A New Layer of Safety—Minimum Safe Altitude Warning (MSAW)

by Bill Crawley, Manager, ATS System Integration, NAV CANADA


Pilots flying in mountainous terrain face a number of dangers, including inadvertently flying below the minimum safe altitude and flying in icing situations where the aircraft cannot reach or maintain a safe altitude. Pilots rely on a number of methods to mitigate the dangers, including on-board ground proximity warning systems (GPWS), published minimum vectoring altitudes, as well as pilot and controller knowledge of terrain. NAV CANADA recently developed a new safety net, the minimum safe altitude Warning (MSAW), that can be used by air traffic services (ATS) to help prevent flight into obstacles and terrain.

How does MSAW assist controllers?
MSAW produces visual and aural cues to controllers for aircraft whose flight vector puts them in a predicted or immediate conflict with a digital model of surrounding terrain or obstacles. The MSAW functionality also includes tools that can be used by the controller to aid aircraft that are not in an MSAW condition, such as an aircraft that is experiencing icing conditions and cannot maintain its current altitude. In such situations, the controller can initiate the display of terrain contours surrounding any point on the display, or they can be dynamically associated with a manoeuvring aircraft, thereby providing tactical terrain information that can be relayed to the pilot.

If an aircraft is in a predicted or immediate terrain/obstacle conflict situation, the controller is alerted by flashing indications in the subject aircraft’s data tag. The data tag is linked to the aircraft’s on-screen target and contains important information about the flight, such as the aircraft call sign, altitude and speed. The MSAW alert indicates:

  • the height of the offending terrain/obstacle;
  • an indication of the “immediate safe altitude,” which is the height of the highest terrain, plus adapted buffers, within a 2-min look ahead of the aircraft and 45° each side of the aircraft’s track; and
  • in the case of a predicted MSAW event, the time to fly to the object.

These visual indications are accompanied by an audible voice alarm, enunciated at the controller’s display, which further helps to draw attention to the MSAW condition.

Collaboration between NAV CANADA and various operators led to the development of compatible controller and pilot procedures. If a controller receives an MSAW notification, specific phraseology will be used to inform the pilot, depending on the nature of the situation. For example, the controller may verify the pilot’s intentions and/or verify the altimeter setting that is in use:



Or, the controller may ask the pilot about their awareness of terrain:


If appropriate, the controller will provide direction based on the displayed MSAW information:



How does MSAW work?
MSAW performs processing of aircraft trajectories against adapted airspace volumes that define airspace to protect around terrain and known obstacles. An adaptable vertical buffer is added to the ceiling of the digital terrain model and to the height of known obstacles to derive the final height that MSAW will protect against. Different vertical buffers can be applied independently to terrain and obstacles.

MSAW employs adaptable horizontal and vertical “look-ahead” time parameters that are used to predict the trajectory of an aircraft. It is possible to adapt different look-ahead values for different areas. For example, it may be desirable to have greater look-ahead times for en route aircraft than for aircraft operating in the vicinity of an airport.

Test phase
The MSAW functionality was initially turned on in the Vancouver, B.C., area control centre (ACC) in June 2008. During this first on-test phase, the MSAW functionality was limited to a 50-NM radius centered on the Prince George, B.C., airport. The other component of MSAW, the on-demand display of background contours (at 1000-ft increments) was enabled at all sectors in the Vancouver ACC. On the afternoon of June 19, 2008, in the Airports Specialty, the MSAW background feature was used to help a Caravan that was in an emergency icing situation. The controller was able to relay terrain clearance information to the aircraft through an American B777, and the aircraft was then able to descend below icing levels and land safely.

The Prince George MSAW test phase has been positive, with only a couple of adjustments required to the MSAW adaptation. The test phase is now complete and the next phase for Vancouver will involve the implementation of the MSAW function in the remainder of the Airports Specialty, excluding small areas immediately around all of the airports except Prince George.

Transport Canada Civil Aviation Kicks Off the Development of a New Strategic Plan

by Richard Berg M.B.A., Senior Risk Assessment Advisor, Aviation Safety Intelligence, Policy and Regulatory Services, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

In the beginning…
Success starts as a dream; an idea or a desire to do something different, create an opportunity, or reduce risks. Success in innovation, in your career, or in managing a business always requires a strategy. The saying “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” implies that you need an action plan to get the results you want. In fact, your plan should include ways to measure progress and success, as well as ways to react to poor results and to continue to improve results. Below, you will find Transport Canada Civil Aviation’s strategic plan, which is what we used to formulate our future priorities.

