Flight Operations


Ahead to the Past-A Little History

by TomFudakowski, Chief, ANS Operations Oversight, National Operations, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

The old saying "the more things change, the more they are the same" probably has extensive application with everything to do with aviation. Yes, we have made huge leaps in technologies, but the underlying principles remain the same. Our domestic airspace structure has evolved over the past five decades in concert with increasing air traffic volumes. Nevertheless, controlled airspace in southern portions of domestic low-level airspace represents a miniscule volume of the total-not surprising, at least in the Canadian context, when you consider that the global aircraft fleet could probably be contained in a cubic nautical mile of airspace. That comparison is no doubt a little far-fetched given that aircraft are not stationary and move in four dimensions. For that reason, the class of airspace is tailored to traffic densities and diversity of operations.

see and avoid

When you operate in visual meteorological conditions(VMC),
the principle of "see and avoid" has primacy

The term controlled airspace in and of itself may mislead some people. Too often, it tends to be associated exclusively with air traffic control(ATC)when in fact controlled airspace has two separate meanings. The more important association should be with regulated airspace, that is, airspace in which specific operating rules and minima apply. The ATCfunctions may apply, but only to flights operating under IFR rules. The VFR flight, on the other hand, may not be subject to any ATCrequirements, but flight visibility and horizontal and vertical distances from cloud apply. By the same token, uncontrolled airspace simply means there is no ATC separation service provided, but the rules of flight are regulated and must be complied with, as minimal as they are. All of this is naturally in the interest of safety and collision avoidance. When you operate in visual meteorological conditions(VMC), the principle of "see and avoid" has primacy, albeit the responsibility shifts to ATC as you move up the airspace classification scale. Nonetheless, self-preservation would suggest that an attentive look out for other traffic is wise under any situation.

For those reasons, particularly when operating in ClassE or lower classification airspace, we've always had operating rules to mitigate the risks of collision. The universal hemispheric rules regarding proper altitude for direction of flight is a case in point. We started out with the rule of odd or even altitudes when in level flight for bothVFR and IFR operations. There was, however, a caveat that required a VFRflight to cross a controlled airway at an angle of 45° or greater. Otherwise, if you were crossing an airway at a lesser angle or actually navigating along the airway, you cruised at the odd or even plus 500ft altitudes. All this made eminently good sense since IFRoperations tended to be concentrated at the lower levels and cruising speeds were not that divergent. Then, as higher performance aircraft were introduced into service and operating altitudes rose into the teens, block airspace was introduced. A VFRflight required the filing of a controlled VFR(CVFR)flight plan and an ATCclearance to operate along airways. This requirement applied above 9500ft above sea level(ASL)east of 114°west and 12 500ft ASL west of this meridian. With the increase in controlled airspace and airways, it became apparent that the odd or even plus 500ft airway crossing requirements were no longer practical nor met their intended purpose. This resulted in the cruising altitude order requiring all aircraft, irrespective of the mode of flight, to maintain an odd or even altitude when in level flight. Fortunately, by that time, larger and ever-higher speed aircraft had migrated to the high teens and flight levels and the VFR operations were left the lower strata to themselves. Interestingly, as traffic volumes continued to grow, there was a need to revisit some of these rules and adapt them to existing realities. One of those realities was harmonization with our neighbours to the south, which created the VFR rule for flight above 3 000ft above ground level(AGL)of odd or even plus 500ft altitudes.

Airways may not have been very crowded, but some wise operating practices were applied. When flying along an airway, particularly after the introduction of VHF omnidirectional ranges(VOR), you always shaded slightly right of centreline. Prior to that, navigation aids did not offer the level of accuracy to generate great concern as their cross-track error provided lots of dispersion along the routes. With the four-course low frequency ranges(LFR), an intersection formed by two courses could cover a couple of counties. In fact, the width of the courses allowed ATC to climb or descend aircraft in opposite direction by instructing the aircraft to maintain well right of the course-an approved separation criterion. Putting this into today's environment would make some folks' hair stand on end. In today's navigation-rich environment, with precision measured in meters, if not centimeters, and point-to-point navigation capability, some of these same operating practices are formally returning. On the NorthAtlantic, with daily unidirectional tracks published to take best advantage of minimum crossing times, off sets of up to 2 NM are now a standard operating practice. As you can see, in some instances, we have come full circle.

Airport control zones evolved over time. Some may be surprised that a control zone was not automatically associated with ATC service. Control referred to regulating the weather limits required to conduct VFRoperations, which was really analogous to what we know as mandatory frequency(MF)areas, except that radio communication or position reporting was not a requirement. Control zones with operating control towers, on the other hand, were there for the purpose of airport control service and simply controlled aircraft and vehicle movements on runways and taxiways. Air traffic controllers did not perse control movements in a control zone; that came later. You could fly no radio(NORDO)into an international airport without pre-arrangement, execute proper circuit joining procedures and wait for the green light. That obviously did not last and radio communication became a mandatory requirement, but only at those locations whose control zone was designated as a PositiveCZ.

