Thank you, Madam Chair.
I will try to be brief, because we have to return to our study.
I have to say that I cannot support this motion. It totally changes the direction of the study on aviation safety we had agreed to do.
However, I recognize the relevance of the topic that is being proposed. It is likely a reaction to the news story that was broadcast by TVA last week. It would be entirely appropriate that our committee examine that matter. Unfortunately, we are being asked to accept that “air safety” means the same thing as “airport safety”, although these are two completely different topics of study.
Madam Chair, if you tell me that you want the committee to do another study on airport safety, I would agree with that completely, but we only have six short meeting hours to examine at least six or seven topics that involve air safety directly. The member is trying to get us to study airport safety. It seems to me that this is a substantive change.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I would support my colleague in his assertion that this motion appears to be an attempt to change the entire focus of this study that was, I would suggest, previously discussed and agreed to by all members at the table.
It really doesn't make any sense to be rewriting the terms of a study the day that the study begins. We all submitted witnesses based on the focus area that was previously agreed to in this committee on February 23.
I think the Library of Parliament has already prepared its briefing. The briefing is based on a work plan that was agreed to by all members. We have the schedule already in place and I'm sure witnesses have been contacted.
It's also somewhat interesting that the mover of the motion has included the wording “that, in consultation with the Committee Members, the Chair be empowered to organize the schedule”, when that has already happened. This study has already been organized and a lot of work and energy has been put into it.
I recognize that something happened last week that could definitely be a component of this study, but to suggest that the study now focus on CATSA is, I think, somewhat disingenuous.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Indeed, I was a bit surprised by the government reaction, by Mr. Iacono's reaction, to the very simple motion I introduced. The motion simply asks that the committee organize a meeting that would not necessarily be one of the six we had already planned. Its purpose would be to discuss safety at the Montreal-Trudeau Airport following the TVA report. I don't understand that reaction, because the motion I tabled was quite simple. We would invite airport authorities to come and reassure us about the situation and make information available to the members of the committee.
You know, when problems arise, when media highlight concerns, especially regarding safety in airports, it is part of our role and our duty as parliamentarians to pay attention and to dig deeper. We have to know if we, as parliamentarians, have a role to play in safety management at the Montreal-Trudeau Airport. We are talking about one Canadian airport, but there are others. I thought the motion simply wanted to give us the opportunity to hold an additional meeting.
This meeting could perhaps even be held at the Montreal-Trudeau Airport, at a different time than our usual meeting hours for our study on air safety. In that way, we could examine the situation on site and report to Canadians on our perception of safety at the Montreal-Trudeau Airport. It is our responsibility to reassure Canadians and to see whether there are lapses. If as parliamentarians we do not see any, it is our role to say so, to repeat that and to reassure Canadians that airport authorities have radicalization issues well in hand. We also must say so if we believe that is not the case.
And so that was the sole purpose of the motion we introduced. On the following day, I became aware of Mr. Iacono's motion, which completely changes the direction of the study on aviation safety we are beginning today. I see that representatives of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are present here now. They have things to say, they too had to go before the media to make themselves heard because Transport Canada has to follow up on their recommendations. I think that is something we should take into account. That being said, we had come up with a good schedule, we had worked on it together, and we have to continue in that vein.
Madam Chair, I don't want to take up any more time. Today we are to hear the viewpoint of the witnesses from the Transportation Safety Board, and it would be unfortunate to deprive ourselves of that expertise. I am thus going to oppose Mr. Iacono's motion. I will be tabling my own motion later. In the meantime, we could perhaps agree to examine the issue of safety at the Montreal-Trudeau Airport without disrupting the schedule of the aviation safety study we are just beginning.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I simply want to explain the objective of my motion. The study we are beginning today is vague. We have not defined clear objectives. We don't have specific points upon which to focus our study. We thus run the risk of simply touching on the many aspects involved in aviation safety.
Take our study on railway safety as an example. The committee had determined four key points upon which to focus our study so that we could do effective and useful work.
We have to do the same thing if we want this study to be credible. I reread the discussions we had in committee about air safety, as well as the notices and motions that were presented.
