Guest Editorial

Canada: At the Leading Edge of Aviation Safety

MArtin Eley

Martin J. Eley

Today, aviation is an essential part of Canada. It connects Canadians in large and small communities with one another; it contributes to the health of the economy, and it creates jobs. Canada’s air industry employs more than 90 thousand personnel. We have the second largest civil aviation aircraft fleet in the world. Canada also has the second largest population of licensed pilots—my Director of Medicine enjoys reminding me of this fact. In 2011, more than 70 million passengers flew within Canada’s borders. In that same year, domestic air carriers logged nearly three million flights. Our safety record is one of the best in the world.

Today, we have much to be proud of. We are internationally recognized as world leaders by the International Civil Aviation Organization. With one of the largest civil aviation systems in the world and flights touching down in almost every country across the globe, we cannot help but make an impression. And we don’t take this for granted. We use this expertise and our best practices and lessons learned to enhance aviation safety worldwide for our international partners—but we often share our knowledge with foreign civil aviation programs in order to provide assistance when and where it is needed.

At home and abroad the Government takes pride in our safe, reliable and efficient air transportation system. It is the Minister of Transport’s mandate to put in place and enforce regulations for safe skies. Canadians value this. The Government values this. Although we are doing better than we’ve ever done before—2011 recorded the lowest number of accidents in modern aviation history—this does not mean that we can sit back and relax. As always, continuous improvement remains a top priority. I cannot stress this enough. When it comes to aviation safety, continuous improvement is a way of life.

Traditionally, the program has been guided by long-term strategic plans. More recently, it was decided to pause to take a closer look at our short-term vision, which is reflected in an action plan that was released in April 2012: Improving Canada’s Civil Aviation Safety Program: An Action Plan to April 2013. The plan contains specific activities designed to address issues that have been identified to us by the Auditor General as well as by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to improve the program. One of those areas is in regards to the services we provide to the industry. We are taking action to continue to be able to meet the demands for services in the coming years. As the aviation industry continues to grow, the International Air Transport Association predicts that North American international passenger demand will have grown by 4.9 percent between 2011 and 2014. In order to maintain the most efficient and effective service provision, Transport Canada has developed a tool for compiling reliable data on the current use of resources. With full implementation scheduled for 2013, the new tool will provide performance data on our services and the resources we have dedicated to service provision. This new data will allow us to allocate resources as effectively as possible. Significant progress is being made towards completing this and other commitments for improving our program.

One thing I’ve learned during my career is that, even when taking action and delivering results can take time, it is the act of listening that goes much further in gaining and maintaining trust. I remain committed to solidifying and building on existing relationships with you, the stakeholders in our industry. Meeting with you and discussing important issues provides valuable insight on areas where aviation safety in Canada can be improved. It also provides an opportunity to discuss priorities and strengthen relationships—to find out what’s working and what’s not. This feedback is critical to the success of the Civil Aviation program and the continual advancement of aviation safety in Canada and abroad. Aviation has never been safer and I know that collectively we are all committed to the pursuit of continuous improvement as we look to the future. Working together, we can keep that momentum going.

Martin J. Eley
Director General
Civil Aviation
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