Making the Switch
Maybe it’s Time to Revamp Regulatory Incongruities
One of the themes of this issue is innovation, and for some time I struggled to start, since the rate of advancement in aviation is breathtaking and we risk being replaced by robots in the not too distant future. Then it occurred to me, that innovation isn’t about just technology, or methods, or brilliant marketing schemes – it also applies to policy and to the direction an industry may move.
In 1919 Canada was the first country to enact legislation over all aspects of aviation. Yes, the first. Soon, we were home to the world’s largest helicopter company (70 years this past Aug. 9), making Canadians the first to learn how to fly in the mountains, the first to move drills with long lines (and the first to have drillers fast enough to avoid injury!), the first to run drip-torches and the first to throw water on that fire when it got away. We ought to be very proud of all the firsts Canadians have achieved.
These stunning achievements are even more remarkable considering they were accomplished through a regulatory structure that has no resemblance to anything one would design if commercial success was a consideration. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is a common source of complaint south of the border, yet the FAA, from inception, was tasked with “fostering air commerce” (in its official charter).
Our American brethren like to say that nobody in the FAA is aware of that part of their mandate, but the U.S. has built the world’s largest helicopter industry in a country crisscrossed by roads and rail. I tried in vain to find anything resembling this in Canadian literature, but the closest I could find was, “Transport Canada is responsible for ensuring the regulations are current.”
Now, I understand where the desire to throw away our legacy of being first in all things, in order to enact European based regulations with regard to Flight and Duty limitations, arises from. I guess in some ways, if you know little about the industry you are regulating, it might seem logical to adopt another continent’s standards, regardless of how they fit our 3.8 million square miles of undeveloped splendour.
These disconnects between the governors and the governed are why physicians and other professionals are not regulated day-to-day by government, but rather by their peers – people who know what they know, who understand the challenges and limitations of the technology and the people, and who are bound together in common cause.
Well, I think it is high time we look backwards and borrow from the most innovative group that ever threw a tea party. I refer, of course, to the American Founding Fathers. With apologies to Thomas Jefferson, I declare the following:
When in the course of helicopter operations, it becomes necessary for the operators to resist the regulations imposed on them by their regulator, and to form a regulatory college as the doctors, lawyers and architects have done, a decent respect for the opinions of the public requires that they should declare what causes to impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that helicopters are not airliners, they do not fly long hours over dark oceans through many time zones, they have short legs, love to hover and move things through the use of vertical reference.
That to ensure the safety of helicopter operations, a regulator was appointed by the government, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of regulation becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of Operators to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying as its foundation the principles established over decades of the blood and sweat of pilots and engineers, and organizing in such form as to those that will seem most likely to effect the safety and security of the industry.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that a regulator, long established, should not be changed for light and transient causes, and all experience has shown that operators will tolerate onerous and non-sensical regulation rather than right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when industry concerns of the greatest magnitude are ignored in favour of 705 operations that bear no resemblance to helicopters, this movement towards despotism must be stopped.
We, the operators, move to form the College of Helicopter Professionals. This innovative group will oversee and regulate all operations within Canada. It will promote commerce and safety above all. We cast off the yoke of the regulator, who have abrogated their responsibility in favour of political expediency. Resist.
Corey Taylor is the vice-president of business development for Newfoundland’s Universal Helicopters.
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