Interview with Martin Eley
Edited transcript of interview between Frederic Zalac, CBC News, and Martin Eley, Director-General, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada.
Frederic Zalac: FIRST OF ALL, I’D LIKE FOR YOU TO TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT YOUR EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN IN AIR SAFETY FIELD HERE IN TRANSPORT CANADA.
Martin Eley: I’ve been at Transport Canada since 1982. Starting off in a technical engineering role and mainly in the aircraft certification business. And I’ve been the DG of civil aviation here since May of last year. So this is a bigger role for me, but I’ve been in the organization for quite a while.
FZ: TELL ME HOW SERIOUS YOU THINK THE PROBLEM OF PILOT FATIGUE IS?
ME: The issue of pilot fatigue, as a general statement, we need to deal with that. We do have a regulatory structure in place, which I think has served us reasonably well, even if it’s not current. There are other things, we have guidance to support regulations, and in some cases explain in the way the regs don’t specify. We also know that a number of the major pilot unions in their contracts, they have further constraints, which provides protection in those cases, so there’s certainly room for overview of the system, but we don’t believe today there’s any major shortcomings.
FZ: WE’VE DECIDED TO LOOK THROUGH THE TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD’S REPORT, AND OVER THE LAST DECADE, IN ABOUT A DOZEN OF THEM (crashes), FATIGUE WAS MENTIONED AS A FACTOR. THERE ARE MANY, MANY FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO CRASHES, BUT IT CAME UP IN ABOUT 12 ACCIDENTS, ACTUALLY. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT? WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT ONE OR TWO. AND 28 PEOPLE HAVE DIED.
ME: The general comment is, in any accident, there usually is a number of contributing factors. Those are not necessarily the only ones. In recent discussions with TSB, they haven’t identified particularly pilot fatigue as being one of the major issues. We need to sort of move on and address some of the other clearer requirements. I don’t know that there’s been a trend as a major influence. It’s always part of our role, is to discern the key factors in an aircraft accident, and decide where we need to put our priority in terms of law making. At this point, it’s certainly, it’s there as a factor, we don’t believe it’s been a major factor.
FZ: SO YOU DON’T CONSIDER THAT A PRIORITY, IN A WAY?
ME: Well, all our priorities need to be data driven. And obviously we need to do rule making where there’s the biggest impact. At this point, we have not identified this as being significant in the past. That has changed because in June we’re tabling the terms of reference for a working group to actually start looking at the current science and where we need to update our regulations
FZ: I’D LIKE TO COME BACK LATER IN THE INTERVIEW TO THAT. LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CURRENT REGULATIONS. WHAT’S THE CURRENT FRAMEWORK, IN TERMS OF LIMITATIONS ON HOURS AND THINGS LIKE THAT, WHAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW?
ME: The current regulatory framework, if anybody’s looked at it, they’ll see it’s fairly complex regulations. In the sense that it tries to provide coverage both short, medium and long term frames of time, so it allows not just for day-to-day constraints, but the sort of bigger, the longer periods of time. The overall, accumulated affects of fatigue as well. So within that, there’s quite a nested layer of regulations, all with the intent of providing overall protection.
FZ: WE WERE TALKING ABOUT LIMITS ON NUMBERS OF HOURS AND THINGS LIKE THAT.
ME: Yes, typically you’ll find both in terms of flying but in terms of flight and duty time, so the length of time someone is on duty is important, even if they’re not flying. If they’ve been on duty for eight hours, that obviously plays into fatigue, even if they haven’t been flying. So our regs address both of those.
FZ: WE’VE TALKED TO SEVERAL PILOTS DURING THIS STORY, AND ONE PILOT WAS TELLING US ABOUT HOW HE ENDED UP WORKING 60 HOURS MORE THAN THE REGULATIONS. HE WAS IN A PERIOD WHERE HE SAID HE DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE HE WAS GOING OVER HIS HOURS. THE REGULATIONS SAY YOU HAVE TO SUBMIT THOSE HOURS ONCE A MONTH, SOMETHING LIKE THAT, BUT HE HAD GONE OVER HIS REGULATIONS BEFORE SUBMITTING IT. THERE WAS A BIG CRASH INVOLVED IN THIS CASE. HOW AS A REGULATOR CAN YOU ADDRESS THAT ISSUE?
