Helicopters Magazine

Features Safety & Training Standards & Regulations
Editorial: Seeing the light

March 26, 2012  By Matt Nicholls

Last spring, Helicopters magazine sat down with influential Canadian operators at its first roundtable in Vancouver to discuss key issues affecting the industry.

Last spring, Helicopters magazine sat down with influential Canadian operators at its first roundtable in Vancouver to discuss key issues affecting the industry. It was, at times, a spirited affair, especially when discussion turned to the ongoing challenges many have with the framework of Canada’s regulatory environment – and, more specifically,  in dealing with Transport Canada (TC).

Regional disparity and the inconsistent interpretation of regulations in various geographical sectors were key issues, while Helicopter Association of Canada president Fred Jones added that TC’s approach is often confined to the tactical, which is based on department, instead of having a system in place that ensures all regions can interpret information in an identical way.

The group highlighted other issues plaguing the nation’s federal regulator, from inferior service – particularly when it comes to safety and following through on the Safety Management System principles that were articulated to the Canadian helicopters industry several years ago. Frustration with flight and duty time limitations (see, “The Gorilla in the Hall,” Jan/Feb, pg. 38) was another sticking point.

Said Jones: “At a time when more and more responsibility is being shifted to industry to manage its own safety and mitigate its own operations, there is a situation where less and less responsibility, or less and less authority, is being given to actually accompany that in a flexible way.”


Fortunately, there are good news stories when it comes to interactions between industry and TC, and the collective work of industry. HAC’s NVIS working group is, for the most part, a shining example. The working group, led by STARS pilot Bob Toews, has joined TC’s Stephane Demers and Rob Freeman in laying the groundwork to develop regulations that will help put Canada in a leadership role when it comes to NVIS. Their collective efforts came to fruition in February with the release of the Advisory Circular for night vision (www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/opssvs/managementservices-referencecentre-acs-600-603-001-1467.htm).

Demers told Helicopters he is proud of the direction that Canada is taking with NVIS.

The collective efforts of all parties have produced a document that is thorough, efficient and clear – a testament to how the process should work. “The HAC group was very dedicated in its objectives,” he said. “It was great because of the interest and professionalism of all HAC participants and several other agencies such as Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Government of Manitoba Air Service and the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. Everyone was very much dedicated to a working model that would ensure safety yet allow industry to capitalize on the technology.”

Toews was positive about the group’s accomplishments. “It meets industry’s need for clear guidance from Transport Canada for the implementation of NVIS and EVS in normal operations where an exemption from the CARs is not required (basic operations),” he said. “There may be a few issues that require clarification or further development, but in general the CBAC reflects industry consensus regarding training, qualification and equipment requirements for basic operations.

“The development of the NVIS/EVS CBAC is a good example of co-operation between the HAC and TC.”

Key recommendations for operators considering getting into night vision, said Demers, is to take it one step at a time, ensure good training and be prepared to follow through with the recurrent training. Operators need to see it as a true safety enhancement for night VFR.

As for next steps, there is a submission of 6 NPA (Notice of Proposed Amendment) for the CARs (Canadian Air Regulations), which will be reviewed by CARAC (Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council) this coming fall 2012.

“I hope that now that the circular is out, we will see more operators look at introducing NVIS into their operations and that some of them will possibly see a growth opportunity – such as being able to conduct aerial work at night – and also to see a growth with fixed-wing operators,” Demers said. “As the technology grows in popularity, and hopefully becomes more affordable, I hope to see it become the norm for all commercial operations doing night VFR work. Much like we have seen GPS become the norm, I believe that unaided night VFR will become a thing of the past within five to 10 years.”

Let’s hope efficient, well-orchestrated future interactions on key issues like NVIS involving TC, operators and key industry associations becomes the norm as well.


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