Guest Editorial

Dave Turnbull
Dave Turnbull

As one of the more recent directors appointed to the Civil Aviation Management Executive Board (CAMX), I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this issue of the Aviation Safety Letter (ASL). Let me start by explaining the basics of what the National Aircraft Certification Branch (NAC) does. In doing so, I will also capture the main duties of our engineering colleagues in the Aircraft Certification offices in the regions.

Most of the work done by NAC is related to the approval of aeronautical product designs and modifications to those designs, by evaluating them against a set of design standards as required by regulations. Once operating, the continuing airworthiness of those products is overseen, and corrective actions are mandated in cases where design deficiencies that appear in service pose a threat to safety. NAC is also heavily involved in the evolution of appropriate means and methods of compliance with the design standards, and is the core source of the technical input required to develop new and amended versions of the design standards and associated guidance material. NAC is part of an international community and is involved in various working groups and committees that collaborate to continuously adapt and develop design standards and the interpretation of these standards.

Each design project undertaken by an applicant follows a process unique to a company’s design methodology. Evaluating a design or design change against the standards is unique each time. It requires many highly subjective technical assessments, and as such, it requires expert flight test and engineering knowledge and skills normally acquired through significant experience in evaluating designs against international standards. NAC and Regional Aircraft Certification personnel, along with the ministerial delegate community across the country, have this expertise, and the ongoing interaction with applicants and delegates on these projects is essential to remaining current with evolving technology and approaches to aircraft design.

Over the past several years, Transport Canada Civil Aviation’s (TCCA) oversight of the aviation industry has been gradually moving to a systems-based approach, based on the existence of new regulations requiring certain segments of the industry to have an approved safety management system (SMS). More recently, NAC have been busy working on determining how a company’s SMS can include the design process, and how the oversight approach can evolve into a more systems-based approach. This is in line with Transport Canada’s (TC) move to strengthen the way it conducts oversight of Canada’s entire aviation industry. This gives rigor to the way TC manages safety, as well as to their own surveillance model.

Oversight (in the context of aircraft certification) is defined in TC’s Program Activity Architecture (PAA) as, “service to and surveillance of the aeronautical product design industry”. The service elements related to aircraft certification (such as establishing appropriate standards, agreeing to acceptable means and methods of compliance, and issuing approvals) are fundamental and will need to remain after the introduction of SMS to the design side of the business. The surveillance elements today consist of a risk-based Level of Involvement (LOI) policy where TCCA engineers interact with ministerial delegates during the certification projects, plus periodic audit activities (outside the context of specific projects) of delegated entities, as well as continuing airworthiness monitoring of the Canadian fleet. When an organization’s SMS includes the design piece, it is the audit side of NAC’s surveillance model, as well as how the lessons learned from continuing airworthiness surveillance is fed back into the design SMS that will have to evolve. Project-based service and surveillance will need to live on in parallel and in balance with a new oversight model that pertains to the company’s new SMS design elements. Current thinking is that neither a purely systems-based nor a purely project-based oversight model will suffice.

To enable this evolution in oversight in the area of aeronautical product design, organizations will need to hold a new type of operational certificate, similar to an air operator certificate (AOC). A company’s overall SMS will include a design assurance system that provides a level of certainty that the designs are safe, and that the company will make sound and defendable determinations of compliance. It also means that the design industry will be accountable to TC for the quality of these findings and the continuing airworthiness of approved products.

Issuing this new kind of operational certificate will require NAC and its regional engineering colleagues to provide new and additional services and surveillance related to a company’s SMS. Some can be derived from the existing delegation system that has been in place in Canada since 1968. Others will be taken from other operational areas of aviation where SMS is already in place. The systems approach to the design side of the organizations is aimed at promoting a sound safety culture through robust design assurance processes and a positive reporting culture.

Clearly, there are many challenges ahead; however, these are also exciting times and I look forward to working together to improve how we do business. Striking the proper balance between systems-based oversight and certification project-based oversight will be crucial and will require close attention. In the meantime, the NAC continues to carry out its mandate, working directly with industry and international colleagues to support a very strong and ever-demanding Canadian aeronautical design and manufacturing industry. According to the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, Canada exports over 80 percent of its aeronautical products in an industry sector that makes up nearly 5 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. Getting speedy approvals from our foreign markets depends directly on the quality of our own approval process. Our ultimate goal is to improve safety, which is a goal that we share with the industry.

Dave Turnbull
Director, National Aircraft Certification Branch
Transport Canada Civil Aviation

2010 David Charles Abramson Memorial (DCAM)
Flight Instructor Safety Award

Left to right: Wayne Gouveia, Board of Directors, ATAC; William Sutherland; Jane Abramson.

Left to right: Wayne Gouveia, Board of Directors, ATAC; William Sutherland; Jane Abramson.

The recipient of the 2010 DCAM Flight Instructor Safety Award is Mr. William Sutherland, Manager of Corporate Safety & Quality, Moncton Flight College (MFC), Dieppe, New Brunswick. The award was presented to William on November 8, 2010, by award founders Jane and Rikki Abramson at the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) Annual General Meeting and Tradeshow in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“It goes this year to a young man whose achievements to date and future potential shine full of promise as a beacon for the future of aviation safety in Canada” said Mrs. Abramson. “His strong leadership, integrity, technical competence and commitment to excellence were instrumental in MFC successfully achieving the performance criteria required for certification as an Approved Training Organization (ATO) authorized to conduct flight training in Canada. The requirement to operate a flight training organization to the exacting ATO standards is an essential pre-requisite for MFC and its partner, CAE, to be able to conduct the first Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) training program in North America.”

The annual DCAM Award promotes flight safety by recognizing exceptional flight instructors in Canada and has brought much recognition and awareness to the flight instructor community. Recognition of excellence within this segment of our industry upholds a safety consciousness that will hopefully be passed on for many years to come.

The deadline for nominations for the 2011 award is September 13, 2011. For details, please visit

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