Mr. Speaker, regarding part (a) of the question, all Canadian pilots, air traffic controllers and flight engineers require valid Transport Canada aviation medical certificates in order to exercise the privileges of their licenses, permits or ratings.
Different categories of aviation medical certificates are required for different types of aviation activities: category 1, commercial pilot; category 2, air traffic controller; category 3, private pilot; and category 4, student pilot, recreational pilot or glider pilot.
Transport Canada processes applications for category 1, category 2 and category 3 aviation medical certificates. These applications require applicants to undergo medical examinations by civil aviation medical examiners, who are physicians appointed to perform aviation medical examinations on behalf of the Minister of Transport.
Category 4 aviation medical certificates are generally submitted medical declarations directly to Transport Canada licensing for issuance of a category 4 medical certificate, without the need for a civil aviation medical examiner examination. The service delivery target for category 4 aviation medical certificates is 40 business days and there is no current backlog.
Transport Canada processes approximately 60,000 aviation medical certificate applications annually. Since March 2022, applications have increased from approximately 5,000 to 6,000 per month, due to increased aviation activity as the pandemic measures have eased.
Except for prioritizing some applications for the preservation of essential aviation services, including aviation training, the department manages category 1, 2 and 3 applications with the same service delivery target and in the same processing stream.
The service delivery target for new, uncomplicated aviation medical certificate applications is 40 business days after receipt by the department. The 40-business day service delivery target does not apply to incomplete or medically complex applications for which additional medical information is required. Applicants may be required to seek additional physician reports, tests or investigations within the provincial and territorial health care systems, where the provision of direct patient care may be prioritized over Transport Canada regulatory medicine requirements, thereby introducing delays.
With respect to part (b), throughout the pandemic, the department did not discontinue service delivery at any time and was a global aviation leader in putting measures into place to ensure the continued provision of aviation medical certificates.
However, despite the department’s uninterrupted operations, a backlog of applications did develop during the pandemic. Important factors that contributed to the backlog include pre-existing process inefficiencies in a paper-based system, delays in letter mail delivery and staff losses, including key physicians and administrative staff, that were challenging to replace in a labour environment in high demand for medical professionals. It is worth noting that the backlog is not distributed uniformly across Canada, with some regions experiencing very little or no backlog, and other regions experiencing greater backlog.
Although it is not possible to provide a definitive timeline for when the backlog will be eliminated, Transport Canada is working to identify and process applications that were delayed and has hired additional physicians and administrative staff to increase file processing capacity.
Furthermore, since the start of the pandemic, the department has undertaken major modernization efforts, including successful initiatives to streamline and digitize its processes. For instance, before the pandemic, fewer than 5% of applications were received digitally and, currently, more than 90% of applications are received digitally. This eliminates delays in the postal system and time-consuming paper handling by departmental staff.
With respect to the status of Transport Canada service delivery as of September 2022, for every 10 applicants, on average, seven out of 10, or 70%, receive immediate service delivery. These are medically uncomplicated renewal applicants whose existing medical certificates are renewed in-office by their civil aviation medical examiners. Two out of 10, or 20%, receive service delivery within 40 business days. These are complete and uncomplicated applications for new medical certificates, or uncomplicated renewal applications for medical certificates not eligible for civil aviation medical examiner renewal in-office. Finally, one out of 10, or 10%, receive service delivery beyond 40 business days. These include incomplete or medically complex applications for which additional medical information is required in order to complete the assessments. In some cases, these applicants may have disqualifying medical conditions, and their assessments may be delayed long term awaiting the resolution or stabilization of a medical condition, or renewal applications for medical certificates not eligible for civil aviation medical examiner renewal in-office.
Transport Canada continues to strive to provide timely aviation medical certification, with the majority of aviation medical certificate applicants currently receiving service within the 40-business day timeline.