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  8. Speaking Notes for the Director General Civil Aviation, Martin J. Eley, at the Northern Air Transport Association, 35th Annual General Meeting and Conference

Speaking Notes for the Director General Civil Aviation, Martin J. Eley, at the Northern Air Transport Association, 35th Annual General Meeting and Conference

APRIL 11, 2011

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Good afternoon. I’d like to thank you for joining us here today.

On Friday and Saturday, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to get a snapshot of Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Yellowknife, and their operations. NATA’s executive director, Stephen Nourse, was our tour guide and he took us on quite the journey.

On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I would like to thank all of you who made this weekend so special. I know I speak for all of us when I say that our time here will not soon be forgotten.

This was not only an exciting experience for us, but also an excellent opportunity to understand some of the unique challenges facing Northern operators.

As easy as it would be to continue talking about my Northern experience, I’d like to shift the focus to the reason why I’m here today: The Northern Air Transport Association Annual General Meeting and Conference. 

This group plays a vital role in Canada’s aviation safety by promoting a safe and effective Northern air transportation system. You deserve credit for that and for all of the work that you do in keeping the Northern skies safe.


Canada has one of the safest air transportation systems in the world – A fact recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Canada continues to enjoy a low accident rate as the five-year running average continues its downward trend.

Last year, the total number of incidents was the lowest recorded figure in 10 years. In addition, the accident rate per 100 000 hours flown remained below the 2004 – 2008 five-year average of 5.9 percent. In the last public confidence survey, 96 percent of Canadians expressed confidence in Canadian aviation. Those are numbers we can be proud of. What’s more, business is picking up after the economic slowdown. Air movements are at historical highs and continue to rise. 

During the last few years, our department has undergone fundamental changes in its approach; today, Transport Canada Civil Aviation is working differently than it was a few years ago. In our own efforts to rise up to many challenges, TCCA has been making a move towards being more strategic and planning for where we see our organization in the future.

We are already receiving international recognition for the approach we are taking and the world would like to adopt many of the safety practices we are already years ahead in implementing.

The last decade has seen a shift toward our vision of an integrated and progressive civil aviation system that promotes a proactive safety culture. Air travel is safe and we want to keep it that way. To do that, we must continually seek out ways to further improve safety. The strategy that we have chosen is to adopt a systems approach for the proactive identification of risks to safety.

It is how we manage risk and what we do to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place that becomes even more important and is yet, increasingly difficult. Industry growth and globalization have become catalysts to challenge our past practices, providing us with opportunities today to make improvements for the future.


Over ten years ago, Transport Canada introduced Safety Management Systems (SMS) to the Canadian aviation community. The goal: to develop a culture where every part of the community – regulator, operator, aviation personnel – assumes responsibility for aviation safety. It moves us from the 20th century system when decisions were largely made in response to an incident, to the 21st century where the benefits of using a proactive model are becoming increasingly clear.  

When an incident does occur, the Transportation Safety Board identifies causes and TC makes any necessary adjustments. But, reaction by definition means we are too late. From what we now know from experience, having an SMS in place further provides safety through proactive risk management and instills accountability. It goes beyond relying on reactive compliance with individual regulatory requirement. Most importantly, a systems approach provides an organization with the capacity to address safety issues before they lead to an incident.

We know that we cannot reduce aviation incidents by technological improvements alone. To enhance our system, we had to target the human factor; we had to make safety a culture and proactive response a mindset. During the last few years, we challenged ourselves to make this concept a day-to-day reality.

While SMS has required a major shift in the approach organizations take to managing safety, it has also forced them to measure and appropriately enhance their internal safety culture.

Today, in addition to traditional surveillance, our inspectors evaluate the safety systems within companies. Certificate holders go beyond meeting traditional checks and balances and ensure that they tailor safety and risk management strategies to their operations.

For an SMS to be effective there has to be a willingness to change the way both the regulator and the industry conduct their business. Similarly, the transition to SMS has necessitated a change in the way we conduct our own business and an assessment of where the regulator is in respect to the development of its own internal safety culture.

In response to timing concerns raised by industry, TC elected to delay the implementation of safety management systems for small operators. As part of its continuous improvement system, Civil Aviation has adjusted the implementation schedule to provide additional time to refine procedures, training and guidance material based on inspector and industry feedback.