ME: Any particular circumstance is very difficult to comment on without having all the details. Clearly we have a regulatory structure. If in fact somebody’s not following the regulations, then obviously, a change in the regulations itself is not going to change that. Companies are required to have systems for both planning and recording pilot hours, so what you’re talking about there is some sort of exception to that, but I can’t comment on the specifics without the details.
FZ: IT’S A CASE THAT HAPPENED IN 1999, INVOLVING A PLANE IN QUEBEC FROM THE REGIONNAIR AIRLINE. AT THAT POINT. IN THE TRANSPORT CANADA REPORT, IT SAID TRANSPORT CANADA WASN’T AWARE THAT THE PILOT HAD GONE OVER THE HOURS, SO THERE ARE MOMENTS WHEN YOU, AS THE REGULATOR, DON’T KNOW NECESSARILY WHAT’S GOING ON.
ME: We’re not necessarily following that level of detail every day. And part of the expectation of companies having a system is to have clear records of what have happened. Clearly, when we have the opportunity to look at those records and we find things that are inconsistent or not in compliance, then we would need to deal with those. We’re not checking them on a daily basis.
FZ: AND IT’S NOT SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKELY CHANGE, I GUESS?
ME: I think it’s unlikely.
FZ: SPEAKING OF RECORDS, THAT’S ANOTHER THING THAT WE’VE HEARD BY SEVERAL, SEVERAL PILOTS IN TERMS OF PRACTICE THAT SEEMS TO BE COMMON IN THE SMALLER – WE’RE NOT USUALLY TALKING ABOUT THE BIGGER AIRLINES – BUT THE SMALLER AIRLINES WHERE THERE’S A LOT OF PRESSURE AND ECONOMIC PRESSURE AND THINGS LIKE THAT. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD ABOUT "PENCIL WHIPPING?"
ME: I understand the phrase, but I don’t know in what context…
FZ: IN TERMS OF LOG BOOKS. PILOTS HAVE TOLD US, SEVERAL PILOTS HAVE TOLD US, THAT THEY WERE TOLD BY THE OPERATORS, IF THEY WERE GOING OVER THE REGULATED HOURS TO PUT 14 HOURS INSTEAD OF THE 16, 17 HOURS THAT THEY ACTUALLY WORKED.
ME: I think clearly any example like that, if we became aware of it, we would have to investigate it and take corrective action or enforcement action where that was appropriate. We clearly don’t see all that’s happening. We can’t guarantee we’re going to find it. But what we are doing in taking a systems approach to safety is trying to strengthen the systems in companies so that those types of things are much harder to hide. Because the systems are better defined, if the systems aren’t followed, it’s much easier for us to identify that.
FZ: BUT RIGHT NOW, HOW CAN YOU MAKE SURE IT’S NOT HAPPENING?
ME: The way you’ve described it, it’s a wilful action to do it that way. And clearly we need to have some indication, some sense that that is there. We can’t hope to catch all of those things. I’ll draw a parallel with somebody speeding. Obviously, if a cop is at the side of the road, he’ll catch the speeding. But he can’t be there every day. If there’s a problem in a particular area, he’ll go look more closely at that and take enforcement action. We would do exactly the same thing: if we got feedback that that was happening, we would go investigate it.
FZ: BECAUSE RIGHT NOW, THE WAY IT WORKS, IF I UNDERSTAND IT CORRECTLY, YOU WOULD SEND INSPECTORS ONCE EVERY SEVERAL YEARS TO THOROUGHLY CHECK OUT A COMPANY, OR IF YOU HEAR ABOUT SOMETHING. ME: So we would investigate the report to see in fact whether there was any evidence that there was a problem or a misuse. We would look at other ways of verifying the facts to see whether there was misleading records.
