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

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

Photo: Trail Times
Trail RCMP start June by nabbing impaired drivers

Latest brief from the Trail and Greater District police

“This is very costly to replace and it seems that Rossland is getting more and more theft and vandalism happening, which is really unfortunate,” says the commission’s Michelle Fairbanks. Photo: Submitted
Two plaques stolen from Rossland heritage square

The plaques were located at Washington and Columbia by the Olaus statue

No matter your age, the city’s two skate park hosts Jaryd Justice-Moote (left) and Brenden Wright can help you roll into a new pastime this “Summer at the Skatepark.” Photo: City of Trail
Free coaching at the Trail Sk8Park begins next month

The city is rolling into a summer of inclusive recreation by, for… Continue reading

Pastor Tom Kline
‘Why I became a Christian’ with Pastor Tom Kline

That night, a peace came over my heart that has remained from that day to this, 36 years later.

Protestors blocking Columbia Avenue Saturday evening. Photo: Betsy Kline
UPDATE: Old growth protesters block Castlegar’s main street for 24 hours

Members of Extinction Rebellion stayed overnight in downtown Castlegar

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province's fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Most Read