The proliferation of various categories of airspace and nomenclature, each with differing operating rules, was not conducive to easy comprehension. Canada developed- and was in fact the first state to introduce-the now universally accepted airspace classification scheme. Irrespective of what a particular airspace may be referred to, it is its classification fromAtoG that governs the rules of conduct. Thus a control zone simply describes a volume of airspace around an aerodrome, or likewise, a terminal control area(TCA), but its classification governs the operating rules.

This is all food for thought when operating in today's increasingly complex airspace structure. But, that fundamental principle of maintaining vigilance and watching for other traffic applies ever more today than in the past. No matter what class of airspace you are operating in, a clear understanding of rules and alertness may save you anxious moments if not more.

Keep a sharp look out and watch for other aircraft.

Instrument Approach Non-Conformance at Uncontrolled Aerodromes Within Controlled Airspace

by Mike Paddon, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, System Safety, Atlantic Region, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

A recent search of the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System(CADORS)database indicates that there may be some confusion or misinterpretation of procedures associated with adherence to instrument approach clearances, as issued by air traffic control(ATC), to aircraft that are conducting approaches into uncontrolled aerodromes that lie within controlled airspace. Class E airspace, for example, is controlled airspace for IFR traffic, yet, in a number of instances, aircrews have deviated from established approach procedures. The following accounts are representative of events that have been captured in the CADORS.

The twin turbo-prop commuter aircraft enroute from____to____was cleared for a straight-in instrument landing system(ILS)XX approach via____. The pilot received and read back the clearance correctly. The pilot deviated from the clearance without ATC authorization, commencing a right 360° turn after crossing through the approach to RunwayXX and then rejoining final approximately four miles from the threshold...

The arriving aircraft was cleared for a straight-in back course RunwayYY approach via ___. The pilot accepted the clearance and was switched over to the flight service station(FSS). Ten minutes later the pilot turned right toward the beacon thus cutting inside the specified fix by six miles without advising the FSS or requesting a change to the clearance.

The arriving aircraft deviated from the approach clearance(straight-in back course RunwayZZ via the intermediate fix [IF])without prior approval. There was departing traffic on Runway ZZ...

Clearly, any such deviations from approach clearances may present a hazard in terms of potential for conflict with other arriving and departing traffic. It is incumbent upon crews to contact ATC and request a clearance amendment rather than acting unilaterally to expedite or otherwise modify the approach profile. Under circumstances where some doubt or confusion may exist regarding an approach clearance, as issued and accepted, timely and concise clarification with the ATC unit is appropriate. If, after switching from ATC to a mandatory frequency, an approach clearance amendment is desired, a request can be communicated to the flight service specialist who can then facilitate the request with ATC.

Canadian Aviation Regulation(CAR)602.127(1)states the following:

"Unless otherwise authorized by the appropriate air traffic control unit, the pilot-in-command of an IFR aircraft shall, when conducting an approach to an aerodrome or a runway, ensure that the approach is made in accordance with the instrument approach procedure."

In an effort to dispel any misinformation that may exist, an extract from section RAC9.3 of the Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual(TCAIM)is reproduced below:


....When an approach clearance is issued, the published name of the approach is used to designate the type of approach if adherence to a particular procedure is required. If visual reference to the ground is established before completion of a specified approach, the aircraft should continue with the entire procedure unless further clearance is obtained.




The number of the runway on which the aircraft will land is included in the approach clearance when a landing will be made on a runway other than that aligned with the instrument approach aid being used.



If the pilot begins a missed approach during a circling procedure, the published missed approach procedure as shown for the instrument approach just completed shall be flown. The pilot does not use the procedure for the runway on which the landing was planned.

At some locations during periods of light traffic, controllers may issue clearances that do not specify the type of approach.



When such a clearance is issued by ATC and accepted by the pilot, the pilot has the option of conducting any published instrument approach procedure. In addition, the pilot also has the option of proceeding by the route so cleared by ATC in a previous clearance, by any published transition or feeder route associated with the selected procedure, or by a route present position direct to a fix associated with the selected instrument approach procedure. Pilots who choose to proceed to the instrument procedure fix via a route that is off an airway, air route or transition are responsible for maintaining the appropriate obstacle clearance, complying with noise abatement procedures and remaining clear of Class F airspace. As soon as practicable after receipt of this type of clearance, it is the pilot's responsibility to advise ATC of the type of published instrument approach procedure that will be carried out, the landing runway and the intended route to be flown.

This clearance does not constitute authority for the pilot to execute a contact or visual approach. Should the pilot prefer to conduct a visual approach(published or non-published)or a contact approach, the pilot must specifically communicate that request to the controller.

Upon changing to the tower or FSS frequency, pilots should advise the agency of the intended route and published instrument approach procedure being carried out.

The pilot should not deviate from the stated instrument approach procedure or route without the concurrence of ATC because such an act could cause dangerous conflict with another aircraft or a vehicle on a runway...."