The motion I am putting forward would allow us to focus our study on points that are essential for air safety and the safety of passengers. In addition, it incorporates Ms. Block's motion concerning CATSA. It also integrates Mr. Berthold's motion concerning security screenings for employees following the worrisome revelations broadcast on the J.E. program.
It is important that Canadians trust our security system in airports, and that they be safe in all Canadian airports, not only the one in Montreal.
Mr. Berthold's motion is only about one issue discussed in the media. It is important that this issue be the subject of a rigorous and complete study by the members of this committee. That is the reason why my motion does not focus strictly on the Montreal-Trudeau Airport. Our committee has to study the entire system.
Of course, we could ask representatives of the Montreal-Trudeau Airport to appear before the committee to explain their situation. Since this is an issue that concerns both the opposition and the government, I am convinced that my colleagues will support my motion so that we can undertake a serious study with a well-defined framework, and with all of the rigour we need for an issue as crucial as aviation safety.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I feel obliged to respond. In his remarks, Mr. Iacono said the study on aviation safety was wide open, that we didn't have anything very specific and that things could go in all directions. However, Madam Chair, you asked me at our last meeting to specify the focus of the study. I did so using six points, which I'll reiterate for Mr. Iacono. We want to focus on the fatigue issue, pilot certification, flight attendant ratio, cosmic radiation, toxic vapours and inspector training. If that isn't specific—
In addition, based on these six points, we determined the number of hours to spend on our study. This shows that we're heading somewhere. The document prepared by the library's analysts refers to these six points, which shows the study is properly aligned with them.
That said, I'm not opposed to conducting another study on airport security. I recognize the importance of addressing this subject. I also recognize the importance of my colleague Mr. Berthold's proposal, which seems to be a compromise. This would enable us to address the two issues at the same time and to move on quickly to hearing from our witnesses, which is the goal of our meeting today.
I don't believe anyone is asking you to do that.
An hon. member: He just did.
The Chair: Can we please get on?
Our apologies to the witnesses, but these transportation issues are of real importance to all of our members.
To open it up, we have Kathleen Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada; Jean Laporte, chief operating officer; and Yanick Sarazin, manager, standards and quality assurance, air investigations—all so appropriate to be here for many reasons today.
Thank you very much for joining us.
I'll turn the floor over to Ms. Fox.
Good morning, Madam Chair and honourable members.
Thank you for inviting the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to appear today as you begin your study into aviation safety.
Our mandate at the TSB, which is also our sole purpose, is to promote safety in the air, marine, rail and pipeline modes of transportation.
When something goes wrong, we investigate to find out not just what happened, but also why. And then we make public what we've learned, so those best placed to take action, regulators and the industry, can do so.
To set the stage for your study, we would first like to table a preliminary version of the TSB's 2016 statistics on aviation safety for the use of the committee. Overall, Canada's aviation industry has a very good safety record, showing a significant downward trend over the last 10 years in the accident rate for Canadian registered aircraft, expressed as accidents per 100,000 flying hours. The incident rate paralleled the reduction in accident rate up to 2014 when the TSB enacted new regulations that made more incidents reportable.
However, there is always room for further improvement, particularly when known risks persist in the aviation system. Which brings me to the TSB watch-list that we updated at the end of October 2016 and have previously sent to your committee for information. This list identifies key safety issues that need to be addressed to make Canada's transportation system even safer. Currently, there are three aviation specific issues on the watch-list: unstable approaches, runway overruns, and the risk of collisions on runways.
In the interests of time I will only briefly describe each issue.
Continuing an unstable approach—for example, one in which the aircraft is too high and too fast on approach—constitutes a frequent contributory factor to serious landing accidents.
One type of accident includes a runway overrun, when the aircraft is unable to stop before the end of the runway.
The TSB has investigated numerous landing accidents related to these two issues. One dramatic example of this occurred in 2005 at Toronto's Pearson Airport when Air France ran off the end of runway 24L into a ravine where the aircraft caught fire. Fortunately, no one was killed, but over two dozen people were injured.
Since 2007, the TSB has recommended that Transport Canada implement a variety of measures to address these issues, including enhanced training in pilot decision-making and crew resource management, improved guidance to pilots for landing when thunderstorms are present, enhanced use of airline flight data monitoring programs, and requiring major airports to implement 300-metre runway and safety areas or other engineered material arresting systems to meet international recommended practices.
