Aviation inspectors warn of impending disaster

Eight in ten (81%) of inspectors surveyed predict a major aviation accident in the near future.

Broad concern about recent cuts to aviation safety oversight and an ominous sense that a major aviation accident in Canada is likely in the near future is highlighted in a new Abacus Data study among Transport Canada’s frontline aviation inspectors.

The survey finds most Transport Canada’s pilot inspectors haven’t flown an actual aircraft in years and a majority report they have not been trained for the work they are asked to do.

The state of aviation safety in Canada today has left eight in ten (81%) inspectors surveyed predicting a major aviation accident in the near future, according to the survey.

“The House of Commons Transport Committee, which begins a study of aviation safety tomorrow, should pay close attention to this report. The opinions of this expert group show that Transport Canada’s aviation safety oversight has gone terribly wrong,” said Captain Greg McConnell, National Chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association which commissioned the survey.

Among the issues in play for inspectors is Transport Canada’s Safety Management Systems (SMS) which transfers responsibility for setting acceptable levels of risk and monitoring safety performance to the airlines themselves.

Because SMS imposes a heavy administrative burden, inspectors are now largely office-bound spending more time reviewing paperwork than inspecting aircraft, and they conduct SMS surveillance of airlines less frequently than ever before.

Annual inspections have given way to SMS reviews that can happen as infrequently as every five years or more. Even at this pace, Transport Canada’s inspectors can’t keep up; according to internal documents Transport Canada has completed only 50% of its planned SMS assessments in 2016/17.

In these circumstances Abacus found a wide majority (81%) see Transport Canada’s SMS as a barrier that prevents them from identifying and fixing safety problems before they become accidents or incidents. Three-in-four (73%) believe SMS has exposed the public to elevated risk.

“Gone are the days of unannounced in-person inspections or even regular inspections thanks to Transport Canada’s singular mission to audit companies’ SMS paperwork. For many operators, we simply cannot verify they are functioning safely because we really can’t look at their operations. We just don’t know,” McConnell said.

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P.
Transcontinental Media G.P.