Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
I'm calling to order the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, meeting 53. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are currently doing a study of aviation safety.
To our witnesses, welcome. Thank you very much for being here.
Mr. McKenna, perhaps you would start. Please introduce yourself.
Good morning. Bonjour. My name is John McKenna, and I'm president of the Air Transport Association of Canada.
ATAC has represented Canada's commercial air transport industry since 1934. We have approximately 190 members engaged in commercial aviation operating in every region of Canada. We welcome the opportunity to present our comments on aviation safety.
I will limit my comments to four key issues—namely, fatigue risk management, safety management systems, fitness to fly, and Transport Canada level of service. From the outset, however, I want to stress that Canada enjoys one of the best aviation safety records in the world, and is an innovator in terms of safety management systems.
Being an ICAO signatory country, Canada strives to be compliant with the standards and recommended practices set by that organization. In actual fact, however, developed countries only use these standards largely as guidelines to develop what is applicable to them. In Canada the vast majority of air carriers do not engage in ultra long-haul international flights targeted by the ICAO standards on which the proposed Transport Canada regulations are based. We've long been asking Transport Canada to better consider the size and complexity of the many types of carriers operating in Canada.
While we certainly agree that it is important to manage fatigue, we are asking the minister to pause, seriously listen to stakeholders, and, rather than dictate to industry, develop new regulations that while compliant with the spirit of the ICAO standards also consider the huge socio-economic and financial costs associated with them.
ATAC insists that the proposed new regulations will not enhance safety but will erode it through many unintended consequences, including wasting such valuable and limited resources as experienced flight crew members. The proposed regulations will require that large airlines poach these resources from smaller carriers, leaving a huge vacuum of experienced pilots.
ATAC is a long-time supporter of safety management systems, or SMS, and has been urging Transport Canada to impose a SMS culture on all segments of our industry. We cannot endorse Transport Canada's recent decision to shelve SMS implementation indefinitely for smaller operators for lack of resources to oversee its application.
The safety culture present in Canadian operators and the economic and safety benefits associated with SMS have motivated many operators to implement SMS regardless of the regulator's decision. Smaller operators would benefit the most from SMS, yet Transport Canada prefers to concentrate on imposing badly planned fatigue risk management regulations devoid of any cost analysis and input resulting from industry consultations.
Fitness of flight crews has been an area of interest for ATAC long before the Germanwings accident. Our insistence is that there needs to be a better dialogue between Transport Canada and the employers on loss of privileges.
Where do you draw the line between the protection of privacy and the safety of the public? While demand for air services in Canada has been growing at an annual rate of almost 5%, the Transport Canada aviation safety budget has been consistently cut. Total aviation safety estimates for 2017-18 were set at $185.5 million, down from $248.5 million in 2011-12. That is a cut of $63 million, or 25%, in six years, making it increasingly difficult for Transport Canada to properly carry out its mandate.
In the face of such cuts, Transport Canada needs to delegate administrative duties and concentrate on improving the level of service on those key safety-related oversight activities. We implore the House of Commons to support Transport Canada by increasing the funding for this crucial mandate.
In closing, there are many other issues of major interest to our industry that we hope the committee will study. Airport privatization, carbon taxes, laser attacks, foreign ownership, and passenger protection legislation are just a few examples of issues that we feel passionately about. We are eager to share our comments with the committee should you decide to address them.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair and committee members. I am honoured to have the opportunity to address the subject of aviation safety. I represent over 400 members with the CBAA, and 200 operators in a $10.7-billion industry.
Business aviation is the use of aircraft to meet a wide range of business and community needs that are not met by scheduled commercial service. It is an essential component of Canadian transportation infrastructure. In the world of for-profit commercial scheduled carriers, routes and frequencies have to be considered through a lens of profitability. Business aviation, on the other hand, is an investment. The number of passengers is irrelevant. Even if there is only one single passenger on board, that person may close a deal that would mean hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs, or that one passenger could receive urgent medical treatment.
Because our aircraft fly on demand, their operations are completely different from scheduled service. In the past, Transport Canada recognized that different aviation sectors required different regulations. Business aviation has been regulated under a safety management system since 2002. Scalability of the size of operations is embedded in that regulation, but our high level of safety is at risk as a direct result of Transport Canada's changed approach to regulations. Rather than regulating to meet the particular needs of an aviation sector as it did successfully in the past, Transport Canada has adopted a one-size-fits-all approach, applying rules intended for scheduled services that are completely inappropriate for business aviation, especially for small operators.
The CBAA is doing what it can to help operators work within the Canadian regulatory system. In 2014, the CBAA launched Partners in Safety, a program that provides our members, especially small operators, with a number of tools and templates that help them achieve compliance. There is also an urgent need to return Transport Canada to its original approach of creating tailored and right-sized regulation and ensuring that it has the resources and expertise it needs.
One example of how TC's lack of experience and use of one-size-fits-all regulation can harm all of aviation is the imposition of 705 flight and duty time regulations, aimed at long-haul international scheduled flights, on other aviation sectors. I am sure you have heard details from some of my colleagues. They are seriously alarmed, as am I, at the consequences of this action. This regulation may literally shut down some business aviation operations, particularly those relating to northern or emergency services like medevac.
As we knew that this committee was studying aviation safety, we asked the minister to allow you the full opportunity to examine this issue before taking action. Unfortunately, the department's decision has been to move forward with draft regulations in Canada Gazette, part I in June without the benefit of your study or the study of the TSB. We respectfully ask you to encourage the minister to take that much-needed pause and delay publication. The importance of getting it right is far greater than the importance of doing it quickly. The issue of flight and duty time regulations is part of larger, systemic issues stemming from a lack of expert resources throughout Transport Canada, which have a negative effect on, one, the application of standardized regulations and legislation at the regional level; and, two, the important role of experienced inspectors and auditors who understand the intricacies of risk management and safety management systems and who can interact collaboratively with business aviation operators in every region. Industry and government must work together to reverse this situation and ensure that Transport Canada has the personnel and expertise needed. Until this is addressed, we will continue to face problems related to poorly conceived and implemented regulations and the spectre of compromised safety.
This committee has a broad and powerful mandate, and we ask for your help to get Transport Canada back on track and to arm it with the resources it needs to create an intelligent and responsive service to industry. We are ready to work with you and will continue to work with Transport Canada officials to achieve this goal.
Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your questions.
Some of you may know of me as the commissioner who led the three-year inquiry into the disaster that occurred at Dryden, Ontario, when an aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff, killing 24 people. In my four-volume final report, I made 191 recommendations for change, including the complete rewriting of Canada's antiquated aviation regulations. Subsequent to the release of my report, aviation safety improved. Transport Canada initiated appropriate oversight and inspection, and enforced safety requirements, but not so today.
For the past 15 years, Transport Canada has become complacent. Funding has been cut, and the inspectorate has dwindled to numbers not seen since the days before the Dryden crash. You'll hear a lot about safety management systems during your mini-study. My main message to you is that without properly funded direct operational oversight conducted by qualified and trained inspectors, SMS will not improve safety or protect air passengers. SMS was never intended to replace direct operational oversight, yet Transport Canada has done precisely that. Direct operational oversight through audits and no-notice inspections are the exception, not the rule.
For the past 15 years, Transport Canada has been progressively dismantling its oversight program, and now it is eliminating safety surveillance of entire sectors of the industry. After the private jet aircraft carrying Jim Prentice crashed outside Kelowna last summer, Transport Canada admitted it had ceased safety oversight of that sector of aviation four years before, in 2012.
