Air Safety Regulation on "The Current" (CBC Radio)
There has been some disturbing testimony this week at the House of Commons Transport Committee. It has centred around the safety of Canada's passenger airplanes. There have been stories of illegal refueling ... masking tape holding electrical cords in place and a shortage of airplane inspectors.
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The people sounding the alarm point to a controversial change in aviation regulation in Canada. It's called Safety Management Systems or SMS. Under SMS, some of the responsibility for regulating safety is shifted from government agencies to the airlines. That means airlines conduct their own inspections and report the results to government agencies. It's a system that is praised by some in the industry around the world and one that was being defended at this weeks hearings in Ottawa. We head from Marc Gregoire, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Transport followed by Martin Eley with Transport Canada.
Our next two guests take a very different view of SMS. Virgil Moshansky is a retired Alberta judge who headed the inquiry into one of Canada's worst aviation disasters, the crash of Air Ontario Flight 1363 in Dryden, Ontario in 1989. He was in Calgary. And Carlos DaCosta is a former airline mechanic who is now the Airline Coordinator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada. He was in Toronto.
We requested interviews with Transport Canada and the transport minister John Baird. Neither was available to speak to us. Minister Baird's press secretary, Chris Day, wrote on the government's behalf, that Canadians can travel with confidence knowing that Canada's aviation system is among the safest in the world. Transport Canada chose to delay the implementation of small operator SMS due to timing concerns - not safety concerns. The additional time will also allow the Department to improve oversight tools and to provide more training to inspectors.
Despite the allegations of some, Transport Canada retains full responsibility for aviation safety oversight and takes enforcement action when necessary. Transport Canada has a range of enforcement tools available, from oral counselling, to monetary penalties, to certificate suspension.
This safety management system has created turbulence in other countries such as the United States and Australia. But according to Bill Voss, it's still a better system and it's likely safer than the alternatives. He's the President and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation and he was in Washington.