With respect to the third aviation-specific issue, airports are busy places, with multiple aircraft and vehicles traversing runways and taxiways, in addition to aircraft landing and taking off all the time.
This can sometimes lead to conflicts known as runway incursions, which occur about once a day somewhere in Canada. The board is particularly concerned by the number of serious runway incursions in which a collision was narrowly avoided or there was a significant potential for collision. More needs to be done to provide technological defences to alert flight crews and vehicle operators directly in time to prevent a collision.
There are also two watch-list issues that affect not just aviation safety, but also marine and rail transportation.
The first of these multimodal issues is safety management and regulatory oversight. Put simply, some transportation companies are not managing their safety risks effectively and the majority of air operators in Canada are not yet required to implement safety management systems. Furthermore, Transport Canada's oversight and intervention has not always been effective at changing companies' unsafe operating practices. The board is encouraged that Transport Canada is taking action to address the issues identified with regulatory oversight, and we look forward to the results of the department's review of its aviation oversight program, expected at the end of 2017.
The other multimodal watch-list issue is the slow progress made by Transport Canada in addressing numerous TSB recommendations. While the responses to about three-quarters of all of the TSB recommendations in all modes issued since our creation in 1990 have received our highest rating of fully satisfactory, there are currently 52 recommendations directed to Transport Canada that have been active for more than 10 years, and 39 of these have been active for over 20 years, of which 32 are in aviation. Implementation of these recommendations could go a long way to reducing known preventable risks that continue to play a role in aviation accidents.
However, the regulatory issue is not just a Transport Canada issue. We would respectfully suggest that you consider the need to adopt an expedited process for taking action on safety-related recommendations, similar to what you recommended as part of the rail study.
One issue that is not on our watch-list, but is a current topic of discussion between Transport Canada and the aviation industry, is pilot fatigue. The TSB recognizes that fatigue is a hazard in any mode of transportation that operates 24-7. We always look for fatigue in our investigations, whether it was present or not, and, if it was, whether or not it contributed to an occurrence. Over the years, we have made findings with respect to the role that fatigue has played in aviation occurrences. We included fatigue as a specific issue in railway freight crews on our 2016 watch-list, but we did not have sufficiently compelling data to support elevating fatigue in aviation to the watch-list. However, that should not be construed to imply that fatigue isn't an issue in aviation or that it does not warrant further attention.
Finally, if we look at specific sectors of the commercial aviation industry, the TSB is particularly concerned about air taxi operations, which typically involve smaller airplanes and helicopters carrying up to nine passengers to smaller communities. In Canada, these operations have by far the largest number of accidents and fatalities in commercial aviation, which is why the TSB launched a broad safety study on air taxi operations in 2015 looking at air taxi occurrences during the period 2000-2014. This study will identify and examine the hazards and risk factors associated with air taxi operations in Canada, how these are being managed, and what additional measures are needed to improve safety in this aviation sector. We expect to issue our final report in early 2018.
In closing, we very much appreciate your focus on aviation safety and we're pleased to have been invited here today to speak with you about it.
We hope that our presence will help inform your study, and we are now ready to answer any questions you may have.
The TSB initiated our first watch-list back in 2010, representing those issues that we believed, based on our data, posed the greatest risk to Canada's transportation system. We explained those issues to the industry, to the regulators, to the public, and the media, and then waited to see what action would be taken.
What we found is that over the course of the last six or seven years, a number of steps have been taken. We were able to take some issues off the watch-list, but we've added new ones. However, some issues, and in particular in this latest watch-list eight issues, have been carried over from the 2014 version.
What we've done differently with the 2016 edition is to be more explicit about the type of action we would like to see taken. We are also actively going out, speaking to the regulator, the departments, to industry, stakeholders, operators, to engage them and make our case for the changes that need to take place to make the transportation system safer.
When the TSB issues a recommendation, under our act the minister is required to respond as to how the department will address that recommendation. That response has to be given to us within 90 days. We then assess the response and then reassess the response, typically annually, until the matter is resolved.
