Occasionally, I discuss the lack of interest that Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME) have outside their own little world of work. This general lack of interest has led to the cancellation of the Pacific AME Association 2013 Symposium and has the potential of leading to the demise of the association. This may be a telltale of the future for other professional aviation maintenance associations, many of which are experiencing dwindling memberships.
“AMU” is an initialism. You will see, in each column, I clarify what each initialism and acronym means before I go on. This is because some readers are new to AMU and some others may be new to aviation.
In each issue of this column I depend on the readers’ background knowledge. Some readers do not have the familiarity with my topics necessary to totally understand what I have written. Here I will try to clarify some of the basics before I get involved in the topic at hand. My problem is that I can’t repeat all of this background information in every issue. I depend on you to either have read my previous columns or go to helpful back issues that I will refer to regularly when applicable. In each article I tackle specific issues but also provide some basic regulatory interpretations. If you find that there are gaps, errors or contradictions in this column, please contact me here at Air Maintenance Update (AMU) Magazine. At the same time, I encourage you to discuss my column with your co-workers to improve everybody’s understanding of the subjects and pool your knowledge.
Most of us have used the acronym “CARs” to refer to a variety of Transport Canada (TC) aviation requirements. These range from the Aeronautics Act down through the Aviation Regulations and Standards to various advisory documents that TC produces. That usage is technically wrong. For the purposes of this column, I use “CAR” to signify the regulatory sub-part, which is the actual regulation. I use “standard” for the tag-along requirement that the CAR often refers to. On TC’s website you will see that some of these documents are termed “Chapter” such as Chapter 566. That is an enduring name that refers to the chapters of the Airworthiness Manual that was first conceived in the 1980s. As you see on that website, the standards and chapters are all listed under the heading “standards”, and that’s what I call them.
Within the 500 series, I specify “CAR” and “Standard” because they share the same numbering system. I state CAR 571 and Standard 571. In the other series I often just use the number because the numbering system differentiates between them. The Standard for “CAR 706” is “Standard 726”.
With that all clear, we move on to my rant. This month I look to the Vancouver Island community of Courtney for inspiration. I thank David Nilson, the cogitative and inventive proprietor of International Aeroproducts Inc., for his perceptive analysis. David has verbally elucidated some commonly held opinions regarding the directions taken by TC in the last couple of decades. Below we reproduce David’s letter in italics with my comments inserted in plain text.
“Bureaucracies contain two types of people, according to author Jerry Pournelle, who penned the “Iron Law of Bureaucracy”. To summarize: Organizations have two groups of people within them. Group One is devoted to the goals of an organization and Group Two is devoted to the organization, while the organization is always controlled by Group Two. Applying this Iron Law to TCCA, it seems that Group Two controls TCCA while the Group One people are now a species at risk.
The actual numbers of personnel in Transport Canada doing the actual job of safety inspection is difficult to determine since TC “reorganized” itself and mutilated its website. The number of airworthiness inspectors on the ground in Pacific Region is about 30. Extrapolate that to the rest of Canada, with five regions, and we get a total of about a 150 airworthiness inspectors. If we take that number and triple it to include the other specialized inspectors, we get 450.
According to the Auditor General’s (AG) 2012 report, “Transport Canada has about 1,400 employees working in civil aviation”. That gives us 450 people in David’s group one and 950 in group two. Each TC inspector that you meet at work has more than two people managing what she or he does. As indicated in the AG’s audit of TC, inspectors are going to be replaced by “systems evaluators” whatever they are. Now do you feel any better about your job? For more on that, go to the internet and search “Transport Canada admits to shortage”. Observe the TC obfuscation regarding staffing. Are those vacancies in group one or group two. I ask, “Where are the job advertisements?”
SMS, a Group Two style of concept, is a beautiful and almost elegant thought that by definition adds an extra layer of bureaucracy that is intended to create a more comprehensive, robust and demanding regulatory framework. Some would say it adds an extra layer of safety, but that language would be one of sales and marketing, and would need to be backed up with data and proof to be used accurately in a title.
Those “some” that David refers to as spouting the “additional layer” party line include the TC management at the39th Parliament, 2nd Session Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
For the longest time, SMS had been lingering around the corner, inspectors warning us of the impending regulation. We attended informative sessions and training seminars in preparation. Of course, no additional regulations would purport to add risk, complexity, inefficiency or cost but it is certain that it will increase the bureaucratic burden, for which I have seen no risk analysis. Someday soon we will completely self-audit our management of safety and quality systems. TC representatives will be nothing more than people ensuring that we have completed audits. Soon they will not need to visit and may subcontract audits to private organizations in time, or we may email TC our audit results and the culture that we know will have been completely dismantled. When the SMS proves to be successful, I propose we create an ethics management system for government through which they can self-audit their ethical conduct and that closed loop EMS will ensure efficiency and good behaviour in perpetuity. The RCMP investigates its own transgressions, albeit poorly, and I am not surprised that this methodology is spreading. It has huge upside for the organization.
The federal government and TC already have an “Ethics Management System”, but it has been found dysfunctional, as seen in the news out of Ottawa last year.