As of August 17, 2016, it removed urban heliports, like the one in Foothills Hospital in Calgary, from its oversight program. Aircraft doing dangerous aerial work to maintain hydro facilities, fight fires, and the like will no longer be subject to any scheduled safety checks.
In addition, all airports in Canada will no longer be subject to full safety assessments. Inspections will now cover only one small part of an airport's safety plan, and those checks could be done as infrequently as once in every five years. By comparison, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration requires full inspections of airports annually.
Transport Canada did not publish those decisions in the Canada Gazette. They did not inform Parliament, MPs, or the public. These decisions were made by internal memo alone. They are now public only because a concerned party released them. I'm tabling with your committee the internal process bulletin 2016-09, in both official languages, where these decisions are documented.
The singular reliance on SMS and withdrawal from direct operational oversight has made flying less safe today than it was 15 years ago. I urge you to recommend to the government that it provide adequate funding for safety oversight, or a per ticket passenger safety fee.
Finally, I recommend the appointment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the state of aviation safety in Canada. I submit, with respect, that you ought to treat this issue with urgency, and not rest until you see meaningful steps to restore direct operational oversight. Among the lives you save could be your own.
Thank you very much to our three witnesses for their short presentations. We have had the opportunity to read their documents previously.
Thank you very much to the Honourable Mr. Justice for being here today.
We understand that, since the publication of the report on the tragic accident in Dryden, your interest in Canada's aviation safety has continued. The statistics we have received from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada indicate that the number of incidents in the aviation industry have decreased. However, you are recommending to us today that a commission of inquiry into aviation safety be held. There is quite a difference between what we are seeing in the statistics and your recommendation.
Mr. Moshansky, your opinion matters to me because you have had the opportunity to study aviation safety for a very long time. Could you expand on why you think a commission of inquiry would be necessary and urgent?
What I am asking you is why, after all you went through since the accident in Dryden, do you think it's so urgent to have a royal inquiry into aviation safety now? All the statistics, all the numbers we have in front of us, show us that the incidents in the air transportation industry have gone down.
According to the documents from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada that we have here, the incidents have also decreased.
Based on your experience, and in light of the commission of inquiry you presided over in the Dryden accident—your interest in aviation safety has been clear since that inquiry—I would like to know what might convince parliamentarians like us to support your call for an inquiry.
One of the foremost aviation experts in the world recommended that there should be a safety inquiry about every 10 years. We are now at the 28-year mark since Dryden, and I think that an aviation inquiry is long overdue in this country. It's the only way to really get to the root of the problem.
I spent three years on the Dryden crash inquiry. We came up with 191 recommendations, most of which have been implemented by Transport Canada. We only could have achieved that through an inquiry, which possesses a great deal of power. It has the authority of a superior court. You can put witnesses on the stand, swear them to tell the truth under oath, and subject them to cross-examination. That is the only really documented way of getting at the truth.
An inquiry is, in my opinion, the best way to look at the state of aviation safety in a country.
Mr. Moshansky and gentlemen, what I am sensing in relation to the recommendation for an inquiry is perhaps a crisis of confidence. We are talking about the SMS, the safety management systems. In calling for more SMS inspections, more inspectors and money, we are indicating our lack of confidence in the current methods of airlines.
Perhaps I should ask Mr. McKenna this question. What makes people—be it the public or unions—to say that more SMS inspectors absolutely must be hired? Is it because airlines are not meeting their obligations?
First, the change in culture, brought about by establishing safety management systems, leads to many changes in the activities of many people. A lot of people have reacted badly to these changes and do not share this philosophy of how to proceed. Imposing SMS in Canada has been very beneficial, even though adjustments are needed. The SMS have fostered within companies a safety culture that already existed but that is now more ubiquitous.
As for inspectors, they have had to change their approach, have had to study the safety procedure rather than be “in the field”, as we say, and do these inspections themselves. There are people who don't share this philosophy of the approach.
Furthermore, everyone involved in the safety management systems program feels it brings enormous benefits, both financially and in terms of safety.
I would like to thank our three guests for sharing their expertise with us this morning.
My question is for the Honourable Mr. Justice.
You said that budget cuts had jeopardized air safety. The cuts since 2011 add up to nearly $76 million, an amount that was taken from the aviation safety program between 2011 and 2015. Since we came to power in 2015, we have increased aviation safety budgets, first by $9 million, and then by $6 million.
However, what I'm hearing today is that we need to take more substantive measures than just increasing funding. What aspect of the aviation safety program do you think the government should focus on first? Would it be the SMS, the number of inspections, and the hiring of inspectors?
That's exactly the area I feel needs attention. The lack of adequate funding of Transport Canada's regulatory oversight branch in the 1980s was the root cause of the Dryden crash in 1989. It seems to me that it remains hanging like Damocles' sword over the Canadian air-travelling public today.
As I point out in my brief, the cost-cutting frenzy on the part of the federal government upon Transport Canada in the early 2000s resulted in the progressive and finally total abandonment by the department of hands-on regulatory oversight of air carriers since 2007. SMS itself is a wonderful program. I recommended it. It's one of my recommendations in the Dryden report. However, I recommended that it be subject only to the provision of adequate oversight of the airlines by a properly trained and funded aviation inspectorate.
What has happened in the meantime is cost-cutting, which has resulted in inadequate funding of Transport Canada's oversight regime. There are inspectors now who haven't flown an airplane for a year, or some even longer than that. They're supposed to be supervising the training and operational effectiveness of the pilots who are flying the airplanes, and they themselves are not flying now due to lack of resources to cover the cost of providing them with aircraft to fly, or time on the aircraft. I get calls all the time from captains of the major airlines, complaining about this particular situation.
I think one of the things this committee has to think about is recommending to the government an increase of resources to the aviation surveillance and inspection directorate. If they can't do that, then I have suggested in my brief, which I hope you've read, that there be—I hate to call it a tax—a fee imposed on each passenger on every flight that takes off in Canada. This would make up the shortfall so that, number one, these inspectors can be restored to the level of inspectors they had previously, which has gone down drastically, and second, funds are made available for the operation of the inspector regime.
Australia's the country I would suggest. I visited there at the invitation of the transport department some years ago. They have adopted SMS.
Many countries are adopting SMS, but no country in the world except Canada has implemented SMS without regulatory oversight as a requirement.
Some of my colleagues in some of the other countries with whom I've collaborated about aviation safety over the years are stunned by the fact that we have effectively abandoned regulatory oversight and imposed SMS. It is a good concept, but not without oversight.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I would like to thank the witnesses for being with us this morning.
My first questions are for the Honourable Mr. Justice Moshansky.
In fact, when I asked my colleagues to do this study, I was already aware of the issue of aviation safety. I was rather alarmed when I read your report. The one thing we can't criticize you for is using doublespeak.
My first question is largely based on a paragraph on page 4 of your brief. You say that Transport Canada has now totally abandoned traditional hands-on regulatory oversight, in-flight inspections and audits across the aviation system, thereby eliminating expensive inspector personnel. You add that this is, “A decidedly pollyanna type of approach to aviation safety, which is in clear breach of international aviation safety requirements set by ICAO.”
Are there other countries that are moving so substantially away from the rules proposed by the ICAO?
I would also like to deal with another part of your text where you say that to relieve the financial pressure, Transport Canada is now eliminating entire sectors of aviation from its SMS surveillance program, entirely without regard to safety, without accordingly advising Parliament, MPs or the Canadian public. You add that this committee may want to look into this development.
My question is very clear. You mentioned the unfortunate accident that cost the lives of Jim Prentice and the flight crew. I have not checked the type of aircraft, but I think it might be the same situation as the one involving the fatal accident involving Jean Lapierre. I am talking about these two because they are known personalities, but a loss of life is always a loss of life.
