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One-on-One: Brian Jenner, H.A.C. president

Q: Can you predict the mood of operators going into this show?


July 11, 2007
By David Carr

Topics

153Can you predict the mood of operators going into this show?

I
think the industry is generally in good shape these days. There’s
nothing really spectacular happening, except that operators are buying
new helicopters in greater numbers than in the past. That is an
indication that operators are optimistic. It’s also good news for
manufacturers, who with the notable exception of MD Helicopters, all
seem to be coming off good years in 2004.


But the industry is somewhat cyclical. When one segment is up another is down. Are we finally firing on all cylinders?

We
talked about this last year and I said that we were facing three to
five years of relatively good times, without having to rely on natural
disasters. My answer would be the same this year. We are still looking
at three to five years of good times. In this business you can’t bank
on the future. But most people in the industry seem optimistic these
days. 

Still, natural disasters remain the nature of the beast.
Yes
and no. Fires can make a very good year but the absence of fires is not
disastrous. That being said, operators in British Columbia who work on
forest fires a lot are rubbing their hands together. There has been
little snow, so everything is in place for an early fire season. But if
it rains the rest of the year the beat goes on. Mining remains popular.
Precious metals are up so exploration is up. There is a lot of oil
exploration so there is a lot of seismic. We are operating from a base
of positive indicators even if the future is never far away in this
business.


What about potential flies in the ointment?

In
terms of business, I don’t see any. There will always be problems. With
the AME shortage for example, we are still facing the same problem. It
is harder to get AMEs in Canada than any other country in the world
including the US. Part of it has to do with Generation X. We are
experiencing a changing generational culture. Fewer young people are
coming in. Part of it comes from the Canadian regulatory structure.

I
don’t see any magic solution, but there are things that can be done.
The problem is it doesn’t seem to be enough of a crisis to force the
government to react.


Is everything working on the regulatory front?

I
sit and wonder sometimes. From 1992 to 1997 I worked with Transport
Canada to develop CARs. All that work kept a lot of public servants
busy too. Today there are still as many public servants in the
Department as there were when we started on that massive endeavour. You
have to ask yourself, what are they doing now that the new regulatory
structure has been in place for 9 years?

You also have to wonder
what the CARs process was for. All that work so operators could write
manuals to allow their employees to do their job safely in the context
of their own operation. But the first thing Transport Canada did after
writing CARs was to write generic manuals that would make all
operations equally easy to evaluate and control. That contradicts the
process.


A common complaint from both rotary and fixed-wing
operators is the inconsistency with which Transport Canada operates in
different parts of the country. Does that still exist?

The
phenomenon is generally referred to as “Regional Disparity.” One region
is enforcing the rules differently to another. In fact, it happens
within regions – from one office or one inspector to another. It also
happens on a national scale where a new generation of public servants
sometimes establishes Policy Letters and Staff Instructions that
contradict the standards incorporated into CARs. I call it CARs Plus.
And depending on the region, the inspector, the subject, you can have
CARs Plus, Plus.


So what is the solution?

There is some
good news. We have just received a decision from the Civil Aviation
Tribunal concerning an operator’s transportation of dangerous goods
manual. Transport Canada had sent it back saying it couldn’t be
approved because it didn't match the general manual. Missing were
things like a chapter on cabin crew for a JetRanger operation. There
were about 20 differences of a similar nature that Transport Canada
insisted needed correcting before approving the manual.

The
operator allowed HAC to take the matter to court. The Tribunal told TC
that an operations manual could not be evaluated based on its
concordance with generic manuals but rather based on whether or not
they provide sufficient guidance for employees to carry out their
duties safely in the context of each particular operation.

The
decision puts TC on notice that amendments can no longer be refused
based on non compliance with CARs Plus. It was an indisputable win for
Regulation by Objective and will serve as a tool for bringing Regional
Disparity under control.

I think we have sent out a strong
signal. The law is the law for the bureaucracy as well as the operator.
From now on local, regional and national disparity will no longer be
immune to review. So as an Association we will be encouraging operators
to amend their manuals to get ride of some of the CARs Plus irritants.
TC will have the choice between approving such changes and defending
their refusals before the Tribunal.

In all fairness, I have to
admit that CARs Plus is a natural and well-intentioned reaction of
public servants who are not sure when to say “approved.” The review
process will set some new bench marks that will make the decisions
easier.


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