FZ: ESPECIALLY IF IT’S THE OPERATOR, IS THERE ANY TRACE? CAN YOU ACTUALLY…IF THE RECORDS DON’T SHOW IT, CAN TRANSPORT FIND OUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?
ME: It all depends on whether data may or may not be available. Clearly the culture that we want to develop in the industry, and it’s there in many many places already, is the culture that if that sort of thing has been going on within the company, it will be reported. If that’s not accepted in the company, those individuals would always have the ability to tell us, and we would follow up.
FZ: THE SAME PILOTS WERE TELLING US THERE’S A LOT OF PRESSURE ON THEM. I’LL JUST READ YOU A QUOTE THAT REFERS TO WHAT YOU’RE SUGGESTING RIGHT NOW. IT’S A COMMON PHRASE, BY PILOTS IN THE 703, THE SMALLER AIRLINES IS, DON’T ROCK THE BOAT. DON’T DO ANYTHING WHICH IS GOING TO COST THEM EXTRA MONEY TO OPERATE, AND IF YOU DO, EVEN IF IT’S BY ADHERING TO THE CANADIAN AIR REGULATIONS, IT’S GOING TO HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON THE CARRIER AT SOME POINT WITH THE COMPANY. IN THE ONES THAT STARTED SPEAKING OUT WERE DISMISSED IN THIS CASE. WE’VE HEARD THAT FROM SEVERAL, SEVERAL OTHER PILOTS AS WELL. SO THAT SEEMS TO BE A REALITY WITH SMALLER AIRLINES LIKE THAT. SO HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT?
ME: Those individuals always have the opportunity to identify it to us, and we will follow up. As part of our regulatory responsibility, we need to investigate to see whether in fact there is anything inappropriate being done. Clearly if there’s contradiction in regulation we need to take enforcement action. We need the information in order to do that.
FZ: WOULD WHISTLE-BLOWER PROTECTION BE SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE LOOKED INTO TO HELP THESE PILOTS?
ME: That is certainly something we’ve talked about. I believe, from a Transport Canada point of view, there is a culture that exists today that if something is reported, that will be followed up on. That protection in our view isn’t necessary, but clearly it’s something some would like to see so that they feel more comfortable doing that.
FZ: DOES IT SURPRISE YOU TO HEAR ABOUT THIS? I’M JUST WONDERING IF IT’S SOMETHING YOU’RE AWARE OF THAT GOES ON IN PART OF THE INDUSTRY?
ME: It’s clear that there’s different levels of operators, that the pressures are different depending on where you work. A lot of what we’re trying to do today in terms of moving forward is to improve safety cultures in companies, because good safety is good business sense. More and more companies are telling us that they realize that’s the right way to do business. They would always be exceptions. Our job is to identify those and take action when necessary.
FZ: NOW, THE LAST CHANGES TO THE REGULATIONS WERE IN 1996, I THINK.
ME: I believe so, yes.
FZ: WHY HAS NOTHING HAPPENED SINCE THEN IN TERMS OF REGULATIONS TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE IN CANADA?
ME: The regulations in ‘96 were an update. In terms of other activity, it hasn’t been identified as a priority until more recent times. Some of the experience we’ve seen in service, some of the things we’ve talked about, have given us reason to take another look. That’s why we’re starting a group in July this year, a combined government-industry group, to take a look at how we can overhaul the regulations to better reflect common science and practice.
FZ: WE’VE TALKED TO SEVERAL PILOTS, SOME PILOTS ASSOCIATIONS AS WELL, AND THEY’VE HAD A LOT OF CONTACT WITH TRANSPORT CANADA ON THIS ISSUE. AND WHAT THEY TOLD IS THEY WERE ACTUALLY TOLD THAT TRANSPORT CANADA TOLD THEM THERE WAS NO DATA HERE IN CANADA SO WE COULDN’T REALLY CHANGE MUCH. IS THAT WHAT WAS SAID?
