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  8. Speaking Notes for the Director General of Civil Aviation Martin J. Eley at the Summer Winter Integrated Filed Technologies Conference

Speaking Notes for the Director General of Civil Aviation Martin J. Eley at the Summer Winter Integrated Filed Technologies Conference


SEPTEMBER 14, 2009

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Good morning. I’d like to thank you for asking me to come and speak to you today. I have been looking forward to attending this conference. My background is that of an engineer and having an opportunity to hear firsthand about new integrated technologies is very exciting for me.

The aviation industry is one of continuous change. It’s what attracted me to it in the first place. Since I began my career in 1972 I have seen incredible advances in just about every sphere of aviation. The standards have evolved significantly in response to both the changes in technology and the unfortunate but significant lessons we learn from aircraft accidents.

The focus of our discussion is today the ’the way ahead’. The future of our business. It seems that in our industry, we are always looking toward tomorrow. We must. It is how we endure. It is how we stay ahead of the game and it is how we see success.

Facts and Figures

There’s no better proof of that success than what you see on this first slide. As far as accomplishments go, this is, by far, the biggest – and the responsibility is shared with all of you sitting here today. Without your technical expertise, foresight and skills to back us up, this wouldn’t have been possible.

But we did it. Another record low number for aviation accidents in Canada was set in 2008. There were nine per cent less than in the previous year. The 2008 accident rate was 5.2 per cent per 100 000 hours flown - the lowest when compared to the last 10 years.

And these numbers are not going unnoticed. In the 2007 public confidence survey - the last year for which data is available - an astounding 96 percent of Canadians expressed high to moderate confidence in flight safety. This rating has remained consistent since 2002, and its recovery for 9/11.

Over the last ten years, we’ve been moving toward our vision of an integrated and progressive civil aviation system that promotes a proactive safety culture. Even though the number of aircraft occurrences is at an all-time low, these numbers do not afford us the opportunity to sit back, relax and get comfortable. Now is the time for the aviation industry to strive for an even higher level of safety.

As the accident rate continues to drop over the years, we must look elsewhere for ways to further improve safety. The strategy that we have chosen is to adopt a systems approach to the proactive identification of risks to safety.

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.

Though the benefits of these systems are not always apparent in everyday operations, I’m confident that we are making progress - significant progress - even if it is only one day at a time. The industry, who have embraced these changes to the status quo and is highly engaged, and in return, is already yielding the incredible benefits. Benefits that go beyond safety.

Some examples of actual results are:

  • Some companies have reported significant savings from dispatch reliability, particularly with ETOPS operations
  • Other companies have been awarded Workers Compensation premium holidays in recognition of this improved worker safety environment.

What this tells me is that we are on our way to successfully creating a culture where every part of our community assumes responsibility for aviation safety.

Safety Management Systems

Ten years ago, Transport Canada introduced a regulatory initiative that would require every aviation organization to implement a Safety Management System that would include a requirement to have clear internal quality assurance of the processes they put in place to ensure regulatory compliance.

A SMS is a formal integrated risk management process, the purpose of which is to further improve safety through proactive risk management, rather than simply relying on reactive compliance with individual regulatory requirements. Most importantly, a systems approach provides an organization with the capacity to address safety issues before they lead to an incident or accident.

At this stage of implementation, no other civil aviation authority in the world has implemented SMS to the extent that we have in Canada. In fact, as of September 2008, operations and maintenance organizations covering 95 percent of the passenger miles flown in Canada are subject to the safety management systems regulatory framework.

 I admit that this leadership role has not been without its challenges - the most difficult being the overall culture change that we set out to achieve. Not surprisingly, the Canadian SMS regulatory requirements recognized from the beginning that the way to maximize the benefits of SMS was to effect a positive change in the industry safety culture. Further, our first round of assessments is confirming that the creation and maintenance of a strong safety culture is key in successful organizations.

So far, it has been and it continues to be a journey of lessons learned and I stand proud that our experience can be used as a model for other authorities from around the world to follow when they set out to implement their own safety management system.

From the very beginning of this process, we’ve had to apply a new way of doing business using constantly evolving policies and procedures with no blueprint to guide us, while at the same time, manage the natural resistance to change in the industry as well as with our own employees.

For example, In 2004, industry stakeholders expressed concern regarding the application of SMS to smaller air operators. In response to those concerns, TC committed to a trial implementation of SMS with small operators. A year later, TC established a Small Operator Pilot Project. The goal of this project was to evaluate the guidance material, tools and implementation processes developed by TC. From a large group of volunteers, the pilot project comprised sixteen enterprises from across Canada. The enterprises ranged in size from one person, single certificate operations, to a fifty-employee, multi-certificate organization.

The most important lesson learned from the project was that while the safety objective would be the same for small operators as it is for large operators, a one size fits all approach would not work and additional regulatory guidance will need to be provided to small operators.

Results from the Small Operator Pilot Project also indicated that SMS could be successfully implemented and become a positive addition to small operations. Industry partners further concluded that SMS have resulted in identified savings from an economic perspective and have also made the company more safety-aware.