Do you think these accidents could have been avoided if the SMS program applied to all aircraft and not just to certain categories?
You say that the SMS is a good system, that you have recommended it yourself, but that it needs to be accompanied by an inspection follow-up. In your brief, you indicate that Transport Canada inspections are increasingly paper checks and not hands-on inspections. Should both the number of inspections be increased and the hands-on inspections restored?
I think you need to increase the number of inspectors, for one thing, make sure they're fully trained, and that they return to traditional oversight inspections.
SMS itself is not a safety program; it's a way of doing things. That's the problem with SMS. It's a good program, but without regulatory oversight you're going to have the difficulties we're experiencing now. I think the basic problem is the funding provided for this specific area of Transport Canada.
At the moment, the way the mandate operates is that they become, in effect, paper shufflers. They go out and they inspect the airline's paper documents. They don't inspect the operational end of it at all, and that's where the downfall is, because the airlines, in effect, are now reporting on themselves.
My question is very simple. One of your recommendations deals with funding, in particular. You also recommend that there be a commission of inquiry. Could you please tell us, if possible, what specific aspects of aviation safety you think should be the subject of this inquiry?
I'll start with Mr. Moshansky. You mentioned during your comments that there needed to be proper oversight by a trained inspectorate. The quality of the training is something that I've got some concerns about because I understand that a lot of the training is happening on simulators as opposed to actual flights where you're subject to the emotional stress that comes with an actual risk.
It is a problem because they're reduced now to strictly simulator training. While that's fine, it's not the end result that we expected. I had a telephone call yesterday from an inspector who is very concerned about the number of inspectors that are now available. They seem to be going down in numbers; it's been drastically reduced since Dryden and since the mid-2000s. The inspector force now is instructed not to do any actual oversight or surveillance. They are told to only examine the paper that the airlines are producing in response to the SMS requirements.
Basically, my career, actually, was with FlightSafety International and CAE and I'm very familiar with the simulator training world. I can tell you that only about 20% of the issues that you want to practise to become very proficient at flying an airplane can be done in an actual airplane. The other 80%, you would never want to do in an airplane; you'd put yourself at risk. This is the reason that simulation training became an extremely important aspect of training for all of us in the industry. The level C and D simulations are phenomenal in reality. Yes, as you might say, there's the emotional aspect of having the customers in the back. Now, the training takes that into account in the sense of repetitiveness, in competency-based training, and in the fidelity that is created within those simulators.
Within business aviation, it is a requirement for us to train in C and D simulations. We train to proficiency; we have a different way that we do it within our group. To date, we are still the safest sector worldwide in corporate aviation. We do two things differently. One, we have a fully proactive SMS program, and two, what we try to do is a safety culture. The other part of the number two item is that we actually train to proficiency. We don't do check rides. That is proving to be an extremely reliable method of showing true competency rather than a snapshot check ride.
You mention you could benefit if 20% of the test was in a real flight. I have to admit that I'm a little bit out of my league, not being an aviation expert like our panel, but it suggests to me that there might be an opportunity to have a dual training component, including both simulators and real flying time.
Those are things that actually do go on. There is an effort for upset and recovery, for example. Some things you cannot cover in simulators because they cannot do the upside-down flights or the manoeuvres you need for an upset recovery. Those upset recovery training elements are actually part and parcel of a separate element on aircraft training that takes place with simulation.
I'll go back to Mr. Moshansky. Feel free to offer comment on the testimony you just heard, but I also want you to comment on the methodology you suggested in making up any shortfall in Transport Canada's services by putting a fee on every flight for every passenger. Why is that the best model to ensure that Transport Canada is providing the level of oversight it needs?
It seems to me that probably that's the route to go. I pointed out in my brief that, if you impose a $5 fee per ticket, you're going to raise a lot of money. If it were a $10 fee, you'd double it. I don't think any passenger in the world will object to paying $5 or $10 to be assured of aviation safety. I know I wouldn't.
Very quickly, then, I'll go back. I forget which of the other two witnesses suggested that a “net lens of profitability needed to be applied". Do you have a comment on the appropriateness of a user fee, essentially, for safety?
Our industry is ridden with user fees already. The government collects about $1 billion a year in different fees from our industry, and very little of it actually goes back to Transport Canada. We certainly don't need an additional fee in our industry, and there's no guarantee that money would be reinvested in Transport.
My question is addressed to Mr. McKenna. I would like to know a little more about fatigue management. When I met with associations representing pilots, it was an issue for them to make sure Canada has a regulation about fatigue that is based on science and updated studies. You say the one-size-fits-all approach is not the right one. Could you share with our committee what you think would be the best approach for Canada?
Of course nobody argues the fact that fatigue needs to be managed. The carriers do that now through SMS systems. The fact that there is the science for or against the position the government has taken on this is significant.
What we are saying, however, is that you cannot apply a fatigue regulation that's aimed at carriers that carry out transcontinental flights to carriers that fly within Canada, different types of carriers. You can't apply the same regulations for SMS between those people. Also, you can't compare the type of fatigue that pilot endures to another type of pilot, the helicopter industry, float plane operations, or cargo operators.
We are saying that the government simply needs to sit back and consult more with industry. We're not saying there should not be regulations. We're saying that this regulation has been developed and hatched in Tower C at Transport Canada with very little input from industry.
First off, I want to thank the witnesses for coming out today, in particular Dr. Moshansky.
I'm reading your background. It's very much appreciated, what you've done. Your ongoing contributions, and of course, all that you've done within the inquiry, are simply unprecedented. I'd simply like to give my appreciation to you, and all of you, for your contributions.
With that said, I also want to ask something based on what we've been working on for the past few weeks, few meetings. And despite claims by members opposite that, for example, human health implications of cosmic radiation are a concern, we have yet to receive any witnesses or any requests for witnesses who attach themselves to those claims.
With that, I'm going to open up the floor for you to respond to some of the questions that you may not have had a chance to respond to previously today. As well, and going to Mr. Aubin's question, I want to dig a bit deeper, to get into the weeds a bit with respect to where we should be moving toward. Yes, we've inherited a lot of the same commitments from the previous government, and we do want to make sure it's that much better, moving forward, with this government.
We've listened to concerns about screening of security personnel working at the airports. We've heard CATSA's service delivery model, the civil aviation surveillance program. Of course, lastly, there was the work conditions of aircraft personnel and inspectors, their training, security screening for employees working at secure areas of airports, and, of course, as Mr. McKenna alluded to, those who are working within the industry who simply have fatigue.
With that, I do want to open up the floor for you. That's what you're here for, to give your thoughts. Again, if I can, I would ask and request that you actually get a bit further into the weeds so that we can get some input from you folks with respect to some of the concerns you're recognizing on a daily basis.
If I may say, I respectfully disagree with Judge Virgil Moshansky as far as the lack of regulatory oversight is concerned. There is regulatory oversight in our industry—ask any carrier about that. There is, however, a misallocation of where resources should be within the department. We have been suggesting for many years that the department delegate certain responsibilities, especially the administrative stuff, and that it concentrate its resources on hands-on safety-related inspections and other types of activities. This has been an area of concern for us for many years. We feel there's an answer there to that.
Of course, cuts are something we've been dealing with for a long time at this department—and at many others, by the way. We've seen cuts in everything in aviation except for fees and charges. We feel that if the department were open to revisiting how it uses its resources, it would be a way better investment for us than anything else, including an inquiry.
