Transportation Safety Board wants more action on dozens of recommendations

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says there's no excuse for the federal Transportation Department's failure to implement key safety recommendations, more than three dozen of which have been outstanding for more than 20 years.

Board's 2016 watch list highlights concerns with fatigue among freight train crews

The Transportation Safety Board says it made recommendations to reduce the risk of runway overruns after an Air France jet carrying 309 passengers skidded off a runway and burst into flames at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in August 2005. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty)

The fiery crash of an Air France jet in Toronto led to urgent calls to improve airport safety in 2005, but the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says more than a decade later, the federal government hasn't done enough to meet international safety standards for runways.

"We realize that these are tough issues that can take some time to resolve, but a decade?" board chairwoman Kathy Fox told a news conference Monday, saying the board's recommendation to require runway-end safety areas is among 52 recommendations that the Transport Department has failed to deal with for more than 10 years.

And about three dozen of those recommendations — on civil aviation, railways and marine transportation — have been languishing for 20 years.

"There is no reasonable excuse for taking that long on so many outstanding issues, especially when the department agrees," Fox said.

As a result, she said the independent agency will be taking a new, proactive approach to make sure governments and industry leaders take action.

"Good intentions aren't enough," said Fox. "The TSB will be watching."

Transport Minister 'working' on changes

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said his department has some work to do.

"Some of (the recommendations) have been around for a long time," he said outside the House of Commons. "We are working on all of them. Some of them are extremely complex and require consultation."

Garneau acknowledged that a TSB recommendation to install cockpit voice recorders in small aircraft was tabled 20 years ago, but he stressed that what was once seen as a prohibitively expensive option is now more feasible, owing to cheaper technology.

Kathy Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said the board will be taking steps to make sure governments and industry leaders take action on recommendations to improve safety in civil aviation, railways, pipelines and marine transportation. (Eduardo Lima/The Canadian Press)

He said he asked department officials to take another look at recorder regulations after the small plane carrying former Alberta premier Jim Prentice crashed outside Kelowna, B.C., on Oct. 13, killing all four people aboard. The aircraft wasn't carrying an in-flight data or voice recorder because there is no legislation requiring smaller planes to carry so-called black boxes.

The TSB renewed its calls for legislative changes after the crash, calling on Ottawa to expand the law, which orders only medium and large commercial planes to carry the recorders.

As for runway regulations, Garneau said some airports can't afford runway-end safety areas.

Fox said she isn't waiting for the minister to do something.

She said she plans to meet with the president of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority on Thursday to ask what steps have been taken to improve runway safety, noting that Transport Canada has promised new regulations, but they are not yet in effect.

The Air France jet, carrying 309 passengers, skidded off a rain-slicked runway and burst into flames at Lester B. Pearson International Airport on Aug. 2, 2005. The jet had landed nearly halfway down the 2,700-metre runway in the midst of a severe thunderstorm. It overshot the end and tumbled into a ravine. Forty-three people were injured, some seriously.

Freight train crew fatigue also a priority

Even though Transport Canada has yet to introduce it own standards, the Ottawa Macdonald—Cartier International Airport has already installed a runway-end safety area that meets internationally recommended practice, Fox said.

The safety board has also been calling for improved training for pilot decision-making and crew management since the mid-1990s, but Transport Canada has yet to follow through on its promise to upgrade those training standards.

The aviation issues were highlighted Monday in the board's biennial "watch list" of outstanding recommendations.

The agency also reported it is concerned that fatigue among freight train crews has been a factor in numerous railway investigations.

Too many train crews aren't getting the rest they need because of long shifts and irregular scheduling that interferes with normal sleep patterns, the board said.

As well, the board said other issues keep coming up again and again on the watch list. Calls to improve safety in Canada's commercial fishing industry, for example, have been on the list since it was first introduced in 2010.

The agency said the industry records about 10 fatalities every year.

Many deaths could be prevented by more regulations for vessel stability and a "culture shift" among fishermen who don't like wearing personal flotation devices or immersion suits when they're working, Fox said.

The board says too many train crews aren't getting the rest they need because of long shifts and irregular scheduling that interferes with normal sleep patterns.