Transport Canada is working towards the introduction of regulations for small operators, although it is unlikely to be in 2011.

TC has increased dialogue with industry organizations, such as yours, to discuss SMS requirements and to offer guidance as they develop their own tools to assist their members with implementation.

Flexibilities within our oversight program allow us to continually evaluate and adjust priorities to focus our attention on safety-critical issues. TC will continue to work with our partners in industry to improve our regulatory oversight program, inspection procedures and tools.

Our focus is to promote a non-punitive reporting culture, encouraging corrective and preventative measures, and use the knowledge gained to make improvements across the industry. Instead of correcting in isolation, we will proactively rectify the risk in all our safety operations.

Through this system, we have expanded and evolved aviation safety activities to better detect and correct safety deficiencies.

It is also important to remember that SMS regulations are like any other regulations – Transport Canada puts them in place, operators comply and TC enforces them.

This has been a real team effort. Inspectors in the field are providing us feedback and procedures, tools, training and guidance material are being refined. This is also a good example of our own management system at work – continuous improvement, collaboration, consultation, and standardization! We will apply what we have learned when introducing SMS regulations for smaller operators.

Thus far, it has been and continues to be a journey of lessons learned. We are working hard every day to refine our practices and evolve an already exceptional air safety system. As we move forward, we are seeking out areas where further improvement is necessary.

SMS is the global standard and our work has put us ahead of the world. I stand proud that our experiences can be used as a model for other authorities from around the world to follow as they implement their own safety management system initiatives.  


I appreciate, now more than ever, that northern air carriers are faced with many unique challenges. Your services are crucial to the livelihood of many and you should be proud of the excellent work that you achieve in spite of these challenges. 

Because of the vastness of the region, weather reporting and community aerodrome radio stations are critical for the north. There are a number of different automated systems used in the provision of aviation weather information across the country, but because of its size, weather data in the north is very sparse. While Transport Canada does not certify or approve automated weather systems and community aerodrome radio stations, we continue to work with NAV CANADA who continuously reviews the air navigation services it provides. 

Transport Canada takes flight crew fatigue management seriously and has strict safety regulations for flight time, flight duty time and rest periods that are compliant with international standards. We recognize that air operations in the north have a unique operation environment that is unlike many other air operations.

To ensure that these factors are being considered, TC established a Fatigue Risk Management Systems/Flight and Duty Time working group that includes members from industry to review the current regulations and, where appropriate, recommend amendments to the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

The working group will assess the feasibility of incorporating the ICAO’s non-mandatory recommended practices and standard practices – also known as SARPs – into the Canadian regulatory framework. In addition, the working group will also assess the feasibility of implementing an alternative regulatory framework in which individual operators could establish a fatigue management system that is more specific to their type of operations.

The objective of this initiative is to complement the prescriptive requirements on flight and duty time with a more flexible performance-based approach to fatigue management.

I look forward to seeing the working group’s recommendations, which we expect to be tabled in 2012.

As knowledge on fatigue issues increases with advances in research and scientific studies, modifications to regulations and standards will be made where necessary. Any proposed modifications will be made through the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council consultation process.

Another challenge facing a number of northern operations are the potential changes to the Runway End Safety Area (RESA) requirements. Presently, Canada requires a runway strip of 60m at the end of all code 3 and 4 runways and recommends an additional runway safety area of 90m for a total runway safety area of 150m.

Departmental officials conducted a data analysis of the occurrences of the past 20 years. This data was presented to TC management at the end of March and discussions are continuing on what the next steps will be. 

Where changes are in the interest of improving safety, TC will take action, while taking into consideration many different factors. This includes the cost of implementation for airport operators, especially for airports that would be most affected that would not be able to extend to meet the increased RESA requirement.

It is anticipated that a Notice to Proposed Amendment will be presented to the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council later this year for consultation with the industry.

Transport Canada will continue to work with industry stakeholders, our international partners and the Transportation Safety Board in addressing the issue of runway overruns.


During the last hundred years of flight, technology has made a significant contribution to safety. While we cannot improve safety by technological improvements alone, it certainly does play a large role and will continue to make us safer.

Our department is ensuring that the regulatory structure supports evolving technology. Moving forward, Transport Canada will increasingly recognize new or improved technology to improve safety; a process that begins with determining the potential to reduce risk or improve business operations.