I fully support what John has just indicated. From our perspective, all of our discussions, as we've gone through in perfecting all of the documentation and support documentation for our members to be able to operate under a very proactive SMS, it turns into a safety culture. It is a safety culture. There was mention of this whole oversight, and why do you need the extra oversight? Don't you have confidence in what you're doing? We have full confidence in what we're doing as far as it's concerned because we've seen the results of that in our organization, certainly in our sector, and so have John and others in their sector.
The matter of oversight is also a matter of collaboration. You want somebody who's in a position outside your company, who is objective. It's not a matter of having a lack of confidence in the SMS system; it's a matter of having that collaborative inspector who is trained, knows the intricacies of a risk management system, and is able to talk to it in a collaborative way with our departments.
As the Honourable Mr. Justice said, I don't want to downplay the importance of each incident, but I would like to know if the percentage of incidents has increased over time. Does the fact that there are more flights have a direct impact of increasing the risk of incidents? It may not be our system that is completely upside down. As far as I know, Canada is one of the safest places in the world.
Is my reasoning completely off? Does anyone want to venture an answer? I would like the other two witnesses to answer first because we haven't heard much from them so far. The Honourable Mr. Justice could answer next.
Our industry has grown, but the rate of incidents and accidents has not kept pace. Of course, the rate may vary because a single incident can completely change the data, but generally speaking, our performance is improving and the number of incidents is dropping.
You confirm that the percentage of incidents or accidents is decreasing, but it is a percentage and not an absolute number. I don't want to downplay the importance of working on this issue to continue improving things. As a percentage, would you say that the number of incidents or accidents has decreased?
Probably a good example of that one, the Kelowna accident has been, and it's unfortunate of course, the loss and death. That is 10 years straight with no accidents and no fatalities within our industry until the one that has just occurred.
There is going to be an impossibility at one point for us to get better than.... Will we actually get zero accidents at any particular time? That is certainly the objective of all that we want to achieve. We want to minimize, as much as we can, any type of fatalities. But one over 10 years is still the safest organization worldwide when we look at our sector.
I would like to make a comment about fees, which Mr. Moshansky addressed.
I fully agree that there should be no increase in costs; it is already quite expensive. If the government wants to find money, there is a way to find it in the system. Believe me, there is money in the coffers of the federal, provincial and municipal governments. What is important is how to establish and manage priorities. If it is a priority, the government will make the decision to invest in the right places before further increasing the costs of Canadian users.
I don't know if my question is directly related to that, but I'm asking it anyway.
The Liberal government has clearly indicated its intention to assess the possibility of privatizing airports, in its objective to finance its infrastructure bank. It's not related to you, but I just want to put it into context. In your opinion, could the privatization of airports have an impact on aviation safety? There is a lot of concern about that. People say there is a great danger in this. It is managed by Transport Canada. Airports are national and institutionalized. Do you think there might be consequences to privatizing them?
Our concern is not so much about security as it is about the financial aspect. Privatization like this could have a financial impact. In any event, I would hope that privatization would be duly governed by regulations stating that standards should be maintained. Our concern about privatization is instead linked to the fact that it would make our industry even less competitive compared to other modes of transportation and, above all, less competitive than our neighbours to the south.
We continually have to fight for our space at major airports from a business aviation perspective. We do not use the terminals, and so on. We have private terminals that are located and support the airport infrastructure. Over the years it has...and historically we've seen it happen in Heathrow.
We've seen it happen in many different areas where the dollar was always the reason for the airports and for the incomes. The heavier the airplanes, the more landing taxes they can charge, and so other aviation, general aviation, business aviation was always at risk of losing the ability to use those airports. That is certainly a risk for us. If privatization goes that route, and it's not properly structured, then we have an issue.
An example of a properly structured group would be Nav Canada. Look at Nav Canada's 20 years of a tremendous record and what they've accomplished as a not-for-profit corporation. That's because the governance that was set up to protect it, and to protect all the users, was embedded in the acts.
I wanted to point out that at this point there have certainly been no signals that we've received, and we've asked very specifically if there are plans to privatize our airports.
I wanted to talk a little about the regulations. You're concerned about one-size-fits-all. Is it a matter that you're concerned that regulations applying to long-haul flights would be applied to flights within Canada?
Yes, clearly, that is one of the points we are making. They're not subjected to the same kind of working environment therefore you can't apply the same exact regulations. You have to be able to adapt regulations to the environment. That's the objective and that's the purpose of the ICOA standards.
Okay, in that respect, then, I think a case and an argument could be made. Because of the relatively higher complexity of your operations here in Canada with more takeoffs and landings, with, in some cases, extended work days, especially if you're looking at services in the north, if anything, the regulations could be more stringent on the domestic carriers than they would be on a system where you have one takeoff and one landing, and a long space in between.
If that were the case, you would probably cease having air service in the north. It already is not a profitable industry there because of the land masses and the population up there. To add costs to operating those services would probably mean the end of those services.
Certainly from our perspective, when we look at this one-size-fits-all, with our flights we see that we could have some long flights, but we have a tremendous number of rest periods between our flights. Our pilots, for example, within business aviation, would operate anywhere between 350 to 400 hours in a year, compared to an airliner pilot who will do probably well over 1,200 to 1,400 hours in a year—
Foreign ownership is not necessarily a safety-related issue, in our opinion. Some people feel it could help bring capital to Canada. I think there's a misconception that this would help create low-cost carriers in Canada. There will never be low-cost carriers in Canada with the fees and charges that we have here in this country. There will be perhaps low-fee carriers, but never low-cost carriers.
Foreign ownership would request and they would require a return on their investment regardless of where the money comes from, so I have a feeling this would not contribute to heightened safety in Canada, in any way whatsoever.
We thank all three of you very much for coming. We have Captain Matthew Hogan, chair of the flight safety division of the Air Canada Pilots Association; Jerry Dias, president of Unifor; and from the Air Canada component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Jordan Bray-Stone, health and safety chairperson.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair and honourable members of the committee. On behalf of the Air Canada Pilots Association and our 3,400 pilots who fly passengers and cargo on Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge aircraft, I thank you for the opportunity to share with the committee our expertise in aviation safety.
I'm an Air Canada captain who has flown in Canada and around the world. The primary mission of every pilot every single day is the safety of our passengers, crew members, aircraft, and the public. I can tell you that this is true whether you're flying cargo or crossing the Atlantic at night with 250 people asleep behind you. There are many important aviation safety issues that need to be addressed in Canada: runway safety, pilot training, and lighting and navigation systems. I'm going to focus, however, on one issue today. It's something that affects every pilot I know, and that's fatigue.
Canada's aviation regulations do not align with accepted fatigue science. We lag far behind jurisdictions such as the United States when it comes to this vital component of aviation safety. In Canada our outdated regulations currently allow pilots to work for up 14 hours. Under certain circumstances, such as those involving mechanical issues, de-icing, weather challenges, or passenger delays, the current rules allow Canadian pilots to work for up to 17 hours.
That makes no sense. Aviation is terribly unforgiving. Fatigue is a type of impairment. It causes reduced alertness and degraded physical and mental performance, and you cannot self-diagnose that impairment. That's why Canada needs strong fatigue rules.
We've all experienced driving on a long road trip during which your eyes start to close and you pull over, stretch your legs, or roll down the window, but those aren't effective fatigue mitigation strategies, and they are certainly not an option when you're flying over the Atlantic at 3 a.m. The only solution for fatigue is sleep.
I'm not just speaking from experience. The science is clear. After eight and a half hours of flight time at night, fatigue degrades performance. This is based on NASA research that measured brainwave activity and microsleeps in actual flight operations at night. However, these NASA findings were not reflected in the draft regulations released by Transport Canada on March 25.