What we were finding a few years ago is that on a number of recommendations that we had made to Transport, the department had laid out a plan of action with a timetable, and while the plan of action seemed reasonable in terms of addressing the safety deficiency, the timetable was being continually shifted to the right, continually delayed. A few years ago, we said that instead of giving our rating of satisfactory intent, meaning that Transport Canada's plan was reasonable, we would no longer accept protracted delays. We would start assessing some of these recommendations as unsatisfactory. Even though the plan was reasonable, the timetable was not. After several years of that, when we did our latest watch-list, we realized that even on some of those recommendations, there still wasn't action being taken on a timely basis. There were still delays, and that's why we escalated this particular issue to our watch-list.
Since we issued the watch-list in October 2016, we have just gone through the reassessment cycle that we do annually on outstanding recommendations. We have not seen much movement on many of those recommendations, however, recognizing that Transport's response to us would have come within a month or two after issuing the latest watch-list.
I am calling our meeting back to order.
For the second 45 minutes, we have Fred Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Helicopter Association of Canada, and Carlos DaCosta, airline coordinator at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada. We also have, as individuals, Jonathan Histon, adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, and, by video conference, Gregory Belenky, research professor at Washington State University.
Thank you, all, very much for joining us.
I will turn to Mr. Jones to open up our discussion.
Thank you, and good afternoon.
You have a copy of my written introduction notes in front of you. I am going to skip over the mandate of the Helicopter Association of Canada and the part about myself, but I would like to take a moment to introduce Sylvain Séguin, who is attending with me here today. He is vice-president and COO of Canadian Helicopters Limited, the largest Canadian domestic helicopter operator. He is also the immediate past chair of the Helicopter Association of Canada board of directors. He served on our board for the last seven years.
We have structured our presentation to tailor it to the items identified in your aviation safety outline.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee on the subject of aviation safety, an issue very important to the Helicopter Association of Canada.
We are the national voice for the helicopter industry in Canada. There are currently more than 2,800 helicopters registered in Canada, of which more than 1,800 are commercially registered. In the commercial sector, our industry employs 6,200 full-time equivalents, with employees earning over $500 million annually. With indirect employment, this increases to 8,900 full-time equivalents and a $640-million annual payroll. The average full-time wage is $80,000.
The sector generates GDP of almost $1 billion, and $2.1 billion in economic impact annually. The annual tax contribution is approximately $285 million at all levels of government. We are pleased to provide the committee with a copy of a recent independent economic impact study that will provide more specific details on these economic factors and what it is that the members of the association do.
The Canadian helicopter community is actively involved in the development of industry best practices. I sit on the executive committee of the International Helicopter Safety Team. In the last 10 years, and in the face of rising utilization, we have seen our accident rate decline significantly. I direct you to the HAC website and the International Helicopter Safety Team website for further details.
Helicopters are a unique, vital, and often irreplaceable form of transportation in Canada. We are often the only option to reach many remote locations. We lead and support life-saving missions, including search and rescue, emergency medical transport, and evacuation from disaster-stricken communities. The recent Fort McMurray wildfire and major accidents on the Sea-to-Sky Highway are common scenarios.
Mining and resource sectors are heavily dependent on helicopter services for surveying, development, and ongoing support of major mining and oil and gas developments. Offshore oil, the oil sands, and most mining developments, due to their remote nature, depend heavily on helicopter support, making the helicopter industry a crucial component of the primary economic drivers of the Canadian economy. Without helicopters, these activities could not happen, or they would cost considerably more to carry out.
On the subject of personnel issues, this past week Transport Canada issued a notice of intent to proceed with new fatigue management regulations for pilots, with the draft regulations to be gazetted later this spring. In a letter two months ago, and when we met with two weeks ago, we specifically asked the minister to pause this process to allow parliamentarians on this committee the full opportunity to do their work with this study. We also asked him to pause while the Transportation Safety Board concluded its investigation into air taxi accidents. Unfortunately, this pause did not occur.