I must admit that involving the industry stakeholders at the outset – those who immediately recognized the benefits outweighed the drawbacks - proved to be one of the key factors that lead to successful regulatory development. It’s also important to note that subsequent regulatory development for other sectors has taken much less time and involved less debate because of the early involvement of the larger civil aviation sectors.

It’s interesting to note that the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States recently recommended the adoption of safety management systems in the conclusions of its investigations into two accidents and also recommended to the Federal Aviation Administration to mandate SMS for commercial operators. The Board determined that an engine fire might have been avoided if the airline had an effective SMS in place.

This type of proclamation speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Integrated Management Systems

Modern organizations have recognized the need to bring together and better integrate their employees’ separate skills and knowledge to a far greater extent than ever before. And, this is exactly what Transport Canada started doing.

One just has to look within our organization to see our commitment to a systems approach to management in action. We have instituted our own management improvement approach to increase efficiency, effectiveness and accountability through an Integrated Management System – or IMS.

While employees will maintain the strengths of the personal experience they bring to Transport Canada, we're asking them to develop a more solid understanding of the role of their colleagues and work closely in multi-disciplinary teams to form a culture which values continuous improvement and the sharing of knowledge.

IMS is an evolution of our current management processes into a systematic, risk-based process, identical in concept to the principles that guide SMS, but more comprehensive.

IMS is about management accountability, resource management and planning, program design and implementation, as well as measurement, analysis and continuous improvement.

IMS furthers our efforts to work as a cohesive whole, to improve safety policy and regulatory development while balancing the needs of our stakeholders. And, we are not alone in recognizing the benefits of this approach. The International Civil Aviation Organization – or ICAO - is proudly mandating its member states to put in place similar systems under the banner of State Safety Programmes. An effective SSP provides a sound context for SMS.

Now that we’ve had a chance to see what we’ve been up to over the last few years and had a glance at our current state of affairs, I’d like to take a few moments to talk to you about some of our current initiatives and to give you a sneak peak at what the next few years might hold for us at Transport Canada.

Reporting Culture

As part of the safety management system regulations, Transport Canada requires that enterprises within Canada put a non-punitive reporting policy in place.

Experience has shown that without appropriate policies, voluntary reporting of hazards is severely reduced and developing an effective reporting culture is virtually impossible. However, if the policy provides appropriate protections to those who voluntarily submit reports, the system will be capable of reaching its full potential.

Confidential reporting is valuable but it has inherent limitations. How often do we see pilot error as a contributing factor in an accident or incident? With a systems approach we have to go beyond that and dig into what environment led to the pilot making the error. What was the root cause?

I feel strongly that the dissemination of a proactive enforcement policy is critical to the development of a reporting culture. This requires a significant change in the culture.It also requires involving employees and their representatives in the development of policies. We believe that this encourages buy-in and demonstrates that management is interested in the concerns and needs of their employees. To that end, individuals who report must be protected from prosecution.

A cooperative relationship between management and employees is a positive sign that the safety reporting culture is being formed—a culture that is non-punitive, supported by senior management and based on impartial principles.

Reports must be followed up on and corrective actions must be identified where required or, where there is no corrective action, reasons must be provided. In either case, employees need to know that reporting is worthwhile—and that everyone benefits from it.

I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with a couple of regulatory updates.

Changes to Personnel Licensing Practices

Recent changes in personnel licensing practices adopted by ICAO have been introduced into Annex 1 of the Convention.

The key changes include: the expanded use of simulation; the determination of more relevant training standards; and the creation of a new internationally recognized pilot license called the Multi-crew Pilot License or MPL.

Canada was a key player in the review process that led to these initiatives and Transport Canada endorses these amendments to the ICAO standards, which came into effect in November of 2006.

Emergency Locator Transmitter Regulations

Another task we have undertaken in order to meet international requirements is regarding emergency locator transmitters.

Since February 1, 2009, Cospas-Sarsat, the international organization responsible for the detection of distress signals, ceased monitoring the 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters and now only monitors transmitters operating on the 406 MHz frequency.

ICAO mandated the use of 406 MHz transmitters for all international commercial passenger-carrying operations and has recommended the use of the 406 MHz transmitters for all other aircraft effective February 1, 2009.

Transport Canada is working toward publishing emergency locator transmitter regulations later this year.

What does this mean? Once published, the regulations will require all aircraft used for commercial, private, or government-run operations to be equipped with either a 406 MHz ELT or an alternate means of emergency location approved by Transport Canada.

We will provide for a transition period of two years to allow sufficient time for owners and operators to adhere to the new requirements.

Fatigue Risk Management

Fatigue Risk Management System – or FRMS regulations are expected to be going to Canada Gazette I this fall. In preparation, tools have been developed and various training materials have been designed to meet the business needs of participating organizations and the skills-development needs of their employees in relation to fatigue risk management. 