The good news is that those draft regulations finally introduced time-of-day sensitivity. The bad news is that the draft rules don't go nearly far enough to address the issue of fatigue on long-haul flights at night. The draft regulations propose 10 and a half hours of flight time for departures after 5 p.m. While an improvement, that is a full two hours longer than science recommends. For us as pilots who are responsible for the safe operation of our flights, based on our extensive first-hand experience that is just not good enough.
Our American friends learned the hard way. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration updated fatigue rules after a flight crashed in Buffalo, New York in 2009, killing 50 people. Fatigue was found to be a critical factor in that tragic accident. Today, U.S. fatigue rules limit pilots to eight hours of flight time at night, making the rules even more stringent than science recommends.
We shouldn't need an accident to improve fatigue rules. Fatigue affects all pilots. Fatigue rules should based on scientific evidence and should draw on the experience and expertise of the pilots who fly these flights at night. ACPA believes that all Canadian passengers and pilots deserve to be protected by the same level of safety.
I hope that the committee's report will recognize the need for strong, prescriptive, science-based regulations to protect against the dangers of fatigue. As a pilot, on behalf of my passengers and on behalf of my crew members I can tell you that safety is not just good business; it's the only business.
I thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to your questions.
My name is Jordan Bray-Stone. I am the regulatory and safety committee chairperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees Airline Division. CUPE represents approximately 9,000 flight attendants at eight airlines in Canada.
Our topic today is the change in the ratio of flight attendants to passengers on Canadian airlines, which occurred recently. On August 1, 2015, Transport Canada changed the regulation requiring one flight attendant for every 40 passengers to one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats. This has meant, in many cases, a loss of at least one flight attendant on certain flights.
We have provided two documents to the committee, one that is an executive summary of our concerns, and another that is a fuller explanation of all issues, with supporting documentation, including references that provide extensive evidence supporting our claims, as requested by certain members of this committee.
As many of you aware, the previous government changed the regulation in 2015 after nearly two decades of intense industry pressure. This change was shrouded in secrecy, rushed through at the end of the previous government's mandate, and lacked public consultation. In fact, the regulation was never even published in part I of the Canada Gazette.
There are now fewer cabin crew to perform routine safety procedures and to respond to unpredictable in-flight events. At the same time, there's less regulatory oversight of the consequences.
As you can see in our larger submission, there are overwhelming fact-based investigations and review processes that have all come to the same conclusion, which is that a ratio of 1:50 is clearly not as safe as the previous ratio of 1:40, which itself had some concerning safety limitations.
Transport Canada's own reports, including ones that were suppressed for over a decade and only recently obtained by CUPE through a freedom of information request, could not be more clear. They state:
The arguments and issues raised by those who oppose this measure are persuasive that further reduction in the number of cabin crew can have a negative affect [sic] on safety and certainly will not enhance safety.
In fact, conclusions drawn by TC's then chief of cabin safety in 2001 included these:
I keep hearing that this is not a safety decision, but I disagree and the fact is that if the ratio was changed...there are definate safety implications and it would be a lowering of safety standards and that change becomes more and more evident as the aircraft size increases.
Speaking as your safety expert in this field, I not only do not support complete harmonization of the rule [with the U.S.], I am opposed to it.
We've heard in the past that this change is needed by Canadian airlines in order to compete against their southern competition. We do not believe this is true. Based on TC's own numbers, we estimate that there would be savings of approximately only 50 cents to a dollar per passenger per flight. For those supposed savings, significant new safety hazards have been introduced, and a severe drop in service provided to Canadians has resulted on many routes in particular.
Transport Canada has acknowledged that the ratio cannot provide an equivalent level of safety to 1:40 and has only agreed to say that 1:50 provides an “acceptable” standard. “Acceptable” is not an equivalent. “Acceptable” is not safe.
Furthermore, CUPE maintains that TC's 2003 risk assessment was flawed, was biased towards industry, and is now completely outdated and irrelevant given the numerous changes that have occurred in the industry since that time, particularly a move away from direct regulatory oversight.
This committee is the eyes and ears of the travelling public. We're asking you to urge the minister to reverse the decision of the previous government and restore the 1:40 ratio. At a minimum, we urge an independent review of the 1:50 ratio, including a new comprehensive risk assessment, with full stakeholder participation and meaningful remediation to any findings. We believe that an unbiased review will lead to the same conclusion that Transport Canada had in 2001, which is that the 1:50 ratio simply is not safe.
Also, we urge the minister and his officials to work with us to design more meaningful forms of ongoing consultation that recognize our unique knowledge of the industry and provide labour groups a more meaningful role in regulatory decision-making.
Finally, we ask for additional oversight by this committee of TC rule-making and regulatory duties.
Good afternoon. My name is Jerry Dias and I'm Unifor's national president.
With 310,000 members, Unifor is Canada's largest union of the private sector. We represent 12,000 members in the federally regulated aviation industry. I'm pleased to be here today on behalf of those members to discuss aviation safety.
Our submission provides advice in three broad areas: personnel issues, enforcement and monitoring of legislation, and infrastructure operations. Given the time limitations today, I'll focus my remarks on airport infrastructure operations and the monitoring and enforcement of legislation.
Our members working at airports are increasingly facing low wages and insecure work. This is a well-documented phenomenon that is increasingly receiving attention from the press.
What is perhaps less well documented or understood is the connection between precarious employment, workplace safety, and airport security. In 2003, researchers at the Institute for Industrial Relations at U.C. Berkeley found that improving the quality of employment for the lowest-paid and most insecure workers at the San Francisco International Airport significantly reduced turnover and improved job performance dramatically. Ultimately this led to fewer security breaches and an increased safety record. Instead of being under constant stress and strain to work more hours to make ends meet, workers at the airport had more training, higher pay, and as a result greater ability to focus on the job at hand and do it well.
Today, as employment quality in Canada's airports continues to erode, our air transportation system faces increased potential for safety breaches and workplace accidents. Much like the San Francisco airport case, the decrease in employment quality has led to high turnover. In some cases, it is so high that new employees are being trained by co-workers with less than one year of tenure on the job. Experience and expertise are being lost. Many workers who stay are holding multiple jobs and working extended shifts to make ends meet.
One of the main practices leading to this situation is the overreliance of airport authorities on the RFP process, or contract flipping. This practice has been employed as a tactic to intensify competition and keep costs down. But this heightened intensity is forcing contractors to compete based on how low they can pay their employees instead of how well they can perform the work. It has increased the vulnerability of the aviation industry to accidents and security breaches.
Unifor recommends four specific measures government can implement immediately. They include, one, limiting the number of companies permitted to conduct ground handling services; two, lifting employment quality at airports by introducing a $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick days, full-time and permanent employment, and fair scheduling; and three, granting workers successorship rights in subcontracting and contract tendering at airports.
My second focus today is on air traffic controller inspectors. Air traffic controller inspectors oversee and license air traffic controllers. They also oversee all Canadian air traffic control regulation standards and procedures. Obviously the work has a direct impact on the safety of the aviation industry. Currently the number of ATC inspectors is dangerously low. Turnover is high, and staff retention is proving problematic. Increased workload and stress are just one indication that ATC inspectors are overburdened and under-resourced.
Unifor recommends additional resources for training and professional development, and hiring additional inspectors with appropriate qualifications. Canada needs a strong regulatory system supported by meaningful inspection and robust enforcement to ensure the safety and security of aviation workers—
Then I have time to go through my recommendations again. They are additional resources for training and professional development, and hiring additional inspectors with appropriate qualifications. Canada needs a strong regulatory system supported by meaningful inspection and robust enforcement to ensure the safety and security of aviation workers, travellers, and the public. These recommendations will support the maintenance and improvement of aviation safety in the country.
