Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today. We'll focus on SMS in the few short minutes we have.
I started flying when I was 15 years old in Newfoundland as a young air cadet. At the age of 18, I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and was formally educated at the Royal Military College in Kingston. I flew for almost 20 years in the air force, and since 1998 I've flown with Air Canada as an airline pilot and airline captain. If you do all that math, that's about 38 years of experience, and I have a few good years left in me yet.
Captain Ed Bunoza is with me. Ed is the chair of our flight safety division at the Air Canada Pilots Association. Ed is also formally educated and has equal or superior experience to what I have. I'm also the president of the Air Canada Pilots Association and we're the largest professional pilot group in Canada. We represent more than 3,100 professional pilots who fly more than 35 million passengers around Canada and the world annually and safely, on Air Canada and Air Canada rouge, our new leisure carrier.
Our members work every day on the front lines of safety. This is what they do. This is their life and their livelihood. They eat and breathe safety every single day of the week. From them and through us, we can give you real-life experience with SMS. You asked us to review SMS and to make some recommendations for improvements, so we'll relate to you our experience in evaluating SMS, which we support in commercial aviation, given the benefit of the varied experience we have from bush flying and military flying, along with the experience of our pilots who've flown helicopters. We have varied backgrounds and experience levels. We'll make recommendations for changes and improvements, but of course, within a 10-minute time frame, we'll keep them very brief and focus on a few key points.
The first thing we'd like to recommend is that any and all lessons you learn from SMS should be transferred and carried across all modes of transportation. What we learn from aviation must be shared with rail and marine. I think it's very important that we do that.
As my friend and colleague Dan alluded to earlier, the very foundation of any SMS program has to be the creation of a solid safety culture. The very rock of an SMS program is creating that safety culture in your airline. Of course, the cornerstone of the safety culture is a voluntary, open, and non-punitive reporting system. We have to be able to report safety issues openly and freely. The users of the safety system must have trust in the system and confidence that they will not face retribution or punishment for reporting safety-related issues. Incidents of a deliberate nature, intentional actions, or professional negligence cannot hide behind safety. We would never ever support or condone that. There must be a mechanism to deal with those kinds of incidents, but that's beyond the scope of SMS and safety.
Currently, there's nothing in the regulations or system that protects the confidentiality of flight safety or air safety reports filed by pilots or other employees with their employer. ASRs can be and have been accessed through the Occupational Health and Safety Act. When the first incidents of that occurred, our pilots went into a hugely defensive posture and were very reluctant to continue reporting freely and openly, because they felt what they would report would be used in some other fashion. Loopholes need to be closed to prevent confidence in SMS from being eroded. Others want to use these reports for different non-safety-related purposes—in the courts for workers' compensation or for lawsuits. Of course, we can't permit that to happen or the very foundation of our culture will be eroded.
Loss of confidence will result in fewer reports and an inability to find and fix problems. Fulsome, open, and honest reporting is the best way to identify and then correct safety issues and problems.
Another source of reliable safety data is a flight data monitoring and a flight data analysis system, sometimes also referred to as FOQA . SMS programs are supposed to include an FDM program as well. FDM systems monitor and record flight data for review to identify systemic risks. This allows safety programs to identify trends in flight and address an issue before it actually turns into an incident.
We can give you lots of examples of how the flight data monitoring systems monitor all the parameters of a flight. For instance, you can monitor a routine flight into a specific runway in, say, Halifax; identify a potential issue; educate our members on the problem they're dealing with; and train in the simulator to prevent that from occurring again, all without ever having an incident using flight data analysis.
Currently under the law, under the regulations, there's no protection for that data either, similar to the case for ASRs. There should be a program, and there should be guidelines. It works at Air Canada. It works with Air Canada Pilots Association because of the tremendous flight safety relationship that's been developed with our employer. We're able to write our own regulations and our own protections for that kind of a system so that we're able to enhance our safety at Air Canada.
Of course another key component for SMS success is oversight, but not the way it was before, not within a culture of enforcement. We need a system that corrects problems when they're identified. Of course we know that the 2012 Auditor General's report found that Transport Canada was not sufficiently managing risks in civil aviation. We'll give you a very quick example: regulations to address pilot fatigue have been stalled at Transport Canada. We have a great relationship with the department, and they're working on this, but the regulations are still stalled in the bureaucracy a little bit. It's been 18 months since a panel of experts created a report and made recommendations. My friend Dan co-chaired and co-authored that report, and we're still waiting for some regulations with respect to flight and duty times, because fatigue is an issue that we've identified. Meanwhile the Americans and the European Union have advanced and created new regulations, and we're still lagging behind the rest of the world.
Transport Canada's oversight of SMS does not always meet the ICAO standards. ICAO requires a state authority to set acceptable levels of safety. ICAO requires an operator to have specific safety performance indicators and target values. ICAO requires audits and inspections at least once every 12 months.
Transport Canada, while still there and still providing some oversight, has managed to somehow replace or modify most of these things to some other standard that's acceptable to Transport Canada. Yet at Air Canada we have a very good SMS system. It works. It works because of the good relationship between the pilots and management, and among our employees, management, and the employer.
I've heard SMS explained as “managers manage safety, and employees deliver safety”. Well, I like to think that SMS is like a three-legged stool. You have the regulator; you have the operator; and you need stakeholders. In our case pilots are the employees. Input from the front-line stakeholders—in our case, pilots—is essential to the success of a good SMS program. When we have the stakeholders and the operator working together to develop a good safety program, we can often set our own standards. We can often monitor our own guidelines such that the regulator doesn't always have to be there. But there must be a resolution mechanism when we disagree on the resolution of a safety issue. Again, that's where the regulator and oversight from Transport Canada are essential, but they must be more sophisticated than the traditional model of inspections and enforcement. That has not worked in the past and it will not work again.
I have three main points to finish up and leave you with, if I may, Mr. Chairman.
We do remain concerned that Transport Canada is not adequately verifying regulatory compliance with SMS, especially for carriers or operators without organized labour, organized pilots or some way to provide feedback to the employer. We believe that lessons learned from SMS in aviation should be shared across all modes of transportation, and that the lessons learned by those airlines and operators with a more sophisticated SMS program should be de-identified and shared with those that are not as sophisticated so that they can also learn. Finally, the most important thing is a very solid safety culture. We believe any loopholes must be closed to ensure confidentiality and integrity of data reported through SMS. That is essential, and without those protections, reporting will stop and our safety culture will be eroded.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.