Canadian bizav group assumes regulator role

 - January 10, 2008, 11:50 AM

Imagine the possibilities for improving the smoothness, costs and flexibility of obtaining and maintaining your corporate aircraft operational certification if the nation’s regulatory agency decided to hand over that approval process to a business aviation trade association. It’s hard to imagine the FAA doing this in the U.S, but it is exactly what Transport Canada has done. Effective January 1 the Canadian Business Aviation Association has taken over Transport Canada’s role for approving and monitoring that country’s private operator certification (POC).

The agreement between Transport Canada and CBAA is the culmination of a nearly four-year effort. Initial discussions on the concept started in 1999. An official study was undertaken in 2000 leading to formal proposals in 2001 to revise civil aviation regulations for operational safety standards (CAR 604). The revisions would require private operators of Canadian-registered pas- senger-carrying, pressurized turbine airplanes with a mtows of more than 12,500 pounds to obtain their operating certificate through CBAA. The measure was adopted last year for implementation last month and gives new and current operators all of this year to comply.

Approximately 140 CAR 604 operators in Canada are flying about 300 airplanes, and they will be required to recertify under the new standards. Other classes and types of aircraft can participate in the program voluntarily. Under the agreement, Transport Canada retains regulatory authority and CBAA becomes the administrative and managing authority for certification.

Safety-management System
Operators have until December 31 to comply with the requirements of the CBAA private operator certificate program. These requirements center around the development of an approved safety-management system that is “performance based,” replacing a set of rigid and prescriptive regulations that do not account for conditions and circumstances that prevent flexibility in flight-crew decisions. Essentially, the process requires operators to identify and profile their specific “inherent operational risks and establish customized procedures for mitigating those risks and for continual self-evaluation.”

CBAA will maintain on its Web site (www.cbaa.ca) a reference library and examples of generic safety- management manuals that operators can use to develop their own customized version. Additionally, the association can recommend to operators consultants who can provide “expert advise on safety-management systems.”

After an operator completes its safety-management system, it must pass an audit by CBAA-approved auditors. Once the audit is passed and required revisions to the safety management system, if any, are incorporated, the operator submits the audit report and supporting documentation to the association for final approval. Note that the managing authority given to the CBAA covers mainly flight operations and training; it does not cover maintenance at this time. A list of auditors will be posted on the association’s Web site.

In addition to an initial audit of the safety-management system, the program includes continuing audits by CBAA-trained and accredited third parties not employed by the association. The association, which has fewer than 10 full-time staff members, recently added Bill Boucher to manage the POC program.

Other advantages of the new standards, according to CBAA, are “potential pilot training cost savings and an industry-managed program with direct operator participation and influence.” The training savings result from eliminating a previous rule that required Transport Canada inspectors to go along with, and test, Canadian pilots who take training in the U.S. The cost of this requirement was borne by the operators. Also, the new standard permits “training to proficiency” rather than a set number of hours.

On January 1 the first POCs were issued to three operators who voluntarily took part in a trial program and who have successfully qualified by meeting the new standards and completing an audit. The three operators are Clearwater Fine Foods, FHR Real Estate and Weldwood of Canada.

To assist new and current operators facilitate transition to the CBAA program, the association will conduct private operator workshops throughout the year at various locations in Canada. The first workshop was held January 20 in Ottawa; there will be sessions scheduled in conjunction with the association’s annual convention and trade show July 7 in Calgary. Details of the additional workshops will be posted on CBAA’s Web site.

Research and development funding for the regulatory changes and restructuring of the CBAA to manage the certification program was provided by Transport Canada, the association and its members. This year CBAA said the program will become self-sustaining through membership fees.

That will likely not be a problem since private operators requiring a POC must join the CBAA. Currently, about half of the 140 operators required to have a POC are members, so the association will see a doubling of its membership this year. The annual cost of membership, an increase over previous years, ranges from about C$1,500 ($975) to C$6,700 ($4,345) and an additional one-time 7-percent federal tax based on the number and size of aircraft.

Private aircraft operators will also have to pay for the required audits every one to three years, depending on the type and size of the operation and the determination of the auditor, CBAA’s Boucher said. An audit will also be triggered by events such as relocation, restructuring and aircraft acquisition, and, on a case-by-case basis, accidents or incidents. CBAA will also implement a “dispute resolution process.”

Some Resistance To Join CBAA
“We look forward to working with all of the POC holders and to their inclusion as members of the CBAA,” said association president Rich Gage in a December letter informing operators about the rule changes.

These words of encouragement didn’t please all POC holders. Initially, there was dissatisfaction among many operators unhappy about being forced to join a trade group to get certified. But that appears to be dissolving as new members who were reluctant to join the association are discovering the speedy responses and attention they are getting from an official government-sanctioned agency dedicated to their needs, claimed Boucher.

“The association can be more responsive” than Transport Canada to the requirements of corporate operators, he said, because they no longer have to compete with the airlines and other operators for services from Transport Canada. “There is now a tremendous amount of acceptance, in the 90-percentile bracket,” Boucher said.

For a government agency to give a trade group the authority to certify its members to meet regulations is a significant milestone. Transport Canada has taken the lead and set the precedent. Which country will step up to be next? Stay tuned.