Thank you and I look forward to taking your questions, but in case I went too fast, I'll go through my other recommendations.
I have many questions for each of you. This afternoon, several witnesses spoke about gaps in aviation safety. A former judge who presided over a commission of inquiry following the Dryden accident gave testimony. The commissions of inquiry are often created after an incident, when it is too late, unfortunately.
What is your opinion about holding a commission of inquiry into Canada's aviation safety?
Do we simply need to make adjustments, or do we need to go further than that?
I commend Justice Moshansky because he really changed the face of Canadian aviation and improved aviation safety. I truly value his opinion. It carries a lot of weight. He brought a very different approach to aviation safety in the sense that he said that this is an entire system, not a one-off event, and we have to look at the latent risks involved in the system. We need to do this in a very constructive, thoughtful way, and we need expert opinions to look at the overall system structure and how this fits together.
We know at this time a significant issue that's outstanding, and has been outstanding for some time, is the aviation fatigue issue. That's why the Air Canada Pilots Association believes it's important that we have one level of safety in Canada for all Canadians, and that we don't compete on safety in this country's aviation sector.
There's no question that we would support an inquiry because there are a lot of moving parts, as the previous speakers have said.
Fatigue is the common word you're going to hear here today because that's the key part if you're talking about safety. Unifor doesn't differentiate between cargo and passenger. Fatigue is fatigue. You can't argue with the science initiatives that have come as a result of analyzing the sector. Flying at night is more difficult than flying during the day because of the body. One can argue that you can train your body to react, but I tend to disagree.
We certainly would support an inquiry. I particularly agreed with one of the honourable judge's comments: that a formal inquiry is one of the only settings where you will really hear the truth. When we're talking about front-line employees, we know what's going on. We literally live it every day. Front-line employees often do not feel that they are safe to speak up because they fear reprisal. A formal inquiry provides that opportunity to speak up without fear and in total honesty.
We agree with some of his comments that there have been such significant changes in our industry, and that it has been so long since there was a detailed analysis of what's going on in the industry, that it's high time that happened.
Aviation is terribly unforgiving, and Justice Moshansky outlined the fact that there hasn't been an inquiry for a very long period of time. I believe it's been 28 years. Maybe it's high time that we take a look at all of the aviation system and get a proper assessment. There's obviously concern when we have a sit-down today at this level because if there wasn't the regulator, we wouldn't be having these discussions at this time.
Yes, we believe that it's high time that we improve aviation safety on all fronts. Of course, there's also the fatigue aspect that we're keenly interested in.
Now that we know your interest in a commission of inquiry that would allow us to go further, it would be nice if each of your groups would expand this type of request. For example, what could a commission of inquiry bring, and what are the risks? I think that would be important. As my hon. colleague mentioned, statistics show that incidents are declining, despite the problems of fatigue and flight attendants. Airport personnel is a new issue that needs to be addressed.
We feel that the concern for safety is stronger in all industries and unions. At the same time, we would like to go even further. So it would be nice if you could expand that request further.
There's one more thing I absolutely wanted to say. Some people distinguish between freight and passenger transport. I am the MP for the Lac-Mégantic region, where a train without passengers killed 47 people. You will understand that this, in my opinion, is an issue where nothing should be taken lightly. In my view, when there are safety deficiencies, the potential risk is the same whether you are carrying goods or passengers. I think it is absolutely necessary that we look at this. There shouldn't be two levels of safety, not in rail transport or in air transport.
Previously we had witnesses by telecommunication suggesting there is a window between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. when we shouldn't have captains fly. As Mr. Dias suggested, the body is the body. I can certainly appreciate that certain types of flights would be more taxing than others, but ultimately we are all the same. This is the science.
My question is simple. Shouldn't our fatigue risk management be based on science? I believe you mentioned that our operations have a bit of a discrepancy with science.
Certainly. That's a great point there. First of all, fatigue does not discriminate. We all have the same physiology. The science shows that, whether you're a ground handler, a mechanic, or a flight attendant on board the aircraft, you are impacted in terms of performance by fatigue at the window of circadian low between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
It is critical, in terms of an overall fatigue risk management system, in order to reduce risk.... Now, I'm not saying that, just because you don't have an accident or an incident, it does not mean you're safe. It has to do with being exposed to risk and being proactive in reducing those risks. You can't look at safety in a hindsight manner. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. We need prescriptive, science-based rules in the aviation sector moving forward that apply to all aspects, whether it be 703, 704, or 705 cargo operators, because all pilots, all people who work in those sectors, are affected by the same physiology.
If we are truly interested in reducing those risks for the entire Canadian public, we need these rules to apply in all areas of aviation safety.
If we're talking about fatigue risk management systems, we believe that it should be a science-based system, but the critical issue when it comes to fatigue risk management systems is that you have science-based, prescriptive regulations in place upon which you overlay actual data from an ActiGraph or FitBit that monitors, so it's objective. You know. It does not lie. Then from that point forward, on a case-by-case basis, you can adjust the fatigue risk management system going forward, but to simply come in and provide a fatigue risk management system without appropriate prescriptive science-based regulations in place first is basically a licence to further exploit the system, and you're looking at safety, at the cost. You're looking at not putting safety first.
Certainly. First off, in the Canadian aviation industry, people might not be aware, but pilots operate under very different working conditions. The Canadian Aviation Regulations lay out a minimum standard to be operated to, and let me tell you, the industry, of course, competes on safety and operates in many cases outside.... Very few operators operate to the bare minimum levels of safety laid out by Transport Canada. For example, Air Canada Rouge is a separate arm, wholly owned subsidiary of Air Canada. As such, in order to be competitive, they do not operate to the same standards that the Air Canada main line operates to. In essence, they are competing on safety. They're going to the minimum standard, not the highest and best standard. We at the Air Canada Pilots Association believe that there should be one standard for all Canadians.
I have met with officials from associations that represent pilots. Now, fatigue management is an issue that concerns them. Could you tell me how you think fatigue or the degree of fatigue varies depending on whether it is a long-haul flight or a series of shorter flights that require more take-offs and landings?
Definitely. There are some different issues at play there.
When you're looking at fatigue, you're looking at sleep debt, time on task, and circadian rhythm. In the case of a long-haul flight, you're looking at a lot of time on task and changes in time zones based on circadian rhythm, and then potentially sleep debt, if your sleep pattern is thrown off according to those changes in time zones and there's not appropriate rest period provided. That being said, for the smaller carriers, I've been there. I've done that. I've flown up in the Arctic. I've flown small planes. It's very taxing when you're doing many different sectors and you're taking off and landing, which are the two most dangerous periods of flight. The majority of accidents and incidents occur during takeoff and landing. As a result of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 investigation by the NTSB in the United States, they actually cited the fact that for landings between midnight and 5 a.m., there is eight times the chance of an accident or an incident, and for takeoffs between midnight and 5 a.m., there is 10 times the chance of an accident or an incident.
It is extremely taxing to have more takeoffs and landings, and it's exposing the individual pilot and the people on board to more risk.
As a flight attendant who relies on our pilots to be safe, I support Mr. Hogan's comments. For us for long hauls, it's time zones and sleep patterns, and for short hauls, it's the repetitive tasks and the rushing. By the end of multiple segments, you realize you're frazzled, and that's when steps get missed.
I would like to thank the witnesses for being here.
I'd particularly like to thank you for what you said in response to the question asked by my colleague, Mr. Berthold. You are demonstrating fairly clearly, as the former judge did before you, that the current study gives us an overview of the problem, which in reality is larger and would deserve to more than the six hours we can spend on it at the moment.