One of our key strategies will be to increase stakeholder confidence in our department’s certification process of new and innovative products and services. It is important that we create an environment that increasingly supports the aviation community’s development of new technologies in aircraft design, aircraft operations and other technical areas.

Given that international collaboration continues to be an ideal method of learning how other countries are increasing aviation safety, TCCA will also work with international partners to integrate global technologies that will evolve safety here at home.

In the past year, our department set out to determine strategies to improve safety. This led to an analysis of not only external factors, but also internal factors. From this analysis, several strategies emerged to carry forward aviation safety.

Firstly, we want to advance data-driven decision-making by expanding the data that fuels those decisions. To enhance our ability to detect risks, we want data systems that better integrate our data with that of other sources. To improve our ability to analyze intelligence and respond accordingly, our electronic systems will need to be more effective in gathering and consolidating data. The outcome will result in more informed decisions.

Secondly, we want to continuously improve our service delivery. Our department provides more than 100 services to the aviation community. As the demands change, we need to evolve as well, whether that translates to faster service or improved efficiency. Our goal is to increase the recipient’s satisfaction with these services, while hallmarking safety. To accomplish this, we must not only improve the delivery systems, but also find the right balance between speed and process.

Thirdly, we will enhance our capacity to evaluate the aviation safety program. This means we will continually assess existing regulations, regulatory processes, standards, and surveillance procedures. To do this, we must continue to place emphasis on enhanced analysis of the findings from surveillance activities. This analysis will provide insight into our program: what’s working, what’s not, or what was working but no longer is. We must also enhance quality assurance assessments.

While we carry out these activities, the internal review asks us to assess the effects of our program not only on the industry and the public, but also on our employees. Are our employees equipped to execute new or existing activities as the environment changes? Do they have the necessary skills and competencies? TCCA needs to listen to any concerns that might arise and continually identify and address any gaps in the capabilities of the workforce and the organization’s structure. This is critical to the overall success of the aviation safety program.

At the end of the day, the one constant in our business is change. Our ability to adapt to change, whether external or internal, will ultimately affect our success moving forward. We have to continuously improve on this in order to enhance our organizational dexterity. While we cannot predict a natural disaster, we can continuously evolve our ability to adapt.


Now, let me shift to our external priorities by making a statement that is relevant to all of us here today: Safety is a shared responsibility. We want to continue to develop our working relationships with the aviation community to further this community’s trust and confidence in Transport Canada and the work we do. I am open to your suggestions of things we can do to improve your trust and confidence in us.

We recognize that the future of aviation in Canada requires a healthy working relationship between industry and government; it needs regular, open and transparent communication. We will increasingly seek out your innovative ideas to address issues and evolve aviation safety.

TCCA is committed to motivating healthy discussions. To do this, we will seek out ways to strengthen existing communication channels, expand safety promotional campaigns and adopt new media practices.

Building trust and confidence also calls for a commitment to addressing global challenges. As aircraft traffic and emissions continue to grow, our work together becomes even more important as we determine how to reduce the effects of aviation on the environment, while continuing to support global air movement demands. We will continually support and promote new alternative fuels, new engine and aircraft technologies to reduce emissions, and new operating procedures and air traffic strategies to reduce fuel consumption.

Furthermore, TC will continually seek out international consensus on the finest methods to reduce fuel burn while accommodating air traffic growth. This includes reducing emissions at the source: aircraft and engine design.

TCCA contributes to nearly all ICAO groups that study the need for new or revised international standards and recommended practices. Moving forward, Canada will continue to work with ICAO to help develop international standards.

We will expand our international engagement and seek out ways to provide multilateral, trilateral and bilateral leadership. We will continue harmonize safety practices with our two biggest international stakeholders: the United States and Europe.

The success of these activities will lead to the development of international safety agreements, the sharing of information and the further exchange of technology.


These internal and external priorities will chart the direction of our department.

As we finalize our newest five year strategic plan, we must look back at the previous five years to review what we accomplished and what we believe should be carried forward for the coming years. The theme is one of continuous improvement – of safety, of the department, of our relationships with the aviation community, and of international engagement – and being ready to adapt and make changes when and where they are required. We are committed to this and committed to continuing Canada’s tradition as a leader in aviation safety.

Our goal is to offer the best value for Canadians today and future generations of Canadians.

Thank you. I look forward to answering your questions.

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