Poor Group One at TC does not appear very enthusiastic about the SMS, and seems more worried, and rightly so, about their job security. While we witness this evolution of Transport Canada from a hands-on culture of knowledge-sharing to a culture wherein they promote methods designed to avoid connections to industry and litigation, it is our responsibility to try to maintain our industry to the best of our abilities without falling victim to cynicism and general malaise.
The evidence supports this with TC’s gradual withdrawal from their audit and inspection activities. In the past, people have successfully sued TC for allowing errant aviation companies to continue in business until family members were killed in crashes. In the future, that will be less likely. See my note below about the TC inspectors becoming “systems evaluators”.
Maybe this is the best direction. Maybe it is time we minimized government influence and simply had them provide auditors and regulations while industry did all the rest. This is certainly the beginning of the end of an era that has witnessed consistently improved safety trends over the decades.
“Improved safety trends” is the regularly stated assertion of TC. That is seldom stated in the proper context. Each time I hear TC senior management say that safety in Canada continues to improve due to SMS, to this claim I point out that most of the world has the same improved safety trend without SMS.
Let’s hope this change affects safety positively because without adequate risk analysis we only have data and trends representing human lives to reference.
— David Nilson AME
Data and trends get public attention and motivate politicians. It will be many years before those SMS “data and trends” show themselves. “Safety” is gradually being purged from the TC minister’s vocabulary. Like it or not, the public citizenry have put aviation safety near the bottom of the priority list.
As an addendum to this, the AG’s report states that those 1,400 employees “represent one-quarter of the department’s workforce, giving 5,600 employees total.” It goes on to state “In 2010–11, Transport Canada spent approximately $148 million on civil aviation.” The simple calculation $148 million divided by 5,600 employees shows spending of about $26,500 per year per employee. Does that include rent and pencils? Show me the line up for those jobs. The report goes on to describe the roles of inspectors as “auditors” and ignores the multitude of other regulatory tasks they do. In my view, these AG audits have not been thorough or accurate examinations of TC aviation oversight operations.
That report goes on to state that under the SMS approach, “Inspectors are system evaluators. As necessary, they may conduct traditional audits.” TC does Program Validations and Program Validation Inspections (PVI). There are no more in-depth audits to be wary of. The inspectors may spend four days in your company doing a PVI and two weeks in the TC office doing the paperwork.
Now for something completely different. The following is to help clarify the implications of aircraft “possession”.
As an AMO or AME, you might think that the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CAR) that apply to you are limited to Part V (that’s Part 5 for us non-Romans), Subpart 571 Aircraft Maintenance Requirements and Subpart 573 Approved Maintenance Organizations. That is not entirely correct. My topic relates to aircraft ownership and who is responsible for what.
To begin, we examine CAR 101. As I stated in AMU February/March Volume 10 Issue 5, this is one of the all-encompassing regulations. It sets down interpretations that are applicable in all the other CARs unless specifically stated in a particular regulation. Here are some definitions in CAR 101 that you need to know about:
• “owner” – in respect of an aircraft, means the person who has legal custody and control of the aircraft; (propriétaire).
• “operator” – in respect of an aircraft, means the person who has possession of the aircraft as owner, lessee or otherwise; (utilisateur).
Aeronautics Act defines the “registered owner” as “in respect of an aircraft, means the person to whom a certificate of registration for the aircraft has been issued by the minister under Part I or in respect of whom the aircraft has been registered by the minister under that Part I”. The act further refers to the owner and the operator separately in other sections. Thus, we seem to have levels of aircraft possession:
• OWNER – has “legal custody and control of the aircraft”, with emphasis on the word “legal”
• OPERATOR – has possession of the aircraft as owner, lessee or otherwise (note the “or otherwise”) has custody and control”.
• REGISTERED OWNER – has name on the Certificate of Registration
• LEGAL TITLE HOLDER – the lessor in a lease arrangement or the person who has the money in it.
605.06(a) states: “No person shall conduct a take-off in an aircraft or permit another person to conduct a take-off in an aircraft in their custody and control unless the aircraft equipment required by these regulations . . . etc.” It does not refer to the owner. It specifies “custody and control” as opposed to “legal custody and control”.
Normally, an owner gives a maintainer physical custody and control of an aircraft in order for the maintainer to perform all required maintenance and, if the need arises, test flights. In that case, the maintainer will be the operator. This information is part of the base of a general understanding of the CARs.
Next issue, we will examine the “Basis of Certification” and the “Type Certificate Data Sheet”. Until then, remember “Duty of Care.”
On that uplifting thought, I leave you with my final and inevitable but important paragraph.
Please be aware that I am not a lawyer. My column is neither legal advice nor legal opinion. If you face a legal issue, you must get specific advice from a lawyer – one with experience in the aviation matters in your own country.
About The Author
NORM CHALMERS worked with Transport Canada as an Airworthiness Inspector for 25 years. Before this, from 1967 to 1983, he worked in the aircraft maintenance industry in and around Western Canada and in the Arctic. His industry experience includes the operational maintenance of normal and commuter category aircraft and smaller transport category aircraft in the corporate sector as well as several years working in major repairs in the helicopter sector. As an Airworthiness Inspector, he has been responsible for most duties related to the position, including the approval of all aspects of maintenance, manufacturing, training, and responsibilities related to distribution organizations. Norm now operates Pacific Airworthiness Consulting; www.pacificairworthiness.caView all articles by Norm Chalmers.