OHS Canada Magazine

Canadian skies falling behind sea and rail: TSB

May 21, 2013

Health & Safety Injury, Illness Prevention

FEDERAL (Canadian OH&S News)

FEDERAL (Canadian OH&S News)

Canada’s aviation sector needs to be yanked up by the straps of its safety boots, as it’s falling behind the marine and rail sectors when it comes to making improvements, the country’s safety watchdog is reporting.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its annual assessment of the steps Transport Canada and industry stakeholders have made into satisfying the board’s recommendations for air, rail and sea safety improvements. While there was good news to report in the marine and rail sector, the picture in the aviation industry was not quite so rosy.

Mark Clitsome, director of air investigations for the board, said all 32 active aviation recommendations are directed towards Transport Canada.

The TSB ranks its recommendations on a scale of five: fully satisfactory, satisfactory intent (if the current plan is fully implemented, it will substantially reduce or eliminate a safety deficiency), satisfactory in-part (current plan will reduce the safety risk but not to a significant degree), unsatisfactory, and unable to assess. Unable to assess is new for 2013, Clitsome said, and means the response received does not give enough information as to whether the plan would address the issue.


Only 60 per cent of the aviation recommendations are considered fully satisfactory, compared to 90 per cent of rail and 81 per cent of marine. Five marine recommendations and two rail recommendations related to the TSB’s high-priority watchlist have been marked as fully satisfactory, though the marine sector still has not addressed the need for a safety management system (SMS) for commercial operators of small passenger vessels.

“SMS is a proven system to help manage risk, and Transport Canada and the marine industry need to take action to make this a reality for small marine operators,” the board said in a release.

Due to a recent rash of post-impact fires has prompted the board to revive three recommendations that it had made dormant — meaning that the deficiency exists, but nobody is going to address it.

Clitsome pointed to a recent post-impact fire that killed two pilots as one of the reasons the recommendation was awoken: In October of 2011, a small aircraft crashed onto a highway just short of the runway at Vancouver International Airport. The Beechcraft King Air plane burst into flames, and pilot Luc Fortin, 44, and co-pilot Matt Robic, 26, suffered fatal injuries.

“It was addressed to Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration [in the United States] to come up with some way to eliminate post-impact fires. They kept saying they’re not going to change the way aircraft are certified, it’s too expensive, etcetera, etcetera,” Clitsome said. “There’s been recently some more investigations with post-impact fires, so we resurrected it after putting it to bed a few years ago as dormant, and saying ‘look, we’re going to make this active, the board wants something done.’”

Three aviation recommendations related to watchlist items are listed as satisfactory in intent and six are satisfactory in-part. Recommendations regarding landing accidents and runway overruns, on the watchlist since August of 2010, are all considered satisfactory in part, while recommendations regarding air safety management systems and collisions with land and water are satisfactory in part.

The only watchlist-related recommendation on the list that the TSB considers fully satisfactory is that the Department of Transport require the installation of ground proximity warning systems on all turbine-powered, instrumental flight rules-approved commuter and airline aircraft capable of carrying 10 or more passengers, to help prevent collisions with land and water.

Karine Martel, a spokesperson for Transport Canada, said that 2011 marked the lowest recorded incident number in aviation history.

She said progress is being made on the TSB’s recommendations. With regards to collisions on airport runways, the ministry has implemented regulatory measures, created an information website, distributed advisory circulars and is collaborating with international partners.

Transport Canada is also developing a new aviation safety rulemaking process, she said.

“The process will be improved by streamlining, reducing the administrative burden, as well as early prioritization and focused analysis of the issues. The new process will bring together the right people at the right time to discuss specific aviation safety issues.”



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