Making a Great System Even Better

By Joseph Szwalek, Associate General Director, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Canada has a safe, secure, and thriving aviation industry. To maintain it, we must ensure that policies, regulations, and standards are applied in the most sound and reasonable way possible and that we continue to promote economic growth as well as jobs. With advancements in technology and a better understanding of human performance, meteorology, and the many other disciplines that influence aviation operations, we know that change is a necessary theme we must embrace.

As a result, Transport Canada has been in the midst of transformation to better prioritize its policy and regulatory work. We approach this effort with openness and transparency. We also look for ways to better engage with stakeholders, including members of the Air Line Pilots Association, to encourage discussion with and feedback from those who have firsthand experience working in air transport.

Among our many efforts, Transport Canada is revisiting its fees structure to make certain that it fairly and properly reflects the current air transportation environment. The department continues to promote the use of safety management systems to ensure that safety remains the top priority. We’re evaluating recommendations from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, giving special attention to its Watchlist. In addition, we’re facilitating the implementation of fatigue risk management systems and will publish three advisory circulars and post a related Q&A section on our website later this year to aid this process. And all these efforts are having a tangible effect on accident and incident rates, which continue to decrease.

On another front, Transport Canada is reviewing its aviation regulations, conducting the first comprehensive evaluation since 1996. As part of this effort, the department recently established new flight- and duty-time rules for cockpit crewmembers, requiring airlines to implement these new limits within the next year and a half.

Cockpit laser attacks remain a concern, and Transport Canada is increasing public awareness of these events by partnering with organizations like Crime Stoppers to educate school children about the laws and associated penalties. We’ve seen a decrease in laser attacks by 60 percent, so clearly this program is gaining some traction.

Data is extremely important for our purposes, and we need to share more of it with stakeholders to better understand how we can address current and future challenges. Transport Canada continues to work with the Commercial Aviation Safety Team to reduce fatality risks and promote new government and industry safety initiatives. We’re also seeking additional data sources to track trends in the industry, and we’re conducting testing on the data we currently receive to draw conclusions about its effectiveness on our mitigation strategies.

The very nature of aviation is changing, and Transport Canada is developing regulations to include these emerging segments. For example, we’ve fully automated the system we use to register remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). Rules were recently introduced for basic and advanced categories of operations that are based on distance from bystanders and on airspace rules. In addition, the RPAS Task Force is currently working on policy for beyond-the-line-of-sight operations. Since January of this year, approximately 21,000 RPAs have been registered in Canada.

In addition, the department recently established policy on the use of cannabis among operational aviation workers, and this policy mirrors what other industries have implemented. Flight crews and flight controllers must now wait a minimum of 28 days after using cannabis and cannabis-based products before performing their duties (see page 32).

In pursuing all these projects, I can’t emphasize enough the value of collaboration. Change is a constant in aviation operations, and Transport Canada needs input from stakeholders to establish an operating environment that is practical and makes sense. Who better understands that domain and the many factors that influence it than its users, individuals like the members of the Air Line Pilots Association. We appreciate the work you do and look forward to a continued healthy and communicative relationship with your organization for many years to come.

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

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