Operating Pressures

Pilots conducting medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) flights are often notified of the patient's condition by the dispatcher or the medical attendants. It is certainly human nature to want to know the patient's condition, however, when a patient's condition is critical, the pilot may feel pressure to take chances that he would not necessarily take if the flight were routine. Ideally, the patient's condition should not influence the pilot's operational decision making. Many pilots are concerned that if they refuse to take a MEDEVAC flight and the patient dies, they would certainly feel responsible and may be held responsible for the death. When the hospital or clinic requests the MEDEVAC flight, there should be no indication to the air operator or pilots of the patient's condition. The decision to take the flight or not would then be based only on operational conditions and would preclude operational decisions being based on information other than what is relevant to flight safety. When the patient is transferred to the aircraft, there should be limited exchange of information about the urgency of the flight.

SR 35 - Recommend that air operators and pilots not be told of the patient's critical condition prior to or during a MEDEVAC flight, only cabin requirements, such as temperature or cabin altitude, should be discussed.

Pilots can be pressured by management to take a flight in poor weather conditions or with an overloaded aircraft or with an unserviceable aircraft fearing dismissal if they don't take the trip. Many pilots are unaware of the Canada Labour Code, Part II or the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Regulations and the methods of recourse that are open to them if they feel they have been unfairly treated by an air operator or if they refuse to work because of dangerous work conditions. Air operators should also be aware of their rights and the rights of their employees as outlined in the Canada Labour Code, Part II and the OSH Regulations.

SR 36 - Recommend Transport Canada promote awareness of the Canada Labour Code, Part II and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) regulations to the aviation industry.

IA 36 - Recommend air operators and pilots educate themselves on the Canada Labour Code, Part II and the OSH regulations.

When a pilot is being paid by the mile or the hour flown, or is being paid only for completed flights, it puts pressure on the pilot to fly as many hours as possible and to complete the flights. These methods of remuneration have a direct and negative effect on the pilot's decision making, especially in seasonal operations where there are only a few weeks or months to work. Some operators offset this pressure by paying their pilots a fixed salary. Others require the client to pay for the flight time if the client wants to just "take a look" at the weather and the pilot doesn't complete the flight.

SR 37 - Recommend Transport Canada investigate a means to require air operators to remunerate pilots in a way that eliminates the operating pressures associated with the method of payment.

IA 37 - Recommend air operators and pilots acknowledge the negative effect that the "pay-by-the-mile" method of payment can have on safe operational decision making. Recommend air operators and pilots make decisions based on safety, not remuneration and that air operators consider other methods of remunerating pilots.

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