When operational pressures enter the equation and are compounded by a less than complete understanding of the approach clearance, the potential for conflict is increased. If in doubt, communicate any concerns and seek clarification or amendment from the appropriate air traffic services(ATS)unit.

Operations Specifications:An Inconvenient Truth?

by Rob Freeman, Program Manager, Rotorcraft Standard, Operational and Certification Standards, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Similarly, the actual flying of helicopters is the best part of aviation [author's opinion]. A technically challenging flight, skillfully and safely completed provides its own rewards and satisfaction. For older, grumpier pilots working on that fourth marriage, in-flight may be the only time you will ever see their pre-alimony smile.

The understanding of the legal considerations associated with flying is considerably less fun. A more cynical person might suspect that ground-bound administrators invented flight regulations out of jealousy, to detract from an otherwise perfect occupation.

What follows here is a quick review of the less pleasant but critical aspects of understanding air operator certificates(AOC), operations specifications(OpsSpecs), and related documents, and operating within that regulatory framework. It will be a brush up for most, thankfully, but perhaps a wake-up call for others. All the same, everybody listen up. Your friends at Transport Canada(TC)have determined that it is fundamental need-to-know stuff for your holistic aviation well-being.

The issue
Through post-incident analysis, it is apparent that some operators and their employees are not aware of their obligations associated with the issuance of theirAOC.

Sample questions badly answered include the following:

  • "What are the limits and conditions of the OpsSpecs that apply to your operations? How would you determine this information?"
  • "Do you know when you have to apply for an authorization? What is the procedure?"
  • "Do you fully understand the Canadian Aviation Regulations(CARs), the Commercial Air Service Standards(CASS), and definitions that are tied to your OpsSpecs, authorizations or exemptions by reference?"
  • "Are there any company standard operating procedures(SOPs), training issues, or possibly aircraft limitations that need to be addressed in complying with specific conditions listed in your OpsSpecs? How is this handled in your company?"

The contract or Them and us
As everyone involved in the helicopter business should know, the AOC is the foundation for commercial air operations. Tied to the licence issued by the Canadian Transportation Agency(CTA), these documents form the contractual basis between the Government of Canada and the AOC holder for permitting commercial air operations. That's right-it's a legal contract.

Attached to theAOC are various OpsSpecs that define the types of services offered and include conditions that must be met. OpsSpecs are normally issued for recurring activities. For one-time or limited requirements, authorizations may be issued in lieu of OpsSpecs. Exemptions and approvals are other tools available to TC to allow operators' specialized activities.

All of these legal instruments have a common theme: permitting the operation while ensuring that safety and the public interest are served. By issuing these documents, TC is confirming that the appropriate risk assessment and due diligence exercises have been completed and that the operator has been deemed competent and capable of operating within the regulatory limitations and imposed conditions.

Be aware that the Regulations, Standards and definitions are documents and terms written to comply with federal legal phrasing criteria, and as such, may be misinterpreted by the layman as to intent or application. They have to be read fully and in context, and simple words such as "and" or "or" completely change the obligations imposed. If you are not certain of the ramifications of any regulatory text, ask someone who knows for their advice-preferably your principal operations inspector(POI).

The contract or Your obligations
For the operator, all of these documents are contractual obligations. Limits and conditions specified therein must be met at all times for the operation to go forward as intended and legally authorized. And just like a business contract, there are penalties and unpleasant consequences associated with non-performance.

Operators who do not meet the conditions specified when conducting OpsSpecs or authorized work place themselves in great peril if an accident should occur. Legally, they are in no man's land and may have lost the protection afforded by the authorizing documents. A clear understanding of this point is critical. If you fail to observe all of the conditions of the AOC, the OpsSpecs, the exemptions or other related documents, you are on your own if bad things happen. Ignorance of the requirements is not a viable defence.

Pilots, crew members, maintainers, and others, acting as agents of the operator, have a legal obligation to conduct their work in conformance with these same restrictions and limitations. Failure to do so jeopardizes not only the safety of the operations, but may also leave the whole organization open to civil or criminal lawsuits, actions taken under the Aeronautics Act including fines and loss of personal licences, or suspension of the AOC itself.

Fortunately, the path to enlightenment is straightforward. Take a careful look at your AOC and OpsSpecs to start with. Make a list of all the obligations and conditions related to each OpsSpecs so you can tick them off when verified as complied with. Make sure that you thoroughly understand the applicable regulatory references. Operational managers, above all, have a duty of care under the CARs to ensure that they establish and oversee a safe operation. They need to inform, provide for training, and direct the crews concerning their obligations. The crews must take the initiative to comply fully in carrying out their duties and responsibilities.

If you have any questions, you can always contact your regional POI. TC has a large pool of legal expertise, and clarifications or interpretations can be drafted or verified fairly quickly. At the risk of being annoying and repetitive, the best proactive protection for an operator is to be fully cognizant of the conditions and limitations attached to any authority issued by TC, and then abide by them.

Having an incident is traumatic enough. Having an incident and then finding out that you were in violation of some significant aspect(s)of your AOC is a double whammy. It can really ruin your day.

Blackfly Air
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