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aviation safety

How air operators in Canada prevent accidents and reduce risks

All aviation categories from Fixed Wing Charter, Helicopter to Airline services play critical roles in the support of remote operations across Canada in various sectors such as Mining/Resources, Government, Healthcare, and most importantly in connecting First Nations communities. This includes aerial survey, mapping, seismic to the transport of cargo and people to remote sites, sometimes referred to as “FIFO” (Fly-In-Fly-Out).  Aviation continues to be a critical and growing component for the growth and consistency of remote operations.

Safety is Paramount

Amongst the numerous responsibilities of air operators –  commercial strategy/planning, contracting, supply chain & resources management and more, the highest priority is always maintaining Safety. As a starter, Commercial aviation operators must comply to all the regulatory standards and guidelines provided by Transport Canada or in the United States FAA to maintain their licenses and above all safe operations.

There are also additional compliance criteria for operations in the regulations such as in Mining Exploration that may feature Helicopter external sling. Or for Offshore Oil & Gas Production support by Helicopters that must fly IFR for hundreds of kilometers offshore. Plus, applications for mixed configurations like Cargo/Pax.  Fixed Wing operations may include landing on wheel, floats, or skis.

Should additional criteria be applicable, resource companies are responsible to customize and document their additional corporate aviation safety standards by which their charter vendors must adhere to.

“Additional examples could include specific requirements concerning pilot experience on type, aircraft configurations (single-multi) and navigation equipment required,  all of which will exceed the typical minimum government published guidelines. Compliance will then be monitored by third party aviation specialists familiar with both governmental and  corporate aviation standards. They are contracted to provide audits ensuring their respective charter operators are adhering to their specific safety standards.” says Darren Neid, President Knight Aviation.

Additionally, companies now require that their air transport suppliers must have an SMS (Safety Management System), especially small airlines which do not yet have this obligation under Canadian Aviation Regulations (CAR). Again, typically aviation specialists are contracted or on board to support them in their air transport needs, whether it be:

  • Identifying the specific needs (type of aircraft, frequency of flights …)
  • Identifying the most appropriate aviation suppliers and drafting request for proposals
  • Putting in place strong contracts with the right criteria and completing thorough follow-ups
  • Construction of a safe runway that complies with regulations

Nathalie Tousignant, President of Octant Aviation, has developed an SMS and Operations software ( to help aerodrome operators and carriers to operate in a safer manner. They also have their own team of fly-in aerodrome operators when clients have an urgent need to ensure operations continue flawlessly.

SMS is the global standard. Canada leads the world in having these systems already in place. A documented process for managing risks that integrates operations and technical systems with the management of financial and human resources to ensure aviation safety or the safety of the public. In principle, an SMS is intended to identify risks before they escalate into safety problems.

Resource companies also audit aviation providers to their internal aviation standards or, in many cases, the Basic Aviation Risk Standard (BARS). It is common for there to be a void between the audit process and what occurs in the field. “A specialist supplier such as Veritas Aviation Solutions bridges this gap and provides tailored services to each aviation project” says James Carr, Aviation Advisor.

In a vast country like Canada with aviation operations coast to coast and from the Arctic to urban cities surveillance, monitoring and inspection is challenging. The industry has also become self regulating for the smaller charter operators. This means that the operator develops its own programs within the guidelines of the regulations. Upon start up and one, two or three years later; they may be revisited by an inspector to ” Validate” their program (Program Validation Inspection or PVI).

The task of getting an aircraft off the ground to its destination safety requires contributions from an enormous group such as mechanics, controllers, ground crew, pilots and a broader array of systems and technology. With limited margin of error proper training is vital. As an example, Commercial airline pilots undergo significant levels of direct training prior to receiving their Commercial Pilots Licences with mandated in-cockpit flight and in-class training

This topic is massive and only touched upon in the few components that educates us and identifies some of the systems or processes that  we use to mitigate risk. But the entire aviation eco system is not without some room for improvement as this is inherently a risky business.

To close, Bill Yearwood (retired Transportation Safety Board Manager and recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Safety Award) writes in his book GETTING IT. “It is all about what causes what. How we naively risk out lives. Why we make errors. How we fall into the trap of being part of the accident. The set-up”

It is all about Safety in Aviation.



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