Interim Report and Validation of Findings

Summary records were taken highlighting the issues discussed and the solutions generated by the participants. When the information gathering phase was completed, the Task Force met in Ottawa in March 1997 to consolidate and categorize the input from the meetings, mail-in comments, phone calls and Internet inputs. The Task Force used the issues and the proposed solutions to develop recommendations and an outline of the body of the interim report. In order to ensure transparency and an unbiased point of view, it is important to note that at this stage, the issues and the proposed solutions have not been subjected to a detailed analysis. Not all concerns raised in the industry consultation sessions generated a recommendation. However, all of the comments were provided to the appropriate branch of Transport Canada, NAV CANADA and the Transportation Safety Board for information and possible action.

The SATOPS Terms of Reference (see Appendix A) stated that the final report would be published by March 31, 1997. At the Steering Committee meeting held on March 20, 1997, it was agreed that the final report would be of more value if the Task Force findings and recommendations were distributed to various branches within Transport Canada, NAV CANADA, and the Transportation Safety Board for review, and if deemed appropriate at this stage, for response. Some of those concerned provided preliminary feedback to several of the findings and recommendations, while others preferred not to provide any feedback until a full detailed analysis could be conducted. This analysis would not take place until after the release of the final report, hence, during the implementation phase of the project. The implementation phase of the project will include all official responses and an action plan.

To validate the findings of the SATOPS Task Force with the Air Taxi industry, all commercial pilots, Air Taxi operators and Aircraft Maintenance Engineers received a booklet entitled "SATOPS Feedback" in September 1997. This booklet contained background information about the SATOPS project but most importantly it contained the comments and concerns expressed by industry during the consultation sessions. This feedback to industry was an important part of the project, especially for those people who attended a meeting and expressed concern that the project would falter as do many government initiatives. It provided people who attended a consultation session with an update on the progress of the Task Force and with information about the comments and concerns expressed in the other meetings across Canada. For people who were unable to attend a meeting, it provided information about the project and an opportunity to comment to the Task Force. To date, 457 responses have been received.

This feedback confirms the comments and observations that were made in the industry meetings. The Task Force was not just interested in hearing about the operating problems and safety concerns from the Air Taxi industry. Many companies and individuals are quite proactive about safety even though company safety programs are not a regulatory requirement for Air Taxi operations. The Task Force wanted to hear what people do to promote safe operations in their company.

Here are some of the comments received:

  • Regular pilot/management meetings where anything is up for discussion.
  • We do not take any "shortcuts" as far as maintenance and repairs to our aircraft are concerned.
  • I will not let deadlines, etc. affect my weather go-no go decision.
  • Our company has embarked on a safety program emphasizing 4 crucial building blocks:
    • Hire the right people - references, attitude.
    • Employee orientation - tell employees what the company expects.
    • Training - emphasis on safety aspects of training
    • Better operational control through two-way communication.
  • Avoid complacency with GPS navigation - new hires only allowed to use maps.
  • Personal salary based on experience - not mileage!
  • Legal loads only - extra cargo taken in another aircraft results in more revenue.
  • Encourage attendance at safety seminars and reading of safety material.
  • New low-time pilots are only allowed to fly good weather, light load trips.
  • All pilots encouraged to discuss any safety problems, but the brass has to be in tune.
  • Company safety meetings and maintenance Quality Assurance meetings are held regularly.
  • Our company has ongoing human factors training. As well, they are trying to change the "competitive attitude" among the pilots by equalizing flight assignments, instituting daily minimum flight pay for some of the less desirable jobs.
  • My company keeps its aircraft in tip top condition which helps promote employee pride and team spirit.
  • When it comes to safety in a small company - it's all in hiring people with the right attitude. Attitude is more important than hours in the log.
  • Management supported "Do not feel right - not flying decisions".
  • Safety awards (usually trips) are given for suggestions for safer operations as well as monetary awards for years of accident-free service.
  • My company has included PDM training, inadvertent IMC training and expanded safety awareness training for all employees.
  • Iteach my students the importance of following the regulations and respecting their own limitations.

Many of the Task Force recommendations are concerned with communication. Communication between Transport Canada and the industry. Communication between pilots of the same and of other companies. Communication within the company: owner; president; operations manager; chief pilot; line pilots; AMEs; dispatchers; swampers; etc. Communication between air operators. Communication between the air operator's management and pilots and their customers. Open communication is necessary to identify concerns and problems and promotes the climate necessary for candid observations, suggestions and solutions.

Company management has to be convinced of the benefits of operating safely. Increased profitability is certainly an incentive for any business. Promoting safety and subsequently decreasing the number of incidents does increase the bottom line. Management's commitment to safe operating practices is essential to the long term viability of the company. Consider the added costs of an incident or accident - costs to repair the aircraft, down time when the aircraft isn't being used to generate revenue, down time for the pilot who isn't generating revenue for himself or the company, increased insurance rates, loss of goodwill of the customers, demoralized staff, etc. When the fully allocated costs of an incident or accident are tallied, it is clear that safety really is good business.

When an accident occurs, often the pilot is the only one held accountable. While the pilot may be at fault for having made a poor decision or series of decisions that led to the accident, other questions have to be asked... Were there any systemic problems in the company? What was management's role in the accident? What did management do to prevent the accident? What is management doing to prevent a recurrence? Management must be accountable for the safety of the day-to-day operations. When management is held responsible for an accident, they will become more proactive in promoting safe operating practices.

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