First, let me be abundantly clear. The Helicopter Association supports reasoned efforts to improve aviation safety that are proportional to the risk. These new regulations, however, are not proportional to the risk and will serve only to put our services beyond the reach of Canadians in many areas. Fatigue-related risks are largely being managed in the helicopter industry, which is not to say that some changes should not occur. But the proposed changes will erode safety, not improve it. What's more, when changes do not improve safety, they will make it more difficult and costly for our members to provide essential and life-saving services.
You may have heard, “A pilot is a pilot, and fatigue is fatigue”, but one set of rules cannot apply to everyone. Helicopter operators cannot be regulated on this subject like the airlines. Unfortunately, this view has pervaded the Department of Transport right up to the 's office, and the result is a flawed, one-size-fits-all set of proposed regulations. They will not improve safety but will erode it, in our view.
Our pilots are subject to fatigue, but it must be addressed differently in our industry than in the airline industry, for the following reasons.
Because of the seasonal nature of the work that we do, particularly our service to remote and northern communities, HAC would argue that the proposed new regulations are more suited to the airlines than they are to helicopter operations. They do not adequately contemplate deployed camp operations, where our pilots live on the job site while conducting remote operations. Helicopter pilots are not airline pilots.
Another reason is the unscheduled work that we do in deployed operations, which is often at a camp setting where replacement crews are difficult to supply, particularly on short notice. There are long daylight hours in northern Canada. As well, it is important to consider the life-saving emergency medical services, or EMS operations, in our work in support of the resource industries.
In the helicopter world, the proposed rules will do little to advance safety and in most cases are not supported by anchor points in the fatigue-related science—most notably in the removal of the zeroing provisions and the use of cumulative duty hours.
HAC would argue that these new regulations will affect safety but in a negative way, particularly for the majority of helicopter operators who provide services in Canada's most isolated regions.
Would limiting pilots to one hour of flying each day reduce the effect of fatigue on safety? I use this ridiculous example to illustrate that the key to balancing the restrictive nature of the regulations with their impact on safety is to ensure that the restrictions they impose are proportional to the risk that they are trying to remedy.
I do research in sleep and human performance. I work primarily now with the commercial airlines in the United States, specifically United Airlines. We study sleep and performance in what we call the operational environment, among pilots flying commercial flights.
As the gentleman just said, fatigue is fatigue; pilots are pilots. They are human beings, and they fatigue; it really is the same thing. The physiology, though, needs to be understood and used to support meaningful and useful regulations.
The sleep-related factors that affect performance are: time awake, an obvious one; time of day—there is the circadian rhythm in performance and alertness, with lowest performance and highest drowsiness and tendency to fall asleep occurring in the small hours of the morning, so time of day is important—and time on task, leading to acute fatigue relieved by time off task. These three things are common across humanity among fatigue issues.
In commercial aviation, flights can be scheduled at any time of the day or night, often with one flight then giving way, after a recovery period, to another, and so on. We have in the U.S. focused on regulatory schemes that are to a degree one-size-fits-all, but recently we've moved away from that and are looking not only at fixed regulations but at systems by which one could adapt and exist “outside the regulatory envelope”—this is the term we use.
This is called fatigue risk management. One establishes a preliminary safety case that a flight is safe, usually by using mathematical models or historical experience, depending upon where your interests lie. Once you've established in a preliminary way that it looks as though it will be all right, you then make measurements in flight of the active pilots, particularly at top of descent, when the most critical phases of flight typically occur. Once one demonstrates that there is equivalence in safety between “in compliance with the regulations” flights and the exception, the non-traditional flight, then one can fly that flight and do periodic data assessments to make sure one is safe.
Among critical things, in general in our measurements, the longer the flight the safer, because there is more sleep opportunity, and the more sleep people get.... We think in terms here of four-pilot crews with only two required in the cockpit at any given time during cruise.
Another critical thing is time of day. One should avoid, if one can, takeoffs and landings in the small hours of the morning, especially between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.
There is one more thing, if you will indulge me. One very useful intervention in counteracting fatigue in four-person or in two- or three-pilot crews is whether in-flight cockpit napping is sanctioned. This was pioneered in the U.S. in studies at NASA but then not adopted because of what we call the Jay Leno effect: would they laugh? This is now done all over the world, except in the U.S.
I think this is good by way of introduction. I'd be happy to take comments and questions and join in discussion.
