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Emerging from the Fog

If there is “fog of war” then surely there must also be a “fog of the Helicopter Association of Canada Convention & Trade Show” and I must confess that it has yet to completely lift.


May 8, 2012
By Fred Jones

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If there is “fog of war” then surely there must also be a “fog of the Helicopter Association of Canada Convention & Trade Show” and I must confess that it has yet to completely lift. There was a flurry of intense activity running into the event March 16-18 at the Westin Ottawa and Ottawa Convention Centre followed by three days of frantic execution. Afterward, I felt like I was standing at the centre of the third ring where the circus used to be . . .

In the end, it was a great success – HAC set a record high for an Eastern convention with roughly 600 delegates and the largest trade show in its history. I’d like to take a moment to recap the event and its highlights for those of you who couldn’t make it this year, and refresh the memory of those who, like me, are having some difficulty remembering the details.

The flight training committee, and others are struggling with an inconsistent interpretation of “flight time” by Transport Canada (TC). This discussion has been complicated by the use of the definition as it applies to a variety of operational areas including flight and duty time limits and the logging of flight time and air time for the purpose of student training records and maintenance.

The IFR committee had a good meeting and discussed the use of night-vision goggles (NVG) and the prospect of developing a committee best practice for EMS operations. While the committee acknowledged the time that TC had invested in the NVG issue, they were largely unhappy that TC didn’t have time to devote to projects that advanced industry innovation and safety, in favour of priorities of their own, which were established internally and without industry input.

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Many of the committees lamented the fact that TC has become less engaged with industry, and some characterized the department as being in “full retreat” from any contact with industry in the wake of TC’s budget cutbacks (all right, I was the one who said it that way, but the sentiment was there across a number of committees). The 10 per cent budget reduction for TC in the latest federal budget won’t mitigate that problem, moving forward. A number of committees have also commented that it struck them as ironic in an “age of SMS” that TC would run, not walk, away from any discussion of providing more responsibility to the helicopter industry.

There was discussion of two new HAC best practices for oil and gas operations and utility flight operations, which can be found on the HAC website (www.h-a-c.ca) under “guidelines and best practices” and amendment No. 1 to the pilot competencies for wildfire operations was discussed in the air taxi committee. The committee is also beavering away at updating the heli-skiing and mountain-flying training guidelines and they have recently submitted a class “D” static fixed long line best practice to the HAC board for review and approval.

In addition to the pilot competencies issues, heli-ski and mountain-flying guidelines, and class “D” operations, the air taxi committee also discussed the prospect of a bush helipad construction best practice and resolved a concern with respect to hover emplaning/deplaning in CAR 703/704 operations.

The maintenance and manufacturing committee was well attended and discussed the shortage of AMEs and the difficultly attracting new people to the industry, as well as problems with the STC approval process.

The airborne law enforcement committee was looking to HAC for more support in the form of promoting its efforts to other Canadian law enforcement agencies with a view to revitalizing the committee.
The oil and gas committee also discussed its new best practice and the response of customers thereto, past and future meetings with Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors (CAGC), and potential new issues.

Last, and certainly not least, the safety committee held a well-attended meeting which focused on a variety of issues including FDM and flight and duty time limits, the HAI Accreditation Program, fuel quality issues, FDRs, CVRs, and anti-icing, to name only a few.

HAC also announced officially that in response to a survey of members conducted last fall, the association would be moving to a fall format convention. As a bridge to a full fall format in Vancouver in early November 2013, the association will be holding a general meeting in Calgary from November 2-6 at the Westin Calgary with a much smaller trade show. This meeting will concentrate on professional development and training with a focus on the oil and gas sector. Stand by for more on the course details, and get your cowboy boots out for the party . . . I look forward to seeing you there!


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