ME: As I’ve already mentioned, anything that we do, we try very hard to make sure we find the best data available, to make sure we make the best decision. On pilot fatigue, we have been encouraging the airlines to provide us with data, so as we look toward developing the regulations, we’ve got some basis on which to do it. And any experience you can bring to that is obviously very valuable. So yes, we have asked them for that.
FZ: BUT THEY WERE SAYING THEY WERE TOLD, NOTHING, THERE’S NO REASON TO CHANGE ANYTHING BECAUSE THERE’S NO DATA THERE.
ME: That was our position at one point, but we’ve certainly moved on, and have recently, as far as today, we’ve had confirmation from one of those groups that they’re happy about the way we’re moving forward and that they’re supporting our activity.
FZ: SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT WAS A POSITION IN THE PAST, TO SAY THERE’S NO…
ME: In the past…
FZ: TO SAY THERE’S NO DATA SO THERE’S NO NEED TO MOVE. BUT THAT’S CHANGED.
ME: That is no longer the case.
FZ: TAKE FOR EXAMPLE, ONE OF THESE ASSOCIATIONS, THE AIR CANADA PILOT ASSOCIATION. THEY TOOK IT UPON THEMSELVES TO START GATHERING DATA FROM THE PILOTS THAT ARE EXPERIENCING FATIGUE. WE SAW THAT HAPPENING ACTUALLY IN NEW ZEALAND WHERE THE AIRLINE IS DOING THAT. IT’S KIND OF SURPRISING THAT IT’S THE PILOTS THAT ARE DOING THAT THEMSELVES. ONE WOULD EXPECT THE AIRLINE OR THE REGULATOR TO BE ACTUALLY DOING THIS ACTION OF GATHERING DATA.
ME: We rely very heavily on the industry, because obviously we’re not there to gather data. In the case of the Air Canada Pilots Association, they had the very strong initiative to do safety improvements. That’s part of their reason, their raison d’etre, is to improve safety, so they had the motivation to do that on behalf of their own pilot group. They chose to do that rather than have the company do it. What’s important to us is that they’ve shown the leadership in gathering the data. Where we get it from is long as its valid data.
FZ: BUT THEY DID IT BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE WAS DOING IT.
ME: Yes. So I believe that our objectives are the same, and we support the initiative that they’ve shown. And we’re certainly going to be very involved with them as we move forward.
IS THIS SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED BY TRANSPORT CANADA TO BE DONE BY OTHER AIRLINES AS WELL?
ME: Well certainly obviously, we can’t afford to take data only from source. So the same discussion has taken place with more than one group. We need to make sure we gather data from a wide spectrum. If the regulations are going to be for all types of operators, we need to make sure we have data from each of those populations.
FZ: I’D LIKE TO GO BACK TO A COUPLE OF STUDIES THAT WERE DONE FOR TRANSPORT CANADA. AND I THINK I DID MENTION THAT WE WERE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS ONE. ACTUALLY, A COUPLE OF STUDIES WERE DONE BY A GROUP IN B.C. IN THE LATE ‘90s AND EARLY 2000s. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THOSE STUDIES? WHY THEY WERE DONE AND WHAT CAME OUT OF THEM?
ME: The studies were done to identify whether in fact, there was something that we needed to be doing. Again, it was a question of gathering some realistic data and information. The decision was made at that time not to move forward on the conclusion of those studies. That landscape has changed, and that’s why we’re moving forward now.
FZ: YOU SAY THE DECISION WAS NOT TO MOVE FORWARD. WHAT WAS IT THAT THOSE STUDIES WERE SUGGESTING?
