CBAA boasts full participation in safety-management program

 - October 2, 2006, 9:12 AM

At the annual Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) Convention held in Vancouver earlier this year, CBAA president Rich Gage announced that all Canadian private corporate operators have enrolled in the CBAA/Transport Canada Private Operator Certificate (POC) program. The program essentially entrusts to CBAA the certification and management of the safety monitoring of corporate aviation, formerly the responsibility of Transport Canada (TC), which still maintains overall regulatory authority.

The program–similar to airline safety programs and understood to be the first of its kind in the world for corporate aviation–was launched officially in January 2003 and applies to all turbine-powered, pressurized airplanes, as well as to all other business aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds.

The POC concept was first mooted in late 1998, when operators and TC agreed that the government’s safety monitoring process for corporate aviation–while well intended–was both cumbersome and inefficient, primarily due to the acute shortage of TC inspectors.

As a result, CBAA and its members developed a set of performance-based standards that required each participating operator to develop a safety-management system that identified the operational risks inherent in the particular operation, established procedures for mitigating those risks and allowed for continual self-evaluation.

As a condition of obtaining and subsequently maintaining their certification, operators would have to successfully complete a third-party audit, for which CBAA retained trained and accredited auditors across Canada. As independent contractors, auditors would work directly with operators to meet the audit requirements identified in the standards.

Participation in the POC was voluntary, but CBAA is clearly pleased that there has been 100-percent acceptance of the program across the private corporate fleet. Only certain federal and provincial government members of CBAA, which already had their own programs, have, as CBAA expected, opted not to join.

Gage noted that while CBAA and Transport Canada provided the initial funding for the POC program, individual members have borne the entire cost since the project’s 2003 launch. The fee structure, which has not changed since 2003, is based on a progressive scale.

The CBAA president stated that the program has demonstrated increased safety margins, operational flexibility, customized service, compliance with Transport Canada initiatives, potential pilot training cost savings and an industry-managed program with direct operator participation and influence.

Gage also announced that CBAA membership had doubled during the past three years from 165 to 345. He acknowledged that the membership numbers are likely to increase more slowly in the future because virtually all Canadian corporate operators are now members. The association is now directing its efforts at developing a long-term strategic plan, along with continuing activities with IBAC, ICAO and other key organizations.

Association Events

In addition, the association hosts special membership events, such as its annual one-day U.S. Operating Requirements Seminar, held this year in Calgary in July, where officials from the FAA, the Department of Transportation, the Transportation Security Administration and Customs review current U.S. regulations governing transborder and third country operations by Canadian operators.

CBAA conventions are quite similar–although proportionally smaller–to NBAA’s, with the same mix of legislative, educational and technical briefings from outside experts, coupled with aircraft and equipment exhibits and the now traditional social activities. Presentations and forums covered a wide range of topics, including crew fatigue, security, maintenance, taxation, new electronic flight bag applications and an update on very light jets.

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) and Nav Canada presented two other sessions of particular interest to members. Both agencies highlighted the important contribution and involvement of corporate aviation in their programs. In the past, many operators felt that the agencies too often regarded corporate aviation as simply the top end of general aviation.

Real Levasseur, chief of the TSB’s Air Investigation Operations, emphasized the importance of corporate pilot involvement in business aircraft accident investigations, while Jeff Cochrane, manager of Nav Canada’s recently formed CNS Service Design Group, pointed out that the needs of the corporate sector were key inputs to the development of the coming Air Navigation System Plan, which is due to be published this month.

Cochrane emphasized that the new plan would respond to operators’ stated needs, rather than the past practice where–citing Canada’s experience with Rnav–officials would anticipate and promote a need, encourage operators to equip and then delay the introduction of the procedures necessary to use the new capability.

Next year’s convention will be held in Montreal in July.