Many of you have probably read some or all of the articles recently published on aviation safety in the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator, and the Record. While Transport Canada's aviation safety experts provided extensive input and participated in interviews, the reporters chose to not use much of the information we provided in the series. Instead, in some cases, the facts were misrepresented and in other cases, the articles did not provide the complete picture on the various issues covered in the series. I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with the facts.

Canada has one of the safest aviation systems in the world. The accident rate continues on the downward trend that it has been on for several years. Transport Canada is committed to not only maintaining, but also improving upon that record and accident prevention continues to be the primary focus of Transport Canada's safety efforts.

The recent increase of reports of occurrences filed through our Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Report System (CADORS), one of numerous reporting systems, is proof that Transport Canada's reporting system is working. Transport Canada uses this data, along with other intelligence information to develop regulations, policies or initiate safety campaigns on issues arising from the analysis of the data to proactively prevent unsafe conditions from reoccurring.

Transport Canada's comprehensive civil aviation safety program is made up of several complementary layers. Each layer provides an additional level of protection to the users of the system and the Canadian public at large. Transport Canada's team of more than 800 inspectors works with Canadian air operators, aircraft manufacturers, airport operators and air navigation service providers to maintain the continuing safety of Canada's aviation system. Oversight activities include issuing certificates, licences, registrations and permits; monitoring compliance with rules through audits, inspections and surveillance; and taking enforcement action when rules are broken. Air operators that are certified by Transport Canada as having met the conditions of a Canadian Air Operator Certificate are considered to be conducting a safe operation – they are either safe or they are not allowed to operate.

Amendments to the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) came into force in June 2005 that require aviation organizations to implement safety management systems (SMS) as part of an approach to improving safety risk management in the aviation sector. SMS is not self-regulation and it is not de-regulation. It is actually an additional layer of safety to enhance the work Transport Canada continues to do through its oversight program. With safety management systems, operators must still comply with the current CARs and standards, and Transport Canada can and will continue to take enforcement action when necessary. While the current oversight program is reactive, a safety management system promotes the proactive identification of issues before they become bigger problems.

Later amendments will extend the applicability of SMS to include smaller operations. Transport Canada has established a trial implementation of SMS with selected small operators to validate current assumptions, recommend change where applicable, and provide a foundation for the next phase of implementation. The objectives of the SMS trial implementation projects are to review and recommend opportunities to improve implementation strategies, guidance material and the current implementation plan for small companies.

Transport Canada has adopted a phased-in approach to the implementation of SMS and it is anticipated that safety management systems will be implemented in all regulated civil aviation organizations by 2010. Transport Canada is considered a world leader in this area and other countries are now following our lead, including the United States and Mexico through our activities with the North American Aviation Trilateral and China through our activities with the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Implementing SMS in aviation represents a cultural change that strengthens partnerships with industry, allows a more efficient use of resources and sets the stage for the next phase of Civil Aviation's strategic framework to meet the safety challenges to 2010.

Merlin Preuss
Director General
Civil Aviation

June 26, 2006

Date modified: