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Under Siege

I have been around the Canadian Aviation Regulatory Advisory Council (CARAC) table since its inception and have watched the process evolve with keen interest.


October 11, 2011
By Fred Jones

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I have been around the Canadian Aviation Regulatory Advisory Council (CARAC) table since its inception and have watched the process evolve with keen interest. And you may not believe it when you have finished reading this article, but I am a big CARAC supporter – and always have been.

Admittedly the process has some warts, but fundamentally, I believe the concept is still sound. I have learned a lot through my participation on working groups, and through the open exchange of views that takes place in a face-to-face setting when a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) to the regulations is tabled. It’s a lot like the judicial process – it has its problems that we should work to resolve, but no one has come up with a better concept yet, anywhere.

In some ways the process has matured. The associations that have participated have become less positional and process-oriented, and have become more collaborative. At the end of the day, Transport Canada (TC) has consistently delivered a better regulatory product using a process that offered industry a chance to comment.

However, a backlog of more than 600 NPAs has choked the regulatory process and affected its credibility, and the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation is a misnomer if ever I heard one. What’s more, the process has not evolved to accommodate TC’s economic reality or SMS principles.

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The Helicopter Association of Canada (HAC) has articulated its concern that there will be a diminishing pool of TC inspectors who are in a position to appreciate the complexities of helicopter operations in today’s environment. Historically, TC has always had some ability to draw upon industry-trained inspectors to provide guidance when TC was developing new regulations for the helicopter community. The following factors will intensify the need for TC to work collaboratively with industry to develop meaningful rules and guidance that reflect industry’s best safety practices:

  • An aging demographic of inspectors with recent industry experience who will be expected to do more-with-less in an environment where they have little contact with industry.
  • A trend by TC to hire inspectors who have less operational experience, but who are better trained to audit SMS requirements.
  • Increased responsibility on industry to develop and monitor its own safety performance and mitigate its own risks in an SMS environment.
  • A CARAC process that has evolved in an environment where TC identifies regulatory priorities for the helicopter industry.
  • The latest reorganization and cutbacks will result in a lower profile for helicopter operations inside TC and there will be fewer heli-specific resources available to attend to the needs of the Canadian helicopter community.

In the face of diminishing resources, TC’s mantra has been to urge the industry and its associations to step up and accept more responsibility. I’m still a little fuzzy on what “accepting more responsibility” means in an era when TC has gone in to full retreat on the Canadian Business Aviation Association’s (CBAA’s) private operator’s certificate program (POC), and still tables regulatory initiatives based solely on its own assessment of safety priorities. What responsibility ever comes without some authority?

The regulator is becoming increasingly distant from the operational realities of the helicopter industry, but still refuses to accept that prudent operators can be relied upon to help identify and establish best practices in our industry. At the very least, wouldn’t it make sense to consider what a “reasonable operator” is doing out there?

In short, HAC recommends that TC adopt the following recommendations:

  • Establish a forum as part of the CARAC process, where industry can influence the Departmental safety agenda.
  • Consider industry best practices when developing new regulations.
  • Provide some form of “credit” (as part of a departmental risk management program) for operators who can demonstrate that they embrace industry best practices.
  • Work with the helicopter industry to develop a governance model that will provide industry with a mechanism to influence the course of regulation. Only in this way can TC ensure the rules that govern our conduct result in the greatest safety impact, and respect the operational realities of the helicopter community.

Ever the optimist, I believe CARAC’s founding principles are sound. I also believe SMS can enhance safety, but TC and CARAC must evolve to adapt to the new safety culture they urged on the aviation community.


Fred Jones is the president of the Helicopter Association of Canada (HAC).


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