ME: They identified some of the things in our current regulatory structure perhaps need to be clarified or improved. In the context of the priorities at that point, it wasn’t necessarily identified as being a top priority. That particular decision was made probably in early 2001, and then after 9/11, a lot of other things came along. That’s now come back in the forefront as a priority…as something to deal with…
FZ: I JUST WANT TO GO A LITTLE BIT MORE IN DETAIL TO THAT 2001 STUDY, AS YOU WERE MENTIONING. THAT IS SOMETHING WHERE WE ENDED UP SEEING A COPY OF THE DRAFT OF THAT STUDY. AND IN THAT DRAFT THERE WERE 6 RECOMMENDATIONS, SOME OF THEM TALKING ABOUT CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS SHOULD BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT WHEN YOU’RE PREPARING PILOT SCHEDULES. AND IN THE PUBLISHED VERSION OF THIS STUDY THAT YOU CAN GET THROUGH THE TRANSPORT CANADA WEBSITE, 4 OF THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS WERE TAKEN OUT, THOSE ONES LINKED TO CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS, THERE’S ONLY TWO LEFT. ARE YOU AWARE OF THAT? AND IF SO…
ME: I’m not familiar with the details of that…
FZ: WHAT YOU’RE TELLING ME IN TERMS OF, GENERALLY, IN TERMS OF WHY THOSE WOULD HAVE BEEN PUT ASIDE, IS IT LINKED TO WHAT YOU’RE SAYING?
ME: I’m not sure on the background of that, I’d have to do some work to get an answer to that. What I can tell is the science, there’s been a lot of work done with Drew Dawson, you already mentioned his name, and there’s a lot of information on our website. So we did invest in understanding the science and moving forward, even though we didn’t initiate the regulatory studies at that point. I think the approach we wanted to take was to make sure we had a better understanding of what needed to be considered before getting into a new rule making process.
FZ: WAS THERE A FEAR IF WOULD COST TOO MUCH FOR THE INDUSTRY MAYBE?
ME: We always have to make sure that in any regulatory change that we have responsibility to look at the cost-benefit. So that’s part of why good research will make sure that we’re doing the right thing, we’ll be better able justifying any initiative that we put in place. So yes, we need to satisfy both the safety aspects and the practicality of doing that from a cost-benefit point of view.
FZ: YOU MENTIONED DREW DAWSON. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE WHAT HE DID FOR TRANSPORT CANADA?
ME: He did a lot of work for us helping prepare tools that we could provide to operators here to help them understand how they might apply some of the science in the context of the regulatory structures we have. At this point we haven’t put any regulations in place, which specifically draw on that experience. He obviously brought a lot of expertise to the discussion, and a lot of that, as you know, is public on our web site today.
FZ: BECAUSE WE’VE INTERVIEWED DREW DAWSON, AND WE ASKED HIM, SO, WHAT YOU DID FOR TRANSPORT CANADA, WHO’S USING IT? AND HE SAID VIRTUALLY NO ONE…AND HE MENTIONED THAT CANADA’S DROPPED THE BALL -. NOT THE ONLY COUNTRY, THOUGH, HE WAS SAYING, BUT HE SAID CANADA DROPPED THE BALL, AND WE COULD BE MUCH FURTHER TODAY IF ALL OF THIS HAD BEEN PUT IN PLACE ALREADY THAN WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW. WHAT DO YOU ANSWER TO HIM?
ME: The reality is that we had a number of initiatives at the same time. Some of those bigger initiatives were things that needed to get in place. It’s very hard to introduce multiple initiatives to the same stakeholders at the same time. The decision was to move forward with some of those other initiatives and delay to some extent the…fatigue management…aspect of things. We were at the point where we’re far enough down the road on some of those other initiatives that we’ve made the decision to move forward. Again, a question of priority, not just in terms of what needed to be done, but the industry’s ability to deal with a number of changes at the same time.
FZ: SO YOU JUST COULDN’T FOCUS ON ALL THOSE THINGS AT THE SAME TIME?