I will try to get back to the issue of fatigue, but since we are talking about it a lot, I want to make sure that I also cover other issues, including the flight attendant ratio. I always have a smile on my face when I'm lucky enough to occupy the two seats near the central cabin window—which gives me more leg room—and a flight attendant will explain to me in two minutes what emergency measures to take if there is a problem.
In cases like that, since we feel safe, we tell ourselves we won't have to apply these measures. However, I'd like to understand the real risk associated with the ratio rising from 1/40 to 1/50.
One of our biggest concerns is the increase in instances in which you will have unstaffed exits on planes. One of the things that did not make it into the regulations was the requirement to have all doors staffed. Many studies by aviation investigation branches and government commissions over the years have cited the fact that passengers simply are not in a position mentally, and they certainly lack training, to properly assess exits in an emergency, and that this lack of situational awareness and ability to act and make life-threatening decisions in a split moment has very real consequences.
The NTSB in the United States published a study looking at approximately 40 flights in which there were crashes. They found that in no cases did flight attendants open exits when they shouldn't have opened exits, or fail to open exits when they should have opened them, whereas passengers were documented as having opened exits when there was a fire outside and smoke, which impeded evacuations.
This is one of our primary concerns with the ratios, that when you are asked to open a door that used to have a flight attendant seated at it—for example, the R3 exit on an Airbus A330—you may not open that door when you need to, or you may open it when you shouldn't. Once fire gets inside that cabin, you have precious seconds left before you hit that flashpoint moment. That's what kills people, the gases that are generated during the flashpoint. That's why we have a 90-second evacuation time as an industry-wide standard.
We've spent a lot of time talking about hours. We are talking about fatigue, obviously, and the same holds true whether you are a pilot, a flight attendant, or an air traffic controller. It's how much you can put up with over the course of a day.
Do you mind if I try to put it in a different perspective, based on your question?
You know what we're talking about. We're talking about money. This whole issue is about money, whether it's hours for a pilot, hours for air traffic control inspectors, fewer flight attendants, or contract flipping. Everything we're talking about is money. The issue of flight safety, safety in the aviation industry, is all about money.
We have to put that in the proper perspective. The challenge, in all the different groups that we represent, is tied to a mindset that says, “How do we get more with less?” If you want to talk about air traffic safety, aviation safety, then you have to look at the gorilla in the room, and that's the fact that it's about saving money.
I'll ask just one last question, since I have only about a minute left.
Mr. Hogan, since the beginning of our discussions, the words “accident” and “incident” have sometimes been used as synonyms. While it is true that the statistics clearly show a decrease in the number of accidents, despite the increase in the number of flights, it would appear that the number of incidents has increased.
In some reports, we are talking about aspects of landings that were difficult to control because of turbulence, rather than fatigue.
Well, aviation is certainly a dynamic environment. We can talk about all sorts of threats to aviation safety in terms of changing weather patterns, drones, lasers, economic pressures, and so on, all of these sorts of issues. Truth be told, again, past performance isn't indicative of future performance. Just because you have an accident or an incident, that doesn't mean you are unsafe; just because you do not, that doesn't mean you are safe. It has to do with risk mitigation and assessing those risks. Part of this whole SMS system is not only being reactive; it's being proactive.
We know that, south of the border, they had this catastrophic incident. I hope we don't rely on tombstone legislation in order to move forward with science-based fatigue regulations. I can't say whether there is a certain causal effect here, but the last fatal Part 121 airline accident in the United States was Colgan Air flight 3407 on February 12, 2009. There hasn't been a single fatality associated with an accident or an incident in the United States since that time.
Interestingly enough, they did a carve-out of cargo in the United States, so they had very different fatigue rules, and as a result there was an accident in Birmingham, Alabama, on August 14, 2013—
Mr. Hogan, I'm sorry. It was so interesting that I allowed our member to have a whole extra minute over and above his own time, just because the information is so valuable. Maybe you can finish with one of our other members.
You mentioned up to 17-hour days. I presume that this would be an exceptional situation, but it would still be good to have two things: first, to see, generally, what the averages look like—what the span or the gap looks like—for the main line, and then to compare that with Rouge. Who do we get those from?
More than likely, with permission, I could have those provided to you.
That being said, you bring up a very interesting point, because there is time-of-day sensitivity in the Air Canada mainline pilots' working schedule. At Air Canada Rouge, they operate to the bare regulatory minimum, and again, that's a minimum. That's not an industry best practice. That's not a science-based regulation. It's some of the worst regulation in the world as it pertains to flight times and duty times.
One of our previous witnesses, I think in part on the basis of statistics we've all been given, suggests that on the one hand the exposure is way up. There are more flights, more planes in the air, and so on. However, at the same time, the incidents being reported, the incidents per 100,000 hours of service, and so on, have been going down. The word they used was “complacency”. Have we dodged a bullet, or are in fact the mechanisms that we have in place adequate?
Having visited Mr. Berthold's city and looking at the aftermath of the rail accident there, and having heard many of the same things that we've heard here that we did in the rail study, particularly about the efficacy of the safety management system model, I want to open it up just for general comments quickly from each of you.
The idea is that a safety management system calls for a useful collaboration between the regulator, the operators, and the staff. Everybody pitches in and you get good results from that. You need trust and you need objectivity, particularly in the oversight, so that the regulator isn't just sitting there with the heavy hand of sanctions but is actually participating in upping the game. However, what we're hearing is that there are either some gaps in goodwill or confidence in this system.
To all three of you, does the safety management system actually represent something that we should build on, or do we need to be looking at something else?
One of the things that came out of the rail study, based on Lac-Mégantic, was the reduction of inspectors within Transport Canada. I think we found that there was a dramatic reduction in those who were in place to implement.
What ends up happening is that a lot of the policing of the regulations is done internally. In other words, we're having the employers doing self-policing, which is why we always emphasize the role of Transport Canada and the requirement for increased inspectors. In order to have that type of system, the SMS system working, you're right; there has to be a true collaboration between everybody, including the unions and the management, but of course, the government.
I think that's why the system starts to break down, when you are relying more on self-governance than regulations that are being implemented and policed by others.
One of the biggest problems with SMS is that it's supposed to be a layer in the sandwich. If it's a layer in the sandwich, it's a really delicious layer. However, if you just have a slice of tomato, it's not a very good sandwich, and that's what we have right now. I read a report by the PSAC, the union representing most of the inspectors at TC, and it was quite revealing about the changes that have happened and the push towards essentially rubber-stamping what Mr. Dias is referring to, internal assessments that then merely get looked at by someone who's trained as an auditor, not as a full-fledged inspector.
Certainly I'm very aware of the safety management system. I spoke to Transport Canada about this at the HFiAM conference with Jacqueline Booth, and in Canada when the SMS system was implemented, at least for aviation, they didn't first put in place the protections for that information.
An important part of the SMS system is an anonymity, the potential for a lack of reprisal for reporting, but there are two different parts to SMS. There's a proactive approach for risk mitigation and there's a reactive approach. In my opinion, in Canada, we tend to have a very reactive approach. Being proactive costs money, but there's only one business: safety is the only business.
It has been proven in the United States, time and time again, if you focus on safety first, and not just say that you have priority number one as safety but truly do it; you can look south of the border and they've had record profits since the implementation of the FAA Part 117 regulations for airline operators since 2014. You can see that since the Birmingham, Alabama, incident where they had a carve-out for cargo and they had an accident directly relatable to fatigue, which the NTSB cited. They lost an Airbus A300 going into Birmingham, Alabama.