I will cut my introduction a little short. My name is Carlos DaCosta, responsible for transportation across Canada. The IAM is the largest union in the air transport sector in both Canada and North America. We represent over 50,000 members in Canada, 20,000 of whom work in the aviation, aerospace, and air transport sector. We represent over 500,000 members in North America.
In the airport security sector, we represent the majority of the pre-board screening officers in Canada, including those in the Pacific region and in both airports in Toronto, who provide safety and security screening to the travelling public on behalf of CATSA and Transport Canada as well as other security services in the perimeter of the airport. In the ground handling sector, we represent workers across Canada at such companies as Air Canada, Air Transat, and Air Labrador, just to name a few. We represent a lot of members in this industry.
We welcome the opportunity to appear before the TRAN committee to express some of our recent concerns. This represents the view of IAM members who have been surveyed across the country. There are two areas that we will be raising. The first one will be the safety management systems, or SMS, under the control of Transport Canada. The second one will be concerns regarding airport pre-boarding screening under the control of CATSA and Transport Canada.
On the first one, I was going to get into a brief bit about SMS. Basically, according to Transport Canada regulations, the industry is required to put a safety management system in place as an extra layer of protection to help save lives. When this was first implemented, we were very critical of the program, and we had some serious concerns about how it would turn out.
Moving fast-forward to today, we looked at the SMS process and broke it down into four different areas. There's the reporting stage, where a technician comes forward and reports an incident. The second stage would be the investigation carried out by the company. The third one would be the resolution process to try to address the issue raised. The last one would be the communications stage, whereby all parties to the complaint are notified as to what took place.
Unfortunately, there are too many problems. We found that in certain companies in certain areas of the country—not all of them—too many problems are occurring during this process. For some of them we're getting reports that there does not appear to be efficient tracking of SMS items submitted, and they're not being followed up properly and reported. A lot of times we find that the process seems to disappear or go silent at the second step of the process.
The other complaint we're getting is that there appears to be a lack of resolutions and communications implemented by the companies in certain areas. That's what the mechanics who report these incidents are finding. They're not getting the proper follow-up. As a recommendation, we're asking that Transport Canada conduct more inspections on a more regular basis. Perhaps they can start to uncover some of these situations and put corrections in place.
The second item is the whistle-blower protection under the SMS process, which we find is a bit on the weak side. We found it very alarming to be told by many of our members that they do not feel confident with the process. It's not in every company and in every province, but we're finding that in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec there seems to be a higher rate of concern where members do not trust the system. We're getting various reasons. They're concerned for their well-being in the company and so on.
However, in Alberta there were some issues in the past where members finally had enough in one company in one location. They approached Transport Canada inspectors. The inspectors went into the workplace. We're told that as of today, everything seems to be running smoothly. Here's one example of where Transport Canada did intervene. They brought both sides together, the company and the workers. Whatever they did there seemed to work, because they have no complaints whatsoever. We're recommending that Transport Canada address this issue by creating a better atmosphere for workers to report safety hazards.
We're also asking if perhaps Transport Canada should be looking at a confidential survey to see what kind of atmosphere exists out there and if indeed there is a large problem where many technicians are not reporting situations.
Good afternoon, and thank you for this invitation to appear before the committee.
My name is Jonathan Histon and I have been involved in the study of aviation human factors and aviation safety for just under 17 years. I currently lecture in aviation safety and aviation human factors in the commercial aviation management program at Western University in London, Ontario, and hold an adjunct appointment as an assistant professor in the department of systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo. In addition, throughout my career, I have consulted with airline, air traffic control, and equipment manufacturers, amongst other organizations.
My expertise is in the area of human factors, or the relationship between human operators, technology, and system design. As director of the Humans in Complex Systems lab, I have led projects examining airspace design and its effect on complexity, UAV integration into controlled airspace, simulator use in air traffic controller training, and the use of flight data to identify emerging human factors challenges.
From my perspective, the philosophy behind the core of Canada's aviation safety approach, safety management systems, reflects what I understand to be the best practices in the safety literature, namely, a focus on continuous improvement, data collection and data-driven decision-making, and the fostering of a learning culture that understands mistakes and errors will occur, and the most important thing, how the system responds, mitigates, and corrects.
