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

one critical consumable we all have in common, and that
David Carr
July 11, 2007
By David Carr
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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