I'll start with an issue that you raised, Mr. Dias, that I don't think we've explored yet in questioning. It has to do with skills development. I see aviation, the aerospace sector, to be one of the most innovative in the world, truly. I think the industry we will be living with 10 years from now is not the industry we're living with today, from the moment you deal with baggage handling, to the roles of flight attendants, and pilots using different equipment. I'm very interested in investing in skills development to deal with the changing nature of all industries. Where in the aviation sector can we be targeting skills development to see the returns you talked about by ensuring that employees who currently face precarious work are going to feel more rewarded and enhance their performance, which could potentially save money for the employer as well?
Technology is changing so rapidly. I'm involved in a lot of different industries. Autonomous vehicles, if we're talking about the auto industry, start to transpose that to the aviation sector.
I'm a sheet metalworker from Bombardier, but being a sheet metalworker doesn't make me an aviation expert. Clearly, if you're looking at skills development, you need to look at every end of the food chain. I would start on the safety-sensitive jobs first, such as the air traffic inspectors. I would start to talk about training people for Transport Canada, about putting a much broader focus on the safety-sensitive jobs within the industry, and starting the investment there.
I know that in some other jurisdictions flight attendants do their annual recurrent training more frequently. With all the changes that have been happening, whether we like them or not, we deal with them, and we could certainly do with training more than once a year. It's surprising, when you do your training, how much you realize you've forgotten.
The most important safety device on any aircraft is a well-trained pilot. The focus has been on cost. They've gone to a system in Canada called AQP, advanced qualification program. In layman's terms, I believe this was a cost grab. We used to do a check ride every six months, but we went to a check ride every eight months. In a 24-month period you have one fewer check ride. The onus then is put on the individual pilot. There's a lot of pressure when you're not training as often. You fly as you train and train as you fly, so the frequency is very important.
As well, on that note, if I have a Transport Canada inspector observing me, I want to make sure they are well trained and they're aware of these very complex systems that are involved, regulations, etc. It's very technically involved.
Currently, there is no differentiation in the Canadian Aviation Regulations. You can fly 14 hours with two pilots, and you can extend that up to 17 hours. This is way, way beyond science.
There is some hope on the horizon. The draft regulations do propose time-of-day sensitivity. We just simply say that does not go far enough. We're not asking for anything more than what the NASA scientists recommend. The science is clear: the maximum flight time at night for overseas flights is eight and a half hours of flight time, period. The United States has eight hours; Europe has nine and a half hours. We want science—
I asked a question before with respect to fatigue, and the difference of fatigue when it comes to long flights and when it comes to landing and takeoffs. You explained to me, roughly, the timing of fatigue. Because we say that one size does not fit all, what type of fatigue exists for all three types of activities: long flights, takeoffs, and landings? Could all three of you give me short answers so the committee can have that information?
I already spoke to the frequency of takeoffs and landings. They're definitely the most taxing portions of the flight. The length of the flight is a consideration: the longer you go, obviously, your time on task is going to be longer.
The other consideration is the circadian rhythm. On top of that, the reason we're focusing on the time between 5 p.m. and midnight is that if you take off with an unaugmented crew at that time, you're going to be landing overseas in your window of circadian low, without proper augmentation on board. Flights less than eight and a half hours, sure, but when you're looking at flights over eight and a half hours, the science is very clear: NASA science says eight and a half hours.
In terms of safety, we are taking a lot about pilots sleeping.
That said, if there was an aviation safety inquiry, what other elements directly associated with the work of the pilots and involving risks to aviation safety should be studied as a matter of priority?
First of all, I'd like to commend the minister for a proactive approach to drone safety. That was a safe and responsible move to make.
I'd also like to commend the minister on the “fit to fly” workshop that's been put together for this June. We'll be attending that. Again, that is addressing pilot health, which is very important.
On top of that, I think it's important to look at all aspects of the industry, not only pilots. I want to make sure that the maintenance personnel, the workers who work around the aircraft, and the flight attendants on board.... The flight attendants on board are also flying these very long-haul flights, and as technology progresses, they'll be exposed to some very serious health risks.
Okay, but I'd like to take advantage of your expertise to know, from the pilots' perspective, what we should be looking at to improve aviation safety. I'm not downplaying the other aspects. Several questions were asked, and I certainly learned a lot, including the 1/40 and 1/50 ratios, the impact of which I didn't really understand. Mr. Bray-Stone's response, which was excellent, managed to raise our awareness about this situation.
Having said that, I would like to know, from the point of view of the pilots, which elements we should be addressing as a matter of priority.
I'll speak to that 1:50 rule right off the hop, since you brought it up. The 1:50 rule brings up some very serious issues in the cabin in regard to safety and security. There are smaller aircraft, and if you have a 1:50 rule, if the flight attendant is up front and let's say the pilot goes back because of the new rules with regard to having two on the flight deck, you now have no one in that cabin. Even up to a 100-passenger aircraft, let's say the flight attendant comes up front to allow a restroom break for the pilot. You now have one person in the cabin for up to 100 people. These are serious concerns.
We have other concerns in regard to lasers. We have huge concerns in regard to drones, weather, runway safety. Runway end safety areas have been on the TSB watch-list for over 20 years. From talking with the Transport Canada inspectors, there are hundreds of NPAs to Canadian Aviation Regulations that have had all sorts of due diligence conducted and that just simply haven't been put into effect.
We can talk about runways, we can talk about navigation systems, and we can talk about runway lighting and approach lighting. In the nineties we moved to a system of individual airports taking care of this. We have Nav Canada, which is separate. We have the airports, which are separate. We have a regulator that maybe is absent, in some cases, and we need to make sure we have proper oversight for all of those systems to fit together properly.
In the case of pilots, we're talking about sleep, which directly affects the individuals who control the aircraft. I repeat that I in no way want to minimize other aspects of safety. There have been cases in which the pilot was under the influence of alcohol. This has happened recently, and the case has been widely publicized. There will soon be the issue of marijuana legalization. However, since this substance can remain in the body for a fairly long time, the fact that a person has previously consumed it can cause a problem.
I was wondering, since no one is perfect, if the airport security system could ensure that such unfortunate situations don't happen again. You'll no doubt say that the analogy isn't clear, but a representative of a trucking company questioned the safety of his business and wondered what oversight he could use to ensure that transport was done safely, taking into account the full impact the incidents may have.
Does the current system ensure that pilots who take responsibility for the aircraft, passengers and equipment do so according to the rules?
Certainly, what we're talking about here is obviously a sensational issue in the news, a very acute risk in the whole thing and a one-off. What we're talking about is.... Of course no one approves of anyone operating impaired, and impairment relates to a whole number of issues, not just the ones you discussed there. Obviously, you can talk about alcohol, you can talk about drugs, you can talk about distractions, and you can talk about fatigue. Those are all cited by the NTSB as forms of impairment.
Again, we're very encouraged by the Minister's response in the pilot “fit to fly” workshop. We think that's a very proactive approach. At Air Canada, and I know at other carriers, we have a very extensive employee assistance program, which is very—again—proactive in mitigating these risks before they happen, so you don't have an instance like the one you discussed earlier.
On top of that, though, if we're going to talk about impairment, if we're going to talk about the elephant in the room, we're talking about fatigue. This is a pervasive risk that affects the entire industry and is completely unaddressed.
Thank you to the witnesses very much for your information. We may invite you to come back at another time.
To the members, if you have any additional witnesses who you want to submit for the extra two meetings we have added on to our study, please give their names to the clerk by April 12.
Then, there's a question regarding next Thursday's meeting. Because we are on Friday hours next Thursday, in order to change the meeting from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. instead of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., I need unanimous consent of the committee. Is there unanimous consent to change our hours to do the main estimates with both ministers next Thursday from 12 p.m. until 2 p.m.?