RCMP pilots flew planes loaded with too many passengers and too much baggage, and fudged the records, the public-sector watchdog says in a report released today.
The pilots in some cases didn't log the weight of the plane's fuel when passenger and baggage weight was logged as coming close to exceeding the allowable weight. In other cases, the total passenger weight entered was considered unlikely given the number of people on board.
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Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion found the RCMP pilots were "making false entries in aircraft journey log books and flying overweight, thus contravening paragraph 602.07(a) of the Canadian Aviation Regulations."
The RCMP, in its response contained in the report, objected to Dion using the language of "making false entries ... as this suggest[s] a deliberate deception or malfeasance on the part of the RCMP personnel."
The report was expected to be significant after the government went to Federal Court to try to prevent Dion from tabling it, arguing it would undermine public confidence in the RCMP. The court dismissed the injunction motion.
In one of the flight logs, Dion's investigators found five passengers were recorded as having a combined weight of 399 kilograms (about 880 pounds). Witnesses estimated the two pilots' weights to be about 125 kilograms, or 275 pounds, each, making it "unrealistic" the other three passengers had only a combined 149 kilograms or 330 pounds between them.
On that same flight, where the takeoff weight was entered as just below the maximum capacity of 4,740 kilograms, or 10,450 pounds, the fuel weight wasn't logged.
1 plane sold last summer
Three other logs revealed questionable baggage weight, given the number of passengers and the length of the trips, the report found. An Aug. 31, 2012, overnight trip to Washington logged the weight of the luggage of five passengers as 25 kilograms, or 55 pounds.
For a flight on Sept. 5, 2012, the total baggage weight was logged as 23 kilograms, or 50 pounds, for each leg of the journey, regardless of whether there were two, four or six people on board, Dion's report says.
One of the planes mentioned in the report was sold in July 2014 — a Piaggio Avanti P180 that had been bought by former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli in 2002.
A spokesman for the RCMP said the Mounties had already begun to address the spirit and intent of the problems in August 2013, when it called in Transport Canada. The RCMP have already begun reviewing the logs for quality assurance purposes, and are regularly reminding pilots of their obligations, Greg Cox said in an email.
The RCMP has filed an appeal at the Federal Court, Cox added. Dion said the Mounties are questioning his decision to investigate and to continue to investigate after corrective measures were taken. They're also questioning whether the principles of fundamental justice were properly applied.
"The situation is still before the Federal Court — unless of course, as I wish they do, the RCMP withdraws it," Dion said.
Report delayed due to court case
"The RCMP acknowledges that the [Ottawa air service] did not maintain logs in accordance with Canadian Aviation Regulations. Some [aircraft journey logbooks] indicate aircraft, likely due to calculation errors, may have been flown overweight," Cox wrote.
The report was supposed to be tabled the week of Nov. 17, but was delayed by the court proceedings.
Dion said he considered ordering an audit into all RCMP flight records – the force has planes in 19 locations across Canada – but decided against it because the force is committed to taking corrective action.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told reporters Monday that he couldn't comment on the case, but said his force would respect the court's decision.
Duff Conacher, founder of Democracy Watch, said the integrity commissioner needs more power and independence. He said the RCMP taking the commissioner to court follows an undemocratic pattern.
"It is yet another case of government wrongdoing and the most serious issue is the government and the RCMP have tried to prevent it from becoming public," Conacher said.
RCMP fleet by the numbers
The RCMP has had an air fleet since 1937. Currently, the fleet comprises 39 aircraft distributed across 19 bases, or air sections, throughout Canada.
The fleet includes the following types of fixed and rotary wing aircraft:
- Pilatus — 16
- Cessna — 12
- Eurocopter — 9
- De Havilland Twin Otter — 1
- Kodiak Quest — 1
The fleet also had a Piaggio Avanti P180 that was sold in July 2014.
The RCMP uses the aircraft for:
- Northern and regional patrols and surveillance.
- Transport of personnel, evidence and supplies — including into northern and remote locations where air travel may be the only means of transport.
- Transport of emergency response and containment teams.
- Operational support for front-line officers.
The Air Services Branch of the force employs 150 people, including 78 pilots, and 49 aircraft maintenance engineers and avionics technicians, and in 2012-13 cost about $30 million to operate.