Annual Meeting Report 2007

1.0  Introduction

2.0  Objectives

3.0  Program and Feedback


The Canadian Aviation Executives’ Safety Network (CAESN) was established by Transport Canada in 2003 as an annual assembly for Canadian aviation leaders. The Network’s objective is to enhance dialogue amongst key aviation industry stakeholders to identify aviation safety challenges and mitigation strategies, and to provide a forum for dialogue regarding the viability and direction of the aviation industry in Canada.

There have been four previous meetings of CAESN:

  • An inaugural meeting was held in Montreal on April 14, 2003. Key discussion topics included safety management systems (SMS), economic impacts, and security.
  • A subsequent meeting took place in Toronto on April 19, 2004. The focus of this session was on safety management systems and security, and the economic climate of the industry.
  • The third meeting occurred in Vancouver on April 18, 2005. Discussion topics included Transport Canada Civil Aviation’s strategic plan (Flight 2010), self-regulation, security management systems, and international air policy.
The fourth meeting took place in Halifax on April 24, 2006.  Two key topics dominated the discussions – alternative regulatory schemes and opportunities for information sharing.


The objectives of the latest CAESN meeting, held on April 30, 2007, in Gatineau, Quebec, were to:

  • Discuss the business case for safety management systems; and
  • Explore how best to communicate risks and safety performance.

Over 90 delegates attended the meeting. These delegates represented the aviation industry (airlines, airports, and aircraft operators), air navigation providers, manufacturers, industry associations, and senior government officials.

Program and Feedback

The 2007 meeting program included plenary sessions and breakout group discussions to deliberate the meeting’s two main topics. 

Opening Remarks

The meeting was called to order by the facilitator, Mr. Paul Ouimet, Executive Vice President of InterVISTAS Consulting Inc. Delegates were welcomed by Mr. Franz Reinhardt, Director Policy & Regulatory Services, Civil Aviation for Transport Canada and listened to opening remarks by Marc Grégoire, Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety & Security for Transport Canada. Mr. Grégoire touched on the following topics:

  • Moving Forward: Changing the Safety and Security Culture (Transport Canada’s strategic plan for safety management);
  • Adopting an accountability culture;
  • Transport Canada’s global SMS initiatives; and
  • Canada’s 2006 aviation accident performance.

2006 Meeting Review

Following the opening remarks, Mr. Ouimet reviewed the main discussion topics and key findings from the 2006 meeting.  Mr. Don Sherritt, Director, Standards for Transport Canada, then updated the meeting delegates on Transport Canada’s SMS Implementation Program and provided details regarding the SMS Small Operator Pilot Project and SMS Implementation for Airports.  Ms. Judy Rutherford, Director, National Organization Transition Implementation Project (NOTIP), Civil Aviation for Transport Canada, reviewed the phase-in program for NOTIP. Lastly, Mr. Reinhardt updated meeting delegates on the proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act, contained in Bill C-6, which are now before the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure & Communities.

Aviation Industry Update

Mr. Ouimet delivered a presentation to meeting delegates outlining the current aviation industry environment and highlighted the key safety and security issues facing air transport markets, the airline industry and airports. The presentation set the context for the day’s discussions.

Making the SMS Business Case

Dr. Peter Gardiner, President & CEO of the Southern California Safety Institute, delivered a presentation on making the SMS business case. Dr. Gardiner identified the key challenges to successful SMS implementation and noted that motivations for safety management are often externally-driven (e.g. legal requirements and the financial ramifications of safety failures).  He advised delegates that the business case for SMS must be made to senior managers to ensure that an SMS program receives the necessary funding and support required for successful implementation.  The business case’s message should be framed in terms/references that align with senior management performance objectives (e.g. return on investment, loss reduction, cost savings, etc.).

Dr. Gardiner recommended that a blueprint for SMS organizational components and risk control processes be created and used to ensure that the SMS program is woven into an organization’s strategic planning and budgeting processes.  This blueprint should:

  • Show who does what, where, when, and how in the organization (SOPs and job descriptions);
  • Provide each organizational component with the budget for who is doing what, where, when, and how;
  • Include a hazard ID system, training system, and reporting mechanism in each area of the organization; and
  • Integrate all pieces.

The business case for each safety program should include:

  • Description of the program;
  • Current annual losses;
  • Projected program cost (direct and indirect costs);
  • Projected savings; and
  • Projected return on investment.

Dr. Gardiner informed the delegates that a decision support database for the collection of data is critical to successful SMS implementation.  The database should record:

  • Each occurrence of each category of loss (e.g., FOD in engine, hull damage by jetway, bird strike on windshield, etc.), including date, time, and location;
  • Dollar loss for each occurrence including date, time, and location; and
  • Dollar loss for indirect costs (e.g. plane out of service).

Dr. Gardiner also observed that a persuasive business case is:

  • Easy to explain;
  • Not controversial;
  • Does not cost a fortune;
  • Requires as little organizational change as possible; and
  • Most likely to demonstrate success.