Improving aviation safety through the management of fatigue-related risks is also a priority for Transport Canada, as well as a key factor of SMS. To this end, the Canadian aviation industry will be required to implement a fatigue risk management system within their SMS. The principal focus of an FRMS is the training of all employees in the management of fatigue as a safety hazard.

Managing human resources has always been a demanding task, and now, more than ever, the industry must acknowledge the unique needs of employees who work outside the Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 schedule.

Non-traditional work-schedule designs do have benefits for both employers and employees. However, decisions made without thorough knowledge of the safety, family, or social impacts of such hours could result in shift patterns that compromise the potential benefits. Appropriate and efficient management of the workforce is crucial to ensuring high levels of work-site productivity and compliance with the regulations while achieving a high level of safety.

So what’s next for us?

Strategic Planning

Over the last fifteen years, Transport Canada Civil Aviation has produced three very strong and very successful strategic plans that have guided our decisions and initiatives and helped mold us into the organization we are today. The third and most recent strategic plan, Flight 2010—A Strategic Plan for Civil Aviation, focused almost completely on safety management systems but also touched on the continuous improvement of the internal management of work and people within our organization.

We are in the early stages of development of our newest 5-year strategic plan. It is expected to review what was accomplished in Flight 2010 and what we believe should be carried forward for the coming years. The goal is to offer the best value for Canadians today and for future generations of Canadians by linking the strategic objectives to the organization’s vision and goals.

SMS in Place

The last decade has been a busy one for us. We’ve accomplished a lot, most notably, commencing the process of regulating safety management systems for aviation organizations. Though most people in the industry and aviation community have come to see the benefits of such a system, we still find those who are resistant to the idea. I want to reiterate here that safety oversight has not been reduced in any way. Rather, we have introduced a more comprehensive safety oversight methodology to complement our existing methods of verifying compliance with regulations. Thorough oversight is performed, drawing from additional regulatory requirements and newly expanded tools.

In the past, Transport Canada inspectors only audited procedures and reviewed records to see if a company met regulations or were not using compliance inspections. Under SMS, inspectors are now taking a more in-depth and thorough look at companies.

This way they are able examine how it operates and speak with the workers to measure how well a company’s procedures identify and address safety hazards before they become a serious safety risk. This allows our inspectors to have more contact with a company’s senior management as well as supervisors and employees than they’ve ever had before. 

Implementing a whole new way of doing business, like what was required with SMS, was much more complex than we first imagined. We learned that the key to successful implementation was to view this approach as an opportunity for continuous improvement rather than as a series of steps with an end point.

We are well on our way to having a mature, sophisticated SMS in place. Regulatory requirements are being met and safety performance of the aviation industry continues to improve. Our goal is to create an environment in civil aviation that provides for strict performance-based regulation and the avoidance of conditions that foster human errors and potential accidents. A solid reporting culture will ensure that we continue to evolve in a positive manner.

I believe that SMS will save lives. Based on the results so far, I have every reason to believe that the outcome will be even more impressive than we originally thought.

Looking Back

These are thrilling times and I am excited to see where the next few years take us. But in order to move forward, we cannot ignore the enormity of what our past has made possible for us here today.

Centennial of Flight

You’ve heard the buzz. You’ve attended the celebrations.You’ve seen the ads and passed by the posters that adorn airport walls. Canada proudly joined an exclusive club in 2009. February 23rd of this year marked the 100th anniversary of the first powered, controlled flight by the Silver Dart in Canada.

Very few nations in the world owe more to flight than Canada. Aviation opened up our great country and remains a critical lifeline to many remote and northern areas who would otherwise be unreachable. This year, we honour the pioneers who opened the skies as a way to connect people and move goods safely and quickly within our large nation and around the world.

We also celebrate the work of the industry and the government – like those you who sit in front of me today – who share the credit for Canada’s aviation strength and success at home and abroad.

To celebrate and properly mark this momentous occasion, our Minister of Transport declared February 23rd, 2009 as the first annual National Aviation Day in Canada. Now, each year, we can officially celebrate past achievements as we open further chapters in aviation excellence.

The pioneers of aviation took risks. Big risks. They had a vision—a dream that guided them to build a contraption and have it take flight. They couldn’t know then if an aeroplane would even lift off the ground, let alone stay in the air. But their perseverance paid off. 

The same holds true for risks we take today. For us, taking a risk includes everything from having the courage to report a safety hazard to changing the culture to support a revolution like SMS.

We need to maintain the momentum:

  • Test conventional approaches
  • Explore new options
  • Be increasingly innovative


As hockey great and Canadian legend Wayne Gretzky has been known to say, ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’. It’s simple. If we didn’t take risks, we’d never evolve. Today, however, we have the comfort of a structured approach to managing those risks.

Progress is about growth and development and continuous improvement. It is about letting our collective ideas take flight.

As we look back at all that we’ve accomplished, we are reminded of the power of persistence and ingenuity. The aviation community has risen to the challenge to make the business of flying safer than ever before and deserving of the trust that the Canadian public continues to put in the safety of air operations in Canada. I am proud of what we have achieved together.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you much success in the remainder of your meeting.

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