘significant’ IT outage

Transport Canada’s evaluators test so-called check pilots for the large airlines, who in turn evaluate the pilots in their own organizations.

The letter says the changes will take place April 1 for airlines with planes that fly more than 50 passengers.

The accompanying risk assessment acknowledges Canada is moving away from the mainstream practices used in other countries.

“It could be argued that Canada’s experience and relative maturity with systems-based surveillance will adequately complement this shift of responsibilities … and therefore mitigate any concerns other states or trade associations may have with response to such a departure from globally accepted practices,” the risk-assessment document says.

Canada is one of over 190 members of the International Civil Aviation Organization and has agreed to follow its recommended practices, including evaluating pilots twice a year.

Greg McConnell, chairman of the pilots association, said the changes are pushing Canada’s aviation safety system onto the industry itself.

“I think it’s very, very important that people understand we are getting closer to self-regulation all the time.” he said in an interview. “It’s just more cutting, more dismantling of the safety net.”

The risk assessment says Transport Canada is having a problem hiring and retaining properly qualified inspectors. A spokesman with the pilots association said none of its inspectors will likely lose their job because of the changes.

The documents say transferring the responsibility is a “low risk.”

Transport Minister Marc Garneau and officials in his department weren’t available for an interview. The department says in an email it is focusing its oversight on areas of greater risk.

“Data has demonstrated that over the past five years, approved check pilots have had a very low failure rate (less than 0.2 per cent) when being monitored by Transport Canada. The department is confident that approved check pilots are exercising their delegation of authority properly,” it says.

Conservative MP Kelly Block, a vice-chair on the Commons transport committee, said she’s concerned the changes weren’t brought to the committee during its study on aviation safety.

“When a parliamentary committee is seized with a topic and the department doesn’t disclose this kind of relevant information … I think that’s very disturbing.”

The committee recommended the government establish targets for more on-site safety inspections as opposed to auditing the safety management systems of the airlines. Transport Canada replied to the suggestion earlier this month, saying it recognizes the importance of a mix of systems-based inspections and spot checks.

New Democrat MP Robert Aubin, the committee’s other vice-chair, said the decision was “curious” because Transport Canada said it was doing more oversight, not less.

“I have concerns if the pilots who evaluate their pilots are not evaluated by Transport Canada. We have to have the same standards,” he said in an interview. “We have to increase the resources at Transport Canada to make sure we can do that job.”

Liberal MP Judy Sgro, the committee’s chairwoman, was not available for an interview.

The documents say putting additional inspection burdens on the airlines means extra human and financial tolls on them.

Block said the committee heard airlines already operate on tight financial margins and she believes they are just as concerned about safety.

“That’s what you’re left with, is believing that perhaps that (consumer) costs will have to go up in order to ensure that they are operating in a safe environment.”

WestJet and Air Canada declined comment on the pending changes.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Forest fire 1.5 km from Sara Lake listed as out of control

While the fire is classified as out of control, they expect it to be under control imminently.

Oh Yeah takes a bite out of Woodchuckers at OrcaFest slo-pitch tournament in Port McNeill

Oh Yeah defeated the Woodchuckers 21-10 after seven innings.

Gate House Theatre reopens, kicks off OrcaFest in style

It was an evening of laughter and good times and the perfect launch to the festival weekend.

Port Hardy council creates subscription-based portal for agendas and minutes

It was a “council decision based on presentation by staff during financial planning budget meetings.”

World Class Hiking Trail For The North Island?

The idea is getting some serious attention.

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Police seek tips in 2015 death of Island teen Brown

Four years has passed since the body of Penelakut Island woman was discovered

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Most Read