ME: Yes, there needs to be some rational approach
FZ: ONE OF THE THINGS IN THAT STUDY FROM 2001 I WAS MENTIONING WAS THE SUGGESTION TO INCORPORATE OR TAKE INTO ACCOUNT CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS. SO IF IT’S VERY EARLY IN THE MORNING OR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY THAT A PILOT STARTS HIS WORK DAY. INTERSTINGLY ENOUGH, WHEN YOU LOOK AT EUROPE, A LOT OF COUNTRIES HAVE ACTUALLY ALREADY TAKEN THAT INTO THEIR REGULATIONS. IF A PILOT STARTS AT 3 A.M., HIS DAY CANNOT BE AS LONG AS IF HE STARTS OF 9 A.M. THEY TAKE THAT INTO ACCOUNT. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?
ME: That’s certainly part of the terms of reference that we’ve defined for the working group. There’s really two things they need to do: to look at our prescriptive regulations to make sure that they reflect current thinking in a general sense, but also to look at our ability to use fatigue risk management systems, which do exactly that: They take into account all of those things in a more holistic manner. Our plan at this point is to develop a structure that probably gives you a choice between those two things: either a prescriptive approach, or a more comprehensive approach that allows you a little bit more flexibility where you need it. Obviously with the same safety objectives in mind.
FZ: PEOPLE HAVE TOLD US THAT BASICALLY, OUR CURRENT REGULATIONS ARE BASED ON THE 50’S OR EVEN THE 40’S IN A WAY, BECAUSE ALL THIS SCIENCE HAS BEEN HAPPENING IN THE PAST 50 YEARS IS NOT REFLECTED IN THAT. HOW DO YOU PLAN ON FIXING THIS? DO YOU WANT TO INCORPORATE THAT?
ME: The terms of reference I mentioned will include looking at both the prescriptive regulatory structure, and adding to that the ability to use fatigue risk management. So we need to improve the prescriptive piece, and allow some flexibility to where people want to invest in fatigue risk management systems. So in both cases we need to take into account the current science. The plan is to look at the prescriptive regulations we have, and improve those so they better reflect all the considerations, but they are in fact a fairly black and white set of regulations which are intended to address all of the factors. We’re also looking at incorporating an approach where both factors can be dealt with more specifically following current science. So that would be an alternative for the people who want to invest in those types of systems.
FZ: BUT YOU’D BE BASICALLY GIVING THE COMPANIES THE TOOLS TO TRY AND PREVENT FATIGUE? CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THAT?
ME: Well, a lot of the guidance that you’ve already mentioned on our website is guidance companies could use to set up systems that would allow them to take account of all the factors – on and off duty, rest periods – all of those things factored together in a more comprehensive way than we can expect with a regulatory structure, in a prescriptive one.
FZ: ONE OF THE PEOPLE WE INTERVIEWED, A PILOT WAS TELLING US ABOUT A STUDY FROM 2001, THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS AND ALL OF THAT, THAT WERE TAKEN OUT FROM THE DRAFT TO THE FINAL. HE SAID BASICALLY THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE ASKING TODAY. SO BASICALLY, WE’VE LOST TEN YEARS ALMOST…IF THAT HAD BEEN ENACTED AT THAT POINT, IF ACTION HAD BEEN TAKEN, WE’D BE MUCH FURTHER DOWN AS WELL. WHAT DO ANSWER TO THAT?
ME: I guess the answer to that is, we can’t really change the past, and what we are doing is moving forward. I will say I think the knowledge in the industry in fatigue management in general has come a long way in ten years, so I think the understanding around subjects such as circadian rhythms is much better than it was ten years ago, so doing it today I think we’ll probably end up with a more mature product than we would have done ten years ago.
FZ: WHAT’S YOUR PLAN GOING FORWARD NOW THEN?
ME: The plan is to have a working group, a combined government-industry working group, come up with recommendations as to what we do in the rules to make them more effective to reflect current science. That will then go into a formal consultation process to propose regulations. That would then go through the…so there’s a consultation process followed by the formal law making process. And we’re talking about a period that’s going to last at least a couple of years.
FZ: AND IT COULD BE A BIT LONGER POSSIBLY?
ME: Possibly, yes, depending on how quickly and how well things go.
