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New World Order

March 15, 2017  By Walter Heneghan

Control your own destiny or someone else will.” – Jack Welch.

Leadership – it is Canada’s time. I rarely traverse the gap in my regular columns from safety to other areas but the events in our world since Nov. 8, 2016 leave me pondering if there is a need to consider the Law of Unintended Consequences. Since that momentous shift in the tectonic political plates, a number of pronouncements have the ability to really and truly rock our worlds.

So, let’s get started. On Jan 20, shortly after Donald Trump was sworn into office, he signed an executive order suspending the implementation of both new and pending regulations for 60 days.  This was followed by an additional directive that blocked federal agencies from issuing any regulation that would cost businesses any more money than they would have already spent and stipulated that every time an agency issued a new regulation, it had to repeal at least two existing ones.

So what right? Well, immediately the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) withdrew from implementing a number of directives on the books since last year, including some aimed at the growing drone environment. These new regulations are desperately needed to ensure an orderly and safe expansion of an industry that is exploding – delays will potentially cost millions. Furthermore, many national regulators take their leads from the FAA.

Delays in approving and implementing new rules, burgeoning industry regulations or safety missives may have a ripple effect elsewhere in the aviation industry. And by requiring a two out/one in ratio for new rules, what additional FAA regulations are at risk and what are the potential safety implications from what could be a slapdash approach to “reducing government’ in aviation oversight?


In addition, does this approach to government open the possibility that important safety missives such as service bulletins or airworthiness directives get delayed or dropped altogether by a bureaucracy falling over themselves to comply with what may be, at times, a capricious administration? I suggest extra vigilance is warranted by operators to ensure communication channels with manufacturers is open and effective to guard against “unforeseen circumstances.”

Another unanticipated development from the new regime in Washington came from the sweeping travel ban and the potential for immigration shakeups that will reverberate worldwide. Apart from the disruption to thousands of travellers attempting to visit the U.S., several airlines had to consider the impact on their flight schedules and crewing requirements. It was reported by National Public Radio (NPR), Bloomberg and other media outlets that Lufthansa, Emirates and Qatar Airways, among others, were forced to juggle crew assignments to ensure none of their staff ran afoul of the ban.

These adjustments have the potential to negatively impact the affected airlines, can further erode consumer confidence and become economic disrupters. While the ban was eventually suspended, future iterations of the American government’s immigration policies may catch more companies and more air carriers unaware.

So, what does all this have to do with us Canadians? Given the chaos south of the border and the shift in the role of the U.S. in global affairs, I think there is a tremendous opportunity for Canada and our agencies of society to step into the breach and take a strong leadership role. We need to have an open mind regarding the developments down south but also need to be prepared to seize the day should the need arise.

The evident chaos in the early months of the new American government should give us all pause; cool heads will be needed in the next several years. I also think in terms of leadership on other fronts – such as fiscal policy and immigration – Canada and its institutions of government charged with ensuring safe work environments and safe skies needs to be the hemispheric leader in turbulent times.

In this our 150th birthday year we need to adopt and paraphrase Jack Welsh’s quote: let’s control our own destiny . . . and take the lead!

Walter Heneghan is an experienced and well-travelled pilot who has served as the top safety professional at Canadian Helicopters and Summit Aviation. He is currently working with CHC Helicopter in Kazakhstan as an SMS development specialist. He is a regular contributor to Helicopters and Wings magazines.


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