Good morning, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee. My name is John McKenna, and I am the president and chief executive officer for the Air Transport Association of Canada. I am accompanied today by Mr. Mike Skrobica, our senior vice-president and CFO.
The Air Transport Association of Canada has represented Canada’s commercial air transport industry for 80 years. We have approximately 180 members engaged in commercial aviation operating in every region of Canada and providing service to a large majority of the more than 600 airports in the country.
Our members include large airlines, regional airlines, commuter operators, air taxis, aviation educational organizations, and flights schools. Our membership also includes the air industry support sector involved in all aspects of the aviation support industry. We refer to them as Industry Partners.
We really appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to address the important aspects of our industry that you have undertaken to study. The transportation of dangerous goods is an area where the airline industry has been most progressive for a very long time due to the obvious potential adverse impact on airline operations.
I will focus my comments on safety management systems. However, I will gladly answer questions on either dangerous goods or SMS.
The implementation of SMS was to be facilitated by amendments to the Aeronautics Act. Bill C-6 and Bill C-7 were tabled respectively in 2006 and 2007. Key proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act included the following: provisions to ensure employees of Canadian air carriers report safety concerns voluntarily without fear of legal or disciplinary actions, or what has been referred to as the non-punitive clause; provisions to allow for more self-regulation in low-risk areas of the Aeronautics Act, thus allowing the better use of Transport Canada resources for those areas of higher risk; additional tools for the Minister of Transport to ensure compliance; and increased penalties for contraventions.
The House of Commons was adjourned or prorogued before either of these two bills could be tabled for final reading. The amendments were on the table when the larger air carriers were involved in the collaborative development of Safety Management Systems and were supposed to help its implementation both at Transport Canada and with operators.
ATAC is convinced that SMS yields both a safety and financial return. It is, however, a considerable investment regardless of the size of the carrier's operations. Larger carriers designated as 705 operators in the Canadian air regulations tell us today that they wouldn't do without SMS, but all agree that they had underestimated the task at hand when they started its implementation.
In its 2012 watch list, the Transportation Safety Board showed that from 2001 to 2010 the 703 category—the air taxi operators—had incurred many more accidents and many more fatalities than the commuter operators—704—and the airline operators combined. During that decade, TSB numbers show that in the 703 category, 359 accidents resulted in 132 fatalities, whereas the commuter ops and the airline operators had reported 44 accidents and zero fatalities.
Canadian regulations mandating SMS have been in place since 2006, but so far only the 705 operators—the airlines—and the approved maintenance organizations that support them are obliged to implement a fully compliant SMS. ATAC wants to encourage and facilitate implementation of SMS for all commercial operators. We are very conscious of the fact that the SMS model that Transport Canada has approved for the 705 level is not reasonable for implementation by the smaller operators. In addition, the air transport industry has been getting mixed messages from within Transport Canada as to the future of full implementation of SMS throughout our industry.
Consequently, we have developed the ATAC SMS Tool Kit and Guide. This innovative tool, designed to help small and medium-sized operators develop, implement and maintain a compliant SMS, was distributed free of charge to all our members.
We spent over one year on the investigation into determining the type of appropriate SMS and subsequently developing the necessary tools and services required to help the small and medium-sized operators.
Our challenge was twofold. The first was to design an SMS model that would meet Transport Canada's requirements; the second was to come up with a model which would be accepted by the intended users that is commensurate with the size and complexity of their operations and that provides an operational and efficiency improvement.
Large organizations accumulate and report colossal volumes of complex data. Organizational size and complexity and cultural change challenges would make it difficult for these organizations to implement reactive and proactive SMS processes simultaneously. Smaller organizations need to efficiently identify and meet the needs of the regulatory requirements by clearly identifying safety critical information as being different from nice-to-know information. This ultimately reduces the complexity of many of the processes, procedures, and subsystems of an SMS. Not separating business goals from safety goals simplifies and supports the cultural change necessary for the good implementation of an SMS.
The risk management system is the procedural meat of an SMS. The organization's safety oversight system is its risk management system. It is made up of four distinct processes: reporting, investigation and analysis, corrective action development and implementation, and the measurement of effectiveness.
One must avoid confusing Transport Canada's responsibility for safety oversight with an organization's obligation to meet the safety oversight requirements of an SMS. While impossible to achieve in any organization, freedom from error is even more difficult to achieve in smaller organizations in Canada. They generally employ a wide spectrum of experienced personnel, from neophytes to experts, operate the least sophisticated and often older equipment, and operate in the least technically sophisticated and, therefore, potentially higher risk environment. Given this reality and TC's regulatory requirement to create an SMS commensurate with the size and complexity of an organization, the goal is to provide verifiable insurance that operations are safe.
I conclude by repeating that ATAC firmly believes that safety management systems offer both safety and a financial benefit. SMS must be a major element of any air carrier's corporate culture for SMS to be fully functional and yield the many benefits it offers. The key message from Transport Canada as to the implementation of SMS in all segments of the air transport industry must be clear. We at ATAC want to help operators welcome this vital element into their corporate culture and day-to-day operations.
A safety management system is not just a strategic document. It is the implementation of an even greater safety culture. The plan, and its supporting processes, is the way an organization sets itself up and runs its day-to-day operations.