Notes from the Manitoba Aviation Council AGM and Conference
Canadian Skies columnist Fred Petrie gives his take on events in Winnipeg
Tuesday May 1st 2012 - By Fred Petrie
The Manitoba Aviation Council held its AGM & Conference in Winnipeg last week, providing a snapshot of the state of Canadian aviation. The first omen was the â€œregretsâ€ from the Honourable Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Transport. One aviation complaint is even getting the attention of the federal government any more for aviation issues. ATAC is still waiting for a meeting with Minister Lebel on the recommendations in the industry action plan it created last summer (reported in my SKIES column, March-April 2012). I will be following up for an interview with Minister Fletcher about aviationâ€™s concerns todayâ€¦and what the heck is a Minister of State for Transport anyway?
The first briefing was by Kate Fletcher, Regional Director Civil Aviation Prairie and Northern Region. It began with an update on safety management systems (SMS) â€“ for 702, 703, 704 carriers and AMOs â€“ which is still on hold. This is perhaps a good thing, enabling inspector training to be fully completed (another Auditor General recommendation). Is it possible that Transport Canada (TC) â€œrushedâ€ into SMS implementation, underestimating challenges such as cultural change?
Regional Director Civil Aviation Transport Canada Kate Fletcher (left) and David White, Associate Director Operations, brief the Manitoba Aviation industry (Jim Bell photo)
They next explained their commitment to improving the level of service TC provides, and how the new organization with a Technical Team Leader for the certificate holder will expedite overlaps, such as between maintenance and operations, when responding to the 200-plus services that TC provides (I have asked for the list). TC is also implementing a new tracking system and quality assurance follow up of the level of service (LOS) provided (one of ATACâ€™s recommendations). There was however, the message that TC could do a lot better on LOS issues if only industry would get its paper work complete on applications.
Surveillance was a hot topic, in view of the Auditor Generalâ€™s report released earlier this month (see SKIES synopsis). White further explained how surveillance procedures were only recently updated to reflect SMS, while still accommodating traditional inspection. The Staff Instruction SUR-001 is already on amendment 4, with 5 due out soon, as TC continues to evolve its methods.
Fletcher updated the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) review and that the NPA backlog was to be â€œtriagedâ€ for a CARAC Plenary to be held this fall. The briefing included status updates for: Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS) â€“ reviewing comments from Gazette I publication; Runway End Safety Areas (RESA) â€“ had passed CARAC technical review and was under risk assessment; Performance Based Navigation (PBN) â€“ working committee had met, looking into non-regulatory approaches; and Fatigue Risk Management was being reviewed for the new ICAO SARP, with a working group report due in the fall. MAC had prepared some hard questions about issues faced by members and TC was pretty good about responding, but always with their positive spin, and hiding behind being seen as a â€œconsultantâ€ where they could become liable for advice provided. But all industry is asking is for TC (or its inspector of the day) to tell an operator what a particular regulation means (to them) and what satisfies â€œcomplianceâ€. I do miss the old days of open and honest communication with the regulator.
Several questions were asked about the Auditor Generalâ€™s report, and the impact of Flahertyâ€™s budget cuts. Fletcher assured us that surveillance and level of service are TCâ€™s priorities and any economies would be outside these core functions. As one example, PNR was closing its Edmonton aircraft operations, so some inspectors would only be getting their currency training by simulator.
The conference continued with many interesting presentations about online training (particularly in the airport field), leadership, and a panel on aircraft maintenance organization issues. ATAC spoke on its new SMS Tool Kit for members looking to ensure their compliance (when it is a regulation for their certificate), and TSBâ€™s Kathy Fox gave a most informative presentation both on Transportation Safety Board and the development of its recommendations for RESA that is driving that TC regulatory initiative. NAV Canada talked about its program to automate Runway Condition Reporting and Canada Border Services Agency briefed on CANPASS and imports. Rob Beynon of INTER Vistas reported on efforts in B.C. to meet challenges facing regional and smaller airports, as well as the rejuvenation of the British Columbia Aviation Council, the grand-daddy of the provincial aviation associations.
A presentation on aerial emergency medical transport touched some hot buttons. Manitoba has been a pioneer in this field from the days of Tom Lamb and sons in the 1930s, â€˜40s and â€˜50s through the work of Keewatin Air in Nunavut. MAC has taken a high profile for Manitoba aviation these past fifteen years, and enjoys excellent relations with provincial government departments such as Transportation and Entrepreneurship & Training. But somehow the Minister of Health has given what could be a ten year $100 million sole source contract for rotary wing medevac services to STARS â€“ an Alberta-based company. MAC feels this service could be provided by any one of several Manitoba based operators â€“ and should be given the opportunity to compete on Manitoba procurement.
At lunch on Wednesday, Steve Ashton, Manitobaâ€™s minister of infrastructure and transportation presented the annual proclamation of Aviation Week in Manitoba, a tradition of the past ten years. Ashton has been a long time friend of Manitoba aviation, as the first minister for transportation when the NDP took power in 1999; Steve also represents Thompson, the hub of northern aviation. Nationally, aviationâ€™s greatest challenge is the excessive financial (not to mention regulatory) burden applied to aviation, from airport rents to security taxes. Ashton expressed his amazement that the federal government treats aviation so poorly, especially in that it is such a vital facilitator of economic development. He expressed common interest with the civil industry as Manitoba is also an operator, with 24 northern airports and Government Air Services operating fire-fighting and the Life Flight air ambulance services.
Manitoba Minister of Infrastructure & Transportation Steve Ashton (left) presents â€œAviation Weekâ€ proclamation to Dennis Lyons, President Manitoba Aviation Council (Jim Bell photo)
The conference was not all work. Tuesday evening was a pig roast at the Western Canada Aviation Museum with a presentation by the local chapter of Vintage Wings on their trip to Ontario via Oshkosh for the EAA AirVenture show with yellow Stearman, Cornell and Finch from the Commonwealth Air Training Plan 70th anniversary cross-Canada commemoration. The conference wrapped up with the annual Pioneer of Flight Gala Dinner commemorating Standard Aeroâ€™s 100 years and featuring scholarship awards by Women in Aviation and the 99s.
This short recap highlights the amount of information provided for regional operators in an intensive two days. MAC is an example of the regional aviation associations, along with BCAC, SAC, AA, NATA, and others in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Along with the sector national associations, ATAC, CBAA, COPA, CAC, AIAC, all of these groups play a vital role in supporting Canadaâ€™s aviation industry. These organizations are largely driven by volunteers and with limited resources are being called on to provide ever more essential support to their members in a challenging economy with shifting regulatory demands. Support yours.
The first Canadian passenger jet (second in the world after the British), the Avro Canada Jetliner, was flown in1949. Despite its advanced design, it never saw production and was later sold for scrap. www.canadiangeographic.ca