BROADCAST DATE : Sep 25, 2009

Riding on Risk

In its many years of bringing investigative reports to Canadians, the fifth estate has had its share of alarming stories. This season debuts with startling and disturbing allegations about the people we depend on to ensure our safety when we fly. The story begins with an urgent e-mail to the fifth estate.

The writer says she has “come across interesting, internal information from Transport Canada.” The sender: a journalism student who has found a USB key/computer memory stick in a coffee shop. The student’s discovery contains interesting information indeed. There are warnings from a security inspector at Canada’s biggest airport alleging public safety is being compromised because security and safety regulations are being circumvented in favour of profit and convenience.

In Riding on Risk, reporter Hana Gartner talks to whistle blowers who have risked their livelihoods to try to change a system that they believe is putting passengers and airline employees in grave and needless danger – at the airports and in the air. We’ll also meet Kirsten Stevens of British Columbia, a woman whose logger husband boarded a routine flight one day, promising to be home in time for dinner with her and their three children. But, the small float plane carrying him crashed and all aboard were killed. Kirsten assumed Transport Canada would investigate. She was shocked when she realized they had closed their file on the crash. She did her own meticulous investigation and pinpointed a mechanical failure that may have led to her husband’s death. Since then, she has become a crusader, and a magnet, for whistle blowers inside the industry desperate to share their concerns about aviation security and safety.

Finally, the fifth estate takes the investigation to federal Minister of Transport, John Baird. Hana Gartner gives the Minister the opportunity to respond to the allegations and asks the question that should be on the minds of anyone in Canada who flies: should industry, concerned about saving money and cutting corners, be the same people to worry about safety?