FZ: WHAT WE HEAR FROM INDUSTRY IS THAT THEY WOULD HAVE LIKED SOMETHING A LITTLE FASTER THAN THAT.
ME: I can’t really speak for the past. This is where we are today. We are moving forward. We have every reason to try and get through things as quickly as we can. I can’t make things retroactive…
FZ: BUT IS IT GOING TO BE QUICK ENOUGH, OR ARE WE TALKING ABOUT SEVERAL YEARS STILL?
ME: I think a lot of good practices are out there. A lot of the companies are doing the right things. What we’re talking about here is regulations in place to require people to do those things. It is going to take time to get those on the books.
FZ: WE CAN’T DO THAT FASTER, I GUESS?
ME: Well, things can be fast, but there’s limits. It’s a question of priorities and the ability to process them. That issue…the working group is clearly aimed at generating recommendations that then feed into the regulations, with the idea that we would update our regulations to reflect the science and practices.
FZ: WHEN I’M TELLING YOU, COULD IT BE FASTER, BECAUSE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT 2 OR 4 YEARS DOWN THE ROAD, IS IT SOMETHING THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE WITHIN SIX MONTHS?
ME: The law and regulatory process is not that quick. That’s not a bureaucratic defence, it’s a question of due process. We need to consult, we need to do things in a public manner. That process takes time.
FZ: WHEN WE TALKED ABOUT LOOKING AT PARTICULAR SITUATIONS, WHEN YOU HAVE TO HAVE PEOPLE COME UP AND SAY THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THIS COMPANY, AND IF YOU’RE AWARE OF THIS YOU’LL GO. YOU REFERRED A LOT TO THE SYSTEMS THAT ARE IN PLACE ALREADY IN THE COMPANIES. I’M JUST WONDERING HOW YOU CAN KEEP AN EYE ON THE REGULATORY ASPECT OF DUTY HOURS AND STUFF LIKE THAT IN SMALLER COMPANIES WHERE THEY DON’T HAVE SMS FOR INSTANCE? BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE HAVE TOLD US WITH SMALLER COMPANIES THE ATTENTION’S NOT THE SAME ON TRANSPORT CANADA’S PART BECAUSE SMALLER PLANES, SMALLER PASSENGER….THEY’RE NOT AS PRESENT AS THEY SHOULD BE TO CHECK ON ALL OF THIS. AND EVEN INSPECTORS THAT WE TALK TO SAY THEY’RE NOT AS PRESENT AS THEY USED TO BE IN THE FIELD.
ME: The smaller companies have the same requirement to monitor and keep records on what the pilots do. And certainly part of our surveillance is to look at those records when we do go to the companies. The way that we approach things has evolved over time, and part of that is looking more at the systems to make sure that things do get done properly, rather than just looking purely at the records. So the surveillance model still includes those things, the way we’re approaching it has evolved somewhat.
FZ: SO YOU’RE NOT NECESSARILY AS MUCH IN THE FIELD THE WAY YOU USED TO BE?
ME: We’re not necessarily doing the same things. In some ways, we believe we’re more engaged with the company, and I would say today we have better means to understand the culture of the company than perhaps we did the past. So some of the things you’re raising concern on are things we can better get to today than in the past…
FZ: BECAUSE THE COMPANIES TELL US…OR THE INSPECTORS TELL US THAT SOME OF THE COMPANIES KNOW THAT TRANSPORT CANADA IS NOT ON THE GROUND AS MUCH AS THEY USED TO BE AND THAT ALLOWS FOR THEM TO CUT THE CORNERS A LITTLE BIT MORE…WHAT’S YOUR IMPRESSION?
ME: That possibility always exists. Our job obviously is to try and identify where we feel the risk is and put the necessary inspections in place. We have the ability today to put in any inspections that we feel that we need to verify. Any area where we believe there’s a risk, we certainly, the focus for our resources is the highest risk – that does not mean we don’t look at the other areas. There are annual inspections of every company at some level, so we’re there in a regular basis.