System is a key word. I think it is most valuable to think of safety as an emergent property, something that emerges from the interactions between the many parts of a system. The task of getting an airplane or helicopter off the ground and to its destination safely is one that requires contributions from an immense range of talent: mechanics, controllers, ground crew, flight crew, and all the broader systems behind them.
The design of how all these parts interrelate and work together is critical to establishing effective defences that prevent catastrophic situations from occurring. Perhaps most importantly, a system perspective helps move attention away from errors made by individuals and directs it towards the broader context those individuals are operating in. It forces us to question how the system could be improved for the future.
I want to use my remaining time to briefly raise some key challenges that I see facing the industry. One of the critical challenges that many, if not all, organizations face is what is termed in the literature as procedural drift, practical drift, or normalization of deviance. In a short form, these terms capture the observation that how work actually is done is often quite different from how it should be done according to written procedure.
The difference is usually a consequence of the multiple pressures workers and managers face: time pressure, equipment malfunctions, poor or repurposed design in terms of equipment, and just changing conditions. It's a complex problem and I'm not here to offer easy solutions. Introducing more rules or stricter penalties with the well-intentioned goal of increasing accountability and deterrence run the risk of creating adversarial relationships, creating an atmosphere of blame and cover-up, and are not long-term solutions if the underlying pressures created by the systems design aren't addressed.
This leads me to a second challenge: preserving and enhancing the ability of organizations to observe their own performance through the collection and protection of safety data. Processes we've just heard about, such as confidential reporting systems, immunity protocols, and operational data analysis can provide key insights, including helping to identify cases of normalization of deviance. But collecting such data also requires a lot of trust, as you just heard. That trust is that the data collected won't be used for punishment or otherwise misused for non-safety purposes.
I think data collection can be particularly challenging in organizations that do not have the scale to support the processes that the big airlines, as one example, have. Confidential reporting systems are great in theory, but may not be all that confidential in a very small operation. Across all organizations, however, I firmly believe that the more an organization knows about where its vulnerabilities are, where mistakes are being made, the better that organization can adapt and respond.
A final challenge that I'll direct your attention towards is determining how to assess training needs in a rapidly changing technological environment. New technologies are coming, whether in automated ground service vehicles at airports or new autopilot modes. There are a lot of things that are going to be changing. New technologies and new forms of automation will change training needs and raise questions such as how proficient operators have to be using the automation, and also when the automation isn't available, in non-automated operations. Are there legacy training requirements that are no longer appropriate, and has due consideration been given to the skill foundations built by that legacy training?
Just quickly, I did take note, Mr. Histon, of the comment you made about how work is done versus how work should be done. That's a great point. The only way we can move forward with recommendations is to work with folks like you and those who are in the business getting their hands dirty and greasy, who have wrenches in their hands, and so on.
I'm thinking out loud here a bit to try to get some input from you folks. Protocols need to be established. Obviously it's one thing to have regulations and things on paper but it's more important to have those protocols in place that we can apply to our daily jobs. Strategic measures followed by ongoing performance measures are critical. Again, it's the folks on the floor, working on the planes with their hands, who can best establish that.
It's somewhat déjà vu because we discussed this during the Bill deliberations as well with respect to creating performance areas, clusters, centres of excellence to ensure that this work gets done in a proper manner vis-à-vis protocols being put in place.
What are your thoughts on that process? I'm trying to be pragmatic. As I said earlier, our intent is to come forward with recommendations and implement those recommendations or ask the minister to implement those recommendations, so what are your thoughts on the comments made?
Since we're talking about time, I'd like to make a brief comment, which is meant to be constructive. I think that, when such high-quality witnesses are here, the number of witnesses should be limited to two or three per hour. When there are four witnesses, we lose part of the expertise provided.
That said, I'll immediately ask my first questions, which are for Mr. DaCosta.
You spoke in your opening remarks about an issue with the regularity of inspections. My question is twofold.
Should Transport Canada conduct inspections more often?
At this time, are inspections random or planned?
Are the inspectors competent enough to do their job, given that technology never stops changing?