Small aircraft to require new safety equipment

Private turbine and commercial planes with six or more seats must install a new "terrain awareness" alert system within two years under new regulations announced by the minister of transport.

Alert system to warn flight crews of collision danger

Canadian airlines and plane owners will be required to update their safety equipment on some small planes.

Private turbine and commercial planes with six or more seats must install a new "terrain awareness" alert system within two years under new regulations announced Wednesday by Denis Lebel, minister of transport, infrastructure and communities.

The terrain awareness and warning system sends visual or acoustic alerts to warn flight crews when their aircraft is in danger of colliding with terrain, water or other obstacles.

Transport Canada said this will improve safety for planes that fly into wilderness, mountainous regions or remote locations, particularly where there is poor weather or low visibility.

Michael Handley, operations manager with Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife, said the new system will make airline travel safer.

"It’s going to make the crew in the aircraft, the captain and co-pilot, have more resources to be able to operate the aircraft. It’s basically another safety net that’s being put out as a regulation."

Handley said the new rules will be helpful in the North, where there are few international airports.

"Flying in the North has always been an extreme factor," he said. "We don’t have the control resources, like they do down south. We are still the old school bush pilot atmosphere up here," he said. Handley said Buffalo will have to install new instruments on several planes, costing about $10,000 for each aircraft.

Steven Nourse, executive director of the Northern Air Transport Association, said the technology is good, but not perfect.

"There are some known problems, so to speak, in the Arctic, with the system. Primarily in terms of, call it false positives where they'll give a warning when they actually don't need to," he said.

Nourse anticipated the change will affect between 20 and 30 operators in the Arctic.

Transport Canada will not require planes with five seats or fewer to install the system.

Airline companies and plane owners have two years to update their equipment.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Transportation Safety Board proposed the new regulation last year after investigating a plane crash in Resolute, Nunavut. In fact, the regulation change was not connected to that investigation.
    Jul 04, 2012 11:00 PM CT