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Editorial: Exploring a New Framework

From a broad point of view, the group discussed the possibility of delegating to the HAC the responsibility and accountability for setting commercial helicopter operational standards, as well as issuance and maintenance of helicopter air operator certificates.


In late February, HAC met with officials of Transport Canada to discuss
the possibility of delegating certain departmental responsibilities to
the association. The meeting was attended by Merlin Preuss, director
general, civil aviation, Transport Canada, Wayne Chapin, chief,
operational and certification standards, Transport Canada, Rich Gage,
president, CBAA, Brian Jenner, president, HAC, and members of the HAC
board of directors.

From
a broad point of view, the group discussed the possibility of
delegating to the HAC the responsibility and accountability for setting
commercial helicopter operational standards, as well as issuance and
maintenance of helicopter air operator certificates. At the end of the
day, all parties agreed to continue discussing the issue and exploring
its potential, without committing to anything.

At the meeting,
Gage explained how the CBAA’s private air operator certificate program
works and what results have been achieved. The CBAA has been
responsible for the issuance of private air operator certificates in
Canada for about two years now. The program has proven very
cost-effective for the taxpayer without causing any job losses or
layoffs in the public service. Transport Canada has simply redirected
freed-up resources to more productive safety oversight activities.

Prior
to the meeting, Jenner consulted a half-dozen CBAA members, some of
whom are also members of the HAC. Jenner says that all six confirmed
what Rich Gage had identified as the three principle advantages: 1. The
level of service from CBAA is superior to the level of service offered
by Transport Canada when it comes to things such as issuances,
amendments, etc., 2. Although they have to pay for the CBAA services,
they come at a price that is cost-effective to the operators, because
of rapidity and quality of the service, and 3. CBAA members find the
private sector audits to be more in-depth and complete than Transport
Canada’s, even though they take less time and tend to be less intrusive.

The
question is, can this model be used in the context of a commercial
helicopter services? The CBAA members’ comments suggest that, liberated
from public sector constraints, the HAC might well deliver better
oversight for less money from the taxpayer and better service for a
little more money from the operators. However, Transport Canada has
expressed concerns about the apparent contradiction between the profit
motive and the delegation of responsibility for safety oversight. While
that may be an issue in regard to delegation to individuals, HAC
counters that the discussion is now about the delegation of oversight
to the industry as a whole. There’s a big difference between individual
commercial interests and the economic interest of the entire industry.

Jenner
believes that operators know safety is good business and that a safe
operation is also a reliable operation. A properly maintained aircraft
is available for service when the customer needs it. A poorly
maintained aircraft stays on the ground while its customers fly on a
competitors’ aircraft. Safety is a recipe for financial success.
Nonetheless, in cases where an individual operator is in a bad
financial shape or lacks business acumen, Transport Canada is right,
safety might be compromised in favour of short-term profit.

But
Jenner is also quick to point out that at any given time the vast
majority of Canadian operators are not in financial trouble, nor do
they lack good business sense. Since the association is under the
control of the entire industry and not of an individual or group of
individuals, HAC will always be guided by the good of the industry.
That good is synonymous with safety. Since strong safety oversight
ensures a level-playing field, the vast majority of operators will
demand that their association ensures short-term individual gains do
not take precedence over safety imperatives.

Like CBAA, Jenner
thinks HAC oversight would probably be more rigorous than Transport
Canada’s. For example, Transport Canada has now essentially abolished
PPCs for single-engine VFR helicopters. The HAC board of directors is
convinced if HAC had been responsible for the oversight and management
of the system, it would not have abolished PPCs. Instead, it would have
made the PPC program more accessible and more efficient.

As a
result of the meeting, HAC and Transport Canada will now analyze the
possibility of creating a “new collective accountability framework”
based on delegating responsibilities to industry collectively through
its association. Since the basics are the same, whether it’s business
aviation or commercial helicopters, they will proceed by way of a
differential/gap analysis of the feasibility studies that were done for
CBAA.

The HAC must still confirm that delegation would be of net
advantage to its members. Jenner believes there’s enough potential to
make continued discussions worthwhile, while expanding consultation on
the issue to the entire membership.

As for Transport Canada, up
till now it has been looking primarily at the principle of delegation
to individuals, this shift of perspective now has them looking at the
principle of delegation to the collective. The idea has merit. It will
be interesting to see how all of this unfolds.


 
 
 
 
 


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