From Atop Parliament Hill

By ALPA Staff

Through sustained engagement and representation in Ottawa, much progress has been made on several of ALPA’s long-standing priorities in Canada. During the last year, the federal government has moved on several important initiatives that address the Association’s calls for increased safety and security for pilots, crews, and passengers, as well as the Canadian airline industry.

Laser strikes on aircraft

ALPA has long called upon the government of Canada to impose stronger measures to address and deter laser strikes on aircraft. In 2018, ALPA’s efforts were acknowledged, as Canada Board representatives joined Minster of Transport Marc Garneau to announce an interim order to ban the possession—outside of a private dwelling—of battery-operated handheld lasers more powerful than one megawatt anywhere within 10 kilometres of an airport or heliport in any municipality within the greater Toronto, Ont.; Montréal, Qué.; and Vancouver, B.C., areas.

This past April, the government extended that order and confirmed it would become a permanent measure, likely through Canadian aviation regulations.

This measure is a necessary tool to address laser attacks on aircraft and increases safety for pilots, crews, and passengers. Since implementation, there’s been a considerable decrease in reported laser incidents. While this is positive news, one laser strike on an aircraft is one too many. ALPA will continue to engage and call on the government to extend the order to include all airports and heliports across the country.

Remotely piloted aircraft systems

On January 9, Transport Canada published new rules for flying remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), one of the fastest growing aviation sectors in Canada. These new rules took effect the beginning of June and improve Canada’s regulatory framework in the sector.

Throughout the process, ALPA participated in the development of the regulations and provided extensive feedback to various proposals. The Association will continue to collaborate with Transport Canada and RPAS stakeholders during the implementation phase of these regulations to maximize safety for those who travel by air and work in the air transport industry.

Although ALPA supports proceeding with the regulations, the Association believes they don’t go far enough. ALPA will continue to work with the federal government on this issue to ensure the safety of Canadian skies.

Flight- and duty-time regulations

In December 2018, the federal government announced updated flight- and duty-time regulations for professional pilots in Canada. For too many years, Canada’s flight- and duty-time regulations had been acknowledged by aviation industry experts as inadequate for ensuring that pilots were well rested. These long-overdue regulations, which ALPA supports, are science-based and achieve significant improvements to better manage the length of time a crewmember can be on the job.

The government concurrently introduced fatigue risk management systems (FRMS), which will be used to validate that the existing regulations are appropriate and will allow operators the flexibility to vary from the prescribed limits based on their unique operations—as long as they can demonstrate that pilot alertness and safety won’t be affected. ALPA is leading an FRMS Working Group, composed of several other pilot associations, to develop letter-of-understanding guidelines to help pilot groups negotiate with their managements. The responsibility for pilots to report fit for duty is a critical component of the fatigue regulations and has a significant impact on how FRMS will be implemented.

For nearly a decade, ALPA has advocated for science-based fatigue rules that properly address pilot fatigue. Though these new fatigue rules don’t encompass all of the Association’s recommendations, they ultimately improve safety for pilots, crews, and passengers.

Air Passenger Bill of Rights

Beginning July 1, airlines will have a new air passenger rights regime to manage. In 2018, Parliament passed Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act, which required the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) to establish a new air passenger rights regime through regulation. Throughout the legislative and regulatory processes, ALPA engaged with government officials and legislators, urging that any legislation or other initiative, such as the Passenger Bill of Rights, must not compromise safety, must recognize Captain’s Authority, and must reflect the principle of “safety first.”

In addition, the federal government issued a rarely used cabinet directive ordering additional regulations on the minimum care for air passengers affected by tarmac delays of less than three hours. The directive compels the CTA to “make a new regulation respecting a carrier’s obligations towards passengers in the case of tarmac delays of three hours or less and will apply regardless of whether the delays are within or outside of an air carrier’s control.”

Legalization of cannabis

Last October, the use of cannabis became legal in Canada. While discussions around the acceptable use of cannabis continue within the airline industry, on June 3, 2019, Transport Canada announced its new policy setting restrictions on cannabis usage in the air sector. The policy prohibits flight crews and flight controllers from consuming cannabis for at least 28 days before being on duty. The policy is consistent with other federal departments, and it does not prevent Canadian air operators from implementing more-stringent prohibitions for their employees.

Canadian Air Transport Security Authority

Canada’s Federal Budget 2019 announced the government’s decision to transition the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to an independent, not-for-profit entity. Bill C-97, the Budget Implementation Act, 2019, once passed, will enact certain provisions of the budget, including the Security Screening Services Commercialization Act. This act would replace CATSA with a nonprofit corporation subject to cabinet oversight. Once the act is passed, the not-for-profit entity would be established and operational within a year. ALPA will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation to identify opportunities to advance pilot concerns related to airport screening.

Supporting Canada’s flight schools

In April, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities presented its report Supporting Canada’s Flight Schools. The committee began its study of the challenges facing Canada’s flight schools in November 2018 and invited many expert and industry witnesses to provide testimony, including ALPA.

The committee sought to “identify the challenges that flight schools are facing in providing trained pilots to industry and to determine whether the infrastructure available to flight schools meets the needs of the schools and the communities where they are located.” The importance of well-trained pilots was acknowledged by the committee, with its report containing several recommendations, including that the government work with various industry stakeholders to support and encourage the growth of Canada’s flight training industry to provide qualified pilots to the Canadian airline industry.

The committee’s report makes informed recommendations to the government to assist and cultivate a strong flight school industry. In doing so, it complements the ongoing discussion taking place to address the pilot shortage in Canada’s airline industry. ALPA will remain engaged in this and other important discussions to ensure that the collective voice of ALPA pilots continues to be heard.

Building on important work

The end of June will mark the closing of Parliament and most notably the end of a busy parliamentary session filled with numerous legislative and regulatory initiatives. Members of Parliament will return to their constituencies to begin the official campaign leading up to the federal election on October 21.

More than ever, this is an occasion for those who work in the profession (and all Canadians) to meet with their elected representatives, and those who want to be elected, to discuss their priorities and raise their concerns over the issues that matter most to them. For airline pilots, it’s a chance to build on the important work that ALPA does year-round in Ottawa. It’s also an opportunity to continue the discussion about the piloting profession and the safety and security of Canadian skies.

This article was originally published in the June 2019 issue of Air Line Pilot.

Read the latest Air Line Pilot (PDF)