Dr. Gardiner concluded by informing delegates of some the potential benefits of SMS implementation:

  • Insurance premium reductions;
  • Greater involvement with safety issues;
  • Retention of corporate knowledge;
  • Safer working environment;
  • Less damage/longer operational life of equipment; and
  • Enhanced long term stability of operations.

How to Best Communicate Risks and Safety Performance (panel discussion)

A five-member panel provided meeting delegates with some broad perspectives on the challenges related to communicating risks and safety performance, and successful initiatives which have already been implemented within the aviation industry. 

  • Dan Adamus, President of the Canada Board of the Air Line Pilots Association, explained that, by and large, Canada’s pilots endorse the implementation of SMS. He noted, however, that a key issue going forward will be for pilots to develop confidence in the system.
  • Dan Burns, Director of Product Integrity and Chief Airworthiness Engineer for Bombardier Aerospace, explained the company’s scorecard approach to internal communication which meets the organization’s need for consistent and reliable data collection.  He also highlighted the importance of integrating operators and suppliers into the communication cycle to increase the effectiveness of the SMS program.
  • Kathy Fox, Vice President, Operations for NAV CANADA, explained ARGUS, the organization’s confidential safety reporting system, to delegates and the role that safety communication plays in realising NAV Canada’s safety philosophy.
  • Michael DiLollo, Senior Vice-President, Technical Operations and Customer Service for Air Transat, discussed the company’s balanced approach to communicating risk and the tool used by the airline (Management Control System).
  • Brett Patterson, Director, Operations Safety & Planning for the Vancouver International Airport Authority, explained the consultative approach, combined with stakeholder committees and working groups, which the organization uses to communicate risk to the hundreds of organizations and employees that interact within the airport’s airside environment.

Following the panel discussions, meeting delegates engaged in break-out discussions to deliberate the following questions:

  • In the partnership between Transport Canada and industry, how can we best bring forward our safety message to the public?
  • What can Transport Canada do better to promote industry’s safety record?
  • What can organizations do better?

Key observations provided during the plenary are summarized below.

Question #1 – In the partnership between Transport Canada and industry, how can we best bring forward our safety message to the public?

While some delegates did not believe that there were any significant public relations issues, other meeting participants provided the following suggestions:

  • Transport Canada and industry should begin by communicating regularly with the public in order to capture their interest.
  • A consistent message needs to be developed and communicated. In particular:
    • The industry’s safety record and achievements should be recognized and promoted.
    • System safety should be at forefront of future messages/communication (Canada should be promoted as having one of the safest aviation systems in the world).
    • Focus should be given to the industry’s declining accident rate (using layman’s language).
    • Attention should be given to how Canada is reducing an already low accident rate (e.g. communicate safety improvements).
    • Communication methods could include press releases, articles in magazines, trade publications, etc.).
    • Messages should originate from the entire aviation community (messages from a consortium are more powerful than from a single organization).
    • Message may need to be packaged differently for different audience groups.
  • Examine best practices in exemplar countries (e.g. Australia).
  • A more educational approach should be taken that highlights the science of safety and Canada’s leading role in this area.
  • Examine application of the Alaskan Gold Medallion Program in Canada.
  • Explore lessons learned by other organizations such as the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (OWSIB).

Question #2 – What can Transport Canada do better to promote industry’s safety record?
Several observations were made by delegates, including:

  • Delegates noted that Transport Canada could assist this goal by proactively publishing safety data to avoid public misunderstandings.
  • It was suggested that a national database of safety information be developed which could be accessed online.
  • Some participants felt that Transport Canada could take a more proactive role in educating government colleagues on SMS.
  • It was suggested that culture change among inspector staff be accelerated.
  • Some delegates noted that Transport Canada should proactively promote how integral safety is in everything that the industry does.

Question #3 – What can organizations do better?
Several observations were made by delegates, including:

  • Identify more ways of sharing safety information (will enable greater promotion).
  • When dealing with media, focus on communicating with the business sections and emphasize the industry’s excellent safety performance (to debunk existing myths).
  • Clarify what safety is within an organization (e.g. it is not zero risk).
  • Industry organizations should take much more proactive roles in educating their colleagues.

Closing Remarks

Merlin Preuss, Director General, Civil Aviation for Transport Canada, thanked the delegates for their participation and closed the meeting. He encouraged delegates to carry-on strategic discussions at the next meeting of CAESN.


The fifth meeting of CAESN provided a valuable opportunity for Canada’s aviation leaders to discuss the business case for safety management systems. Delegates were reminded that a change in mindset is required in the aviation industry concerning safety – from that of an expense to that of an investment. Delegates learned that in order to successfully promote SMS, a business case approach must be taken with senior managers. Specifically, the business case’s message should be framed in terms that align with senior management’s performance objectives (quantification of benefits, focus on loss not risks, etc.). Meeting participants also walked through in detail the process to build this case.

With respect to communicating safety performance, delegates agreed that Transport Canada and the aviation industry must begin communicating regularly with the public in order to capture their interest. Participants also voiced strong support for the development and communication of a consistent message, a review of best practices in exemplar countries, and an examination of their potential application in Canada. Several independent actions, to be undertaken by Transport Canada and industry stakeholders, respectively, were also identified to promote the industry’s safety record.