Thank you, honourable members of the committee, for the opportunity to appear today to talk to you about aviation safety and safety management systems.
I am Captain Jacques Mignault and I am here with my colleagues Captain Michel Chiasson and Mr. Bernie Adamache on behalf of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which is an industry association comprised of Canada's four largest passenger airlines: Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Jazz Air.
Together, the member carriers of the NACC directly employ 43,000 Canadians and directly serve 59 Canadian communities. We operate an average of 1,800 flights a day, or 657,000 flights annually.
We carry 130,000 passengers a day, or 46 million annually, on a collective fleet of 437 large transport category aircraft. Most importantly, we conduct this massive undertaking with a very deliberate and unwavering commitment to safety, which is ingrained in everything we do. Nothing is more important to us than delivering our passengers safely to their destination.
The NACC advocates for safe, sustainable and competitive air travel by engaging with government and industry stakeholders to promote the development of policies, regulations and legislation that foster the world-class transportation system essential to our country's prosperity. The NACC's operating committees, of which all three of us are active members, are staffed by volunteer representatives of the four member airlines.
I serve as vice-chair of the NACC's safety subcommittee, whose objective is to maintain and enhance world-class safety standards at NACC member airlines and to collaborate on safety-related airline issues.
I am a captain with Air Transat, and in my day job I am the director of flight safety and operational security. As such, I am responsible for the day-to-day management of the airline's safety management system.
Prior to joining Air Transat in 1998, I served with the Canadian Forces for 24 years as a military officer and pilot. While in the military, I accumulated flying experience in training and transport-type aircraft in addition to assuming a command position as commanding officer of a tactical airlift squadron.
NACC carriers have collectively embraced the principles of safety management systems and embarked on a journey that has brought about a fundamental change in the industry's culture towards safety. Today I can state unequivocally that such a transformation has taken place at all levels within our member airlines; employees, managers, and the highest echelons of the corporation up to the CEO level are engaged. This would certainly not have been possible without the firm commitment and accountability required under the SMS framework.
The development of a safety-focused corporate culture is one of the cornerstones of SMS. This culture makes each employee accountable for playing a role in promoting safe operations through his quality work and in contributing to report risk or undesirable situations.
Among the company's senior executives, it increases awareness of the risks inherent in aircraft operations and of the obligation to mitigate them. There can be no doubt that the Canadian aviation industry as a whole has enjoyed an excellent reputation for looking inside itself in an effort to develop better aircraft designs and better operating practices, all with a goal to significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
To the best of our knowledge, there is no other industry--perhaps with the exception of the nuclear industry--that has demonstrated, as a result of each and every report finding, such a high degree of internal investigation, leading to the implementation of corrective measures.
Over the years, these investigations looked beyond normal design and operating practices and started to focus on human factors. Training in the areas of crew resource management and maintenance was introduced to achieve the desired safety improvement goals.
In this respect, we do not see SMS as something really new, but rather as the necessary evolution of a safety process being extended throughout the entire airline organization. Because of this, we at the NACC fully support Transport Canada in its implementation of SMS.
Global aviation accident statistics from the past five years indicate that the downward trend in the accident rate, which we observed for a significant period, has somewhat flattened. Safety management systems are seen as having the potential of presenting a breakthrough in allowing a further reduction of the annual accident rate by virtue of their key elements.
First, there is a clear notion of accountability, which guarantees a personal commitment towards safety from the airline's chief executive officer.
Second, there is a non-punitive reporting system whereby employees are encouraged to share experiences or concerns about perceived unsafe practices for the betterment of the organization and improved safety.
Third, there is an incident investigation function whose focus is clearly on systemic causal factors rather than aiming exclusively at employees' mistakes.
Fourth, there is an emphasis on proactive activities, such as the systematic monitoring of flight data and the examination of industry-wide safety events for the purpose of determining the airline's risk exposure to similar events.
Finally, the last element is every operational department within the airline taking ownership of its safety record and setting specific safety targets annually as part of the airline's strategic planning exercise.
In the current debate over the introduction of safety management systems, it must be made clear that no one within the aviation industry is advocating that the oversight and continued surveillance functions have become redundant. On the contrary, we believe that certification and oversight surveillance activities rightly fall within Transport Canada's mandate, while the airlines are best positioned to manage safety effectively.
Like any new system, it can be improved. We are of course ready to work with Transport Canada, this committee and other stakeholders to improve SMS.
I would now like to give an opportunity to my colleagues from the other NACC member carriers to briefly introduce themselves.
As you will see, we have brought with us representatives of three of the NACC's operating committees, who are best placed to discuss issues dealing with SMS implementation at Canada's four major airlines.