According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) statistics, the aviation accident rate in Canada has been in steady decline. More specifically, aviation safety in the air taxi sector has shown marked improvement. These gains are likely a direct result of a number of initiatives bringing an improved safety culture to our industry. Initiativessuch as the Safety of Air Tax Operations (SATOPS)1 -initiated by Transport Canada in 1996- have brought forward changes to the way in which air operators and approved maintenance organizations are conducting their day-to-day operations.

While Canada has an enviable aviation safety record, I can’t help but feel a responsibility in particular to the recreational aviation community. In spite of the fact that over the last decade the number of hours flown by this sector has been steadily decreasing, there has been no downward trend in accidents according to TSB statistics. Ontario is home to over one third of all aviation activity in Canada and nearly 40 percent of the recreational aviation fleet resides within its borders.

In an Aviation Safety Letter (ASL) article written last year2, author Adam Hunt suggests that "...if you [the pilot] are rusty, invest wisely in a checkout with an instructor and make sure you fly regularly to maintain your skills." This conclusion comes from a report into the findings of a review of insurance claims submitted to the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) aviation insurance program. An analysis revealed that 33.9 percent of accidents reviewed were due to skill-based errors and 6.5 percent were the results of poor decision making. Furthermore, 10percent of the accidents surveyed were the result of engine failure, leading the author to question if owners are "...getting their planes properly serviced when they should." Mr. Hunt’s article-in my opinion-delivers sound advice and poses a fair question!

How can we work together on improving safety records? Could the principles of safety management systems (SMS) permeate the flying clubs, the associations and the recreational pilots themselves? Could an initiative such as SATOPS realize the same level of success in this sector? What steps can the recreational aviation community take to significantly improve its safety performance?

Clearly, to improve the safety record of recreational aviation in Ontario and throughout Canada we must focus on some key initiatives. A collaborative environment between the regulator and the industry is essential. Improving safety can only be achieved if the recreational aviation community is able to identify the issues and work on solutions between themselves and with Transport Canada.

In Ontario, I have had opportunities over the last three years to attend Monthly Aviation Safety Seminars (MASS), where my regional staff meet regularly with 150 to 200recreational pilots and owners to discuss exactly these kinds of issues, and share best practices. An inspector has been identified as the point of contact at each Transport Canada Centre (TCC) in Ontario and I have assigned one of our superintendents as the regional champion for recreational aviation. The Ontario Region has created an e-mail address specifically for the use of this community ( of which many people have taken advantage. These are just a few examples of ways in which we are trying to engage the recreational aviation community.

Let’s work on this together. Talk to your local TCC or send your suggestions directly through the Civil Aviation Issues Reporting System (CAIRS) at Your suggestions, comments and issues will be viewed as opportunities to build a more collaborative relationship between yourselves and Transport Canada Civil Aviation. Improvements in the safety culture of your community can only happen with your participation.

Michael R. Stephenson
Regional Director
Civil Aviation
Ontario Region



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