Why is a strategic plan so important?
Strategic plans are blueprints that help organizations respond to new environments, reduce risks and make the most of opportunities. They are especially important during events such as economic crises or periods of explosive growth. Strategic plans set clear direction that is linked to an organization’s vision and goals. Program activities and their performance measures reflect the amount of risk the organization wishes to take. However, unknown factors and influences beyond the control of the organization will always present some degree of uncertainty for reaching expected outcomes.

For the past five years, Transport Canada Civil Aviation has had Flight 2010 as its strategic plan and is now beginning to develop its new plan looking toward 2015. This plan will embrace the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat government-wide Management Accountability Framework and will reflect government values and ethics. Its goal will be to offer the best value for Canadians today and for future generations of Canadians. Transport Canada plans to publish its new Civil Aviation strategic plan in the spring of 2010.

Six steps of strategic planning
Building a strategic plan involves:

  1. Following the planning process;
  2. Reviewing the organization’s mission and objectives;
  3. Conducting an environmental scan;
  4. Developing a strategy;
  5. Implementing the strategy;
  6. Measuring and controlling performance.

Step 1: Follow the planning process
The first thing we are doing is building our team’s commitment, outlining activities to collect necessary information, and identifying deliverables with their timelines.

Step 2: Review the mission and objectives
This step helps our team fully understand where the organization is, and plan our next steps to achieve our vision. This lays the foundation to form a strategy and helps team members focus on what the customers/stakeholders expect the organization to deliver.

Step 3: Conduct an environmental scan
An environmental scan takes a holistic view of the organization and analyzes what has happened in the past and what is happening now, as well as brainstorming about what could happen in the future. We will use a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis tool to:

  • identify influences that could affect the organization’s bottom line;
  • consider key perspectives, namely: financial (accountability of the public purse); external stakeholders (industry/unions and associations, travelling and non-travelling public, government agencies, international community, and future generations); internal stakeholders (within Transport Canada); as well as growth and improvement, and their associated risks;
  • clearly understand how goods and services are provided; and
  • identify ways to improve safety and add value for the organization.

For an environmental scan to be effective, management has to consider our existing framework and consult with stakeholders to understand their perspectives.

Step 4: Develop a strategy
Develop an overall strategy that aligns and leverages our key strengths to achieve organizational excellence and ensure public trust and confidence. This is also based on the SWOT analysis and the organization’s vision, values, mission, and regulatory, social, and ethical responsibilities. We will use a comprehensive approach to formulate key strategic outcomes that focus on our organization’s highest priorities and highest risks.

This filtering and clustering process can be challenging if many competing interests demand priority status and resources. Management will consider perspectives from key stakeholders and accept the team’s strategy before moving on to the next step.

Step 5: Implement the strategy
Implementing the strategy will include:

  • consulting with subject-matter experts to confirm if the strategic outcomes are realistic;
  • ensuring that the organization’s resources are properly aligned and leveraged to optimize performance and minimize risk; and
  • preparing a communications strategy that informs focus groups of the upcoming changes.

Depending on outcomes, we may need to consult with other stakeholders to ensure that our strategic outcomes positively contribute to our mission and increase stakeholder acceptance.

Step 6: Measure and control performance
Develop a performance measurement framework that describes indicators, their condition, and criteria. These indicators must be measured by qualitative or quantitative measures, such as period, frequency, or public opinion, and be based on the level of risk and severity of the impact attached to them.

When controlling performance, evaluators will use these performance measures to identify the difference between the actual and the desired results. This control process will help them identify if and when corrective action is required.

When management has reviewed and accepted the proposed framework, the strategy will be implemented and posted for all to see.

In summary…
The steps above provide a transparent, systematic approach for developing and implementing our strategic plan. This plan leverages key activities within governmental policies and provides good governance practices. Using the approach described above, Civil Aviation’s 2015 strategic plan will be well designed, effectively direct resources, create the best environment to promote a safe and sustainable air transportation system, and will foster public trust and confidence for today and tomorrow.

Blackfly Air
Click on image above to enlarge.

The CAMC Leads Update of the Human Resource Study of Commercial Pilots in Canada

The CAMC’s Aviation Human Resource Sector Studies Provide Important Safety Data

The Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council

The Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council (CAMC) is the sector council that represents and assists Canada’s aviation and aerospace industry with its human resource strategy, issues, and solutions. With the participation of industry members, the CAMC manages national research studies, and develops and publishes national occupational standards with supporting logbooks (for professional certification) and curricula (for post-secondary training organizations). The CAMC also promotes safety, professionalism, and standardization through national communication with industry; human factors and safety management system (SMS) training; individual certification in 24 occupations; and accreditation of training organization programs. Initially formed through the partnership of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), labour unions, manufacturers, and airlines to develop maintenance-related standards, the CAMC is evolving to expand its partnerships with all sectors of aviation and aerospace. The CAMC is currently involved in several safety-related aviation sector studies, funded by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program.

