The well-known economist Milton Friedman said something that is near and dear to my heart. It resonates on many levels and aligns with our right to refuse unsafe work and our duty to ignore and attempt to change stupid or shortsighted laws.
“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results”
A great multitude of what is contained in the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) springs to mind when I read what he has to say. While well intentioned, and not completely out to lunch, the CARs spend so much of their time trying to regulate all aviation activity as if it’s the same, they continuously fall short and interfere with good and sound practices. I really have no idea why it’s considered reasonable, by some, to treat certain aspects of aviation the same if the aircraft is a 500-passenger A380 or a one-passenger R22. The regulator tends to fall back on the number of people involved with 705 operations, and the regulations created around them, as if it’s representative of all aviation. That is to say, if the airlines can handle it, so can we – and we’re small
An examination of 705 vs. 702 and 703 tells a different story, with a magnitude of difference in the number of aircraft operating, but the people who make the rules will simply say this is true but “Good Lord, look at the incident and accident rate.” Of course, I would hope that any thinking person recognizes that the exposure and risk in helicopter 702 and 703 operations is much higher than in 705, where you have to pause well back from the gate until somebody with an orange flashlight tells you it’s ok. But, the whole idea of exposure seems to be misunderstood or at least it’s an afterthought.
There are a couple of seeming rebels in Canada today that are challenging the regulator at every turn. They point out, constantly, that the rules do not make sense in many cases. For example, the regulator says all carry-on luggage must be stowed in approved locations. The rebels demand to know where those locations are in small rotorcraft and hypothesize reasonable scenarios that operators, in fact, do every day. These scenarios cannot meet the regulations as written, and the regulator threatens crackdowns if they catch us doing what has been a safe practice in the industry for more than 60 years. In fact, the crackdowns are happening and many operators are suffering, but I think these rebels should continue, as in the end, common sense must prevail.
It is unfathomable to me that we could possibly focus on carry-on luggage in helicopters as some kind of hot point. Having been involved with helicopter safety and the analysis of incidents and accidents for more than 10 years – without involvement or interest from any level of government – I am mystified as to why there would suddenly be a decision to treat helicopter operators as outliers that must be brought into normalcy. The fact that our business has not even a passing relation to the airlines (save for a few commuter operations that can comply with the regulations I am referring to) is lost on the people we are entrusting to safeguard our baseline of safety.
A Bell 205 has a paragraph in the Limitations Section of its Flight Manual dealing with internal cargo – so does the 212. Neither aircraft has any kind of “overhead bins” or “underseat stowage,” yet I know operators that have been written up by TC inspectors for having soft luggage restrained with seatbelts. The aircraft have been approved in Canada for many years and the fact they gained that approval with statements about cabin cargo ought to hold weight. Yet, it appears that the regulator has concluded this must mean an unsafe practice has been occurring all these years. Is it unreasonable to at least entertain the notion that there never has been an issue?
The recent Flight and Duty Time controversy is an outgrowth of this very same thought process. There are those with no knowledge of what occurs in an industry sector, who interpret the law as if all operations are equal. And while the standards should be equal, which I believe is indisputable, the application needs to be flexible. Two rows of overhead bins on a 767 are the same size as an R22, so who could possibly expect the same rules for both aircraft? The concept of equivalent level of safety needs to be embraced in this country, and the rebels need to keep up the pressure.
Corey Taylor is vice-president of Global Business and Product Development for Great Slave Helicopters.
In Praise of Rebels
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