The Human Resource Study of the Commercial Pilot in Canada-Update and the Airport Occupation Rationalization (AOR) projects are examples of important partnerships underway, which will provide data that will be used to develop a comprehensive picture of Canada’s commercial pilot and airport worker occupations, describing both the current conditions and the likely developments in the future, at the five-, 10-, and 15-year marks. The results of these studies will help us gain an understanding of the human resource issues facing the aviation industry with the implementation of new training requirements and technological advances in training and transportation methodologies. This research will also provide the foundation for the development of professional occupational standards.

These are important studies of the requirement for aviation operators to implement SMS. Under SMS, the management process will have to be documented and followed by all staff. SMS requires the application of quality assurance principles, including continuous improvement and feedback mechanisms. Continuous improvement means a system of review and change that constantly improves a system or process. The CAMC human resource studies will provide Canadian operators with important data that will be needed in the design of company-specific SMS.

Your input is important!
The Human Resource Study of the Commercial Pilot in Canada—Update requires input from a large group of industry stakeholders. Whether you are a senior pilot or a student pilot, your input is important. Understanding the human resource challenges this sector faces is important to the aviation transportation community. Canada also has an important flight-training industry that needs to understand future knowledge and skill requirements for commercial pilots in order to produce properly trained personnel. This research will provide the foundation for the development of national occupational standards for the professional pilot.

Here are some areas that will be covered in this study:

  • Size and scope of Canada’s existing aviation industry in 2009;
  • Overview of geographical locations, sizes and operational requirements of current operators;
  • Overview of services provided, in particular human resource activities, such as training, certification, and standardization;
  • Compilation of statistics on student pilot starts and current training levels;
  • Analysis of pilot hiring trends and associated pay and benefits;
  • Analysis of the international demand for pilots and expected training standards;
  • Measurement of the effect of new regulations, such as the multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) and SMS;
  • Analysis of current best practices for pilot screening and selection;
  • Analysis of the use of simulation and associated instructor competencies; and
  • Development and retention issues for flight instructors.

If you would like to participate in this study, and be eligible to receive a copy of the final report, please contact Glenn Priestley by e-mail at or by phone at 1-800-448-9715, ext. 258; or Wayne Gouveia by e-mail at or by phone at 613-233-7727, ext. 309. For further information on the CAMC, please visit

Spotlight on Bilingual Briefings at Window Emergency Exits

by Suzanne Acton-Gervais, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Cabin Safety Standards, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Preparation for departure is a very hectic time, with many pre-flight checks and tasks to complete. Flight attendants are available during boarding to help stow luggage, answer questions, brief and assist passengers who require special attention, and the list goes on. Behind that crisp uniform and smile, as they perform customer service duties, flight attendants are mainly focused on safety. It really can be physically and mentally challenging. Flight attendants are trained professionals—occupational athletes who are extremely observant. They have a real concern for passenger safety and an ability to pay attention to detail while multi-tasking.

During all of this pre-flight activity, flight attendants are observing passengers for safety and security reasons, including who is sitting in the window emergency exit rows. These passengers are considered able-bodied passengers (ABP). In an emergency, the flight attendant could call on them for help.

Emergency exit briefings
One of the many pre-flight tasks is to brief the passengers seated in the window emergency exit rows. Flight attendants perform this same routine task prior to every flight. But even though it is a routine, flight attendants are listening to, observing, and assessing the passenger while giving instructions. From this they gauge the passenger’s reactions and answer any questions they may have.

Time is critical during an emergency, and passengers seated adjacent to window exits play a very important role in assisting flight attendants during an evacuation. All passengers need to act according to the crew’s verbal commands during the evacuation process. The reaction of passengers seated in a window emergency exit row is even more crucial. The crew commands will vary depending on many factors, such as the nature and location of the emergency, potential fire, and other dangers outside or inside the aircraft. Therefore, it is vital that passengers seated in the window emergency exit rows understand how and when to open specific exits and, perhaps more importantly, when not to open them.

Air operators usually develop procedures for a flight attendant to conduct this window emergency exit briefing orally. The benefit of this one-on-one interaction during the window briefing is that the flight attendant can assess if the passenger has really understood what is expected of them should the need for an evacuation occur. They can also determine if the passenger should indeed occupy this restricted seating.

A flight attendant briefs the passenger seated at an emergency exit row.
A flight attendant briefs the passenger seated at an emergency exit row.

Flight attendants will relocate a passenger before departure if they feel that the individual briefing information has not been clearly understood by the passenger, or if the passenger volunteers that they are not comfortable with, or capable of, operating the emergency exit. In both cases, the relocation is due to non-compliance with the regulatory requirements of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

The challenge of language barriers
But what happens when a flight attendant and passenger do not speak the same language? In 2005, after receiving complaints from members of the travelling public, representatives of the Commissioner of Official Languages requested that window emergency exit briefings be made available in the passenger’s preferred official language, either English or French.

Section 26 of the Official Languages Act  (OLA) of Canada states that every federal institution that regulates persons or organizations with respect to…the health, safety or security of members of the public has the duty to ensure, through its regulation…wherever it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances, that members of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from those persons or organizations…in both official languages.

Since Transport Canada develops policies and regulations that promote the safety and security of the travelling public, while at the same time respecting the linguistic rights of Canadians, it conducted a review to assess the safety implications. After the review, it was suggested that the window emergency exit briefing be available in both official languages and a recommendation was made to amend the CARs.

Looking ahead…
The proposed changes to the CARs will include a requirement for the window emergency exit briefing to be available in the passenger’s preferred official language. The proposal will be presented at the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) meeting in the fall of 2009.

Some passenger relocations seem to be occurring due to the lack of an available briefing in the preferred official language of the person seated in the window emergency exit row. To help mitigate this, air operators should develop procedures to ensure passengers seated in the window emergency exit rows receive the necessary information in their preferred official language.

Transport Canada provides advisory material outlining the abilities that a passenger should meet to be seated in an emergency exit row. You can find this information in the Commercial and Business Aviation Advisory Circular (CBAAC) 0181R—Passenger Seating Requirements. Transport Canada also provides advisory material in Advisory Circular (AC)705-001—Bilingual Briefings at Window Emergency Exits.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots—The Importance of a Correct Address

by Bobbie Rawlings, Aircraft Registration Specialist, Aircraft Registration and Leasing, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

There are several reasons for keeping your mailing address up to date, but the most important reason is safety. Without the correct mailing address, Transport Canada isn’t able to send you safety information. That’s why aircraft owners and permit or licence holders are required to notify Transport Canada of any change of address within seven days after the change(see Canadian Aviation Regulations [CARs]202.51 and 400.07).

The Canadian Civil Aircraft Register is a live database. Changes made in the register are available immediately through the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register Computer System—Evolution (CCARCS-E). CCARCS-E supports several mailings from various divisions of Transport Canada, such as Airworthiness Directives (AD), Annual Airworthiness Information Reports (AAIR), Service Bulletins (SB), and other types of information that pertain to aircraft owners, their aircraft and the safety of flight in Canada. If an aircraft owner does not notify Transport Canada of a change of address, the information in CCARCS-E will be outdated. Various officials and government agencies use CCARCS-E in Canada and around the world. Customs agencies, for instance, frequently check the CCARCS-E to confirm information. Discrepancies between the aircraft documents and the CCARCS-E may result in delays with these agencies.

If an aircraft owner’s mailing address is incorrect, any information mailed to them will not reach them and will be returned to Transport Canada. This means that important safety information will not get to the appropriate destination. This also incurs added costs for mailing and time to locate the aircraft owner and update CCARCS-E with the correct information. Unfortunately, we are noticing an increase in the volume of returned documents due to invalid addresses.

CCARCS-E is available on-line at: From there, you can view your owner/aircraft information for any discrepancies, and then begin the process of notifying Transport Canada with up-to-date information.

With recent enhancements to the General Aviation Web site, clients can submit changes to information, including address changes, and other requests. Pilots and aircraft owners will be interested in this site, as there are services available from the Flight Crew Licensing Division. You are invited to visit our Web site ( and explore how these services can help your information be the most up to date.

2009–2010 Ground Icing Operations Update

In July 2009, the Winter 2009–2010 Holdover Time (HOT) Guidelines were published by Transport Canada. As per previous years, TP 14052, Guidelines for Aircraft Ground Icing Operations, should be used in conjunction with the HOT Guidelines. Both documents are available for download at the following Transport Canada Web site: If you have any questions or comments regarding the above, please contact Doug Ingold at

Date modified: