Auditor General of Canada extracts from the spring 2012 report
No inspections for 70% of aviation companies
“[…] although the national planning frequencies state that aviation companies must be inspected every year, about 70 percent of aviation companies across the country were not inspected in 2010–11.” (5.40)
No inspection for 33% of higher-risk companies
“Transport Canada’s national planning frequencies require that the higher-risk companies be included in annual surveillance plans. […]We found that only 67 percent of air carriers, maintenance organizations, and large airports were inspected according to annual surveillance plans.” (5.47)
Lack of "resources"?
“We were told that the main reasons for cancelling or postponing inspections were to reallocate resources to other higher-risk inspections, or because planned resources were not available.” (5.49)
Poor workforce planning
“However, while the Department identified some gaps in competencies in its human resources plan, it did not identify how many inspectors and engineers it will need to conduct inspections under the new surveillance approach envisioned by the plan.” (5.73)
Lax risk assessment
“[…] Transport Canada is missing key risk information and has no formal process in place to collect that data. […] In addition, Transport Canada has little or no information on some important risk indicators.” (5.36)\
The situation in 2012-2013
Even fewer inspections
Transport Canada now wants the frequency of surveillance to “reflect available resources.” Thus, due to a lack of “resources”, the aim of an annual inspection for each aviation company has been abandoned in 2012. The interval between inspections now varies, depending on the company, and can be as long as five years.
Acknowledged shortage of inspectors
Transport Canada acknowledges that they are short around 100 civil aviation inspectors. This shortage, which has existed for many years, is due to difficulties in recruiting and retaining personnel. In fact, many inspectors prefer working for the private sector, where salaries are higher.
Persistently poor workforce panning
Despite requests from the Office of the Auditor General in 2008 and 2012, Transport Canada has not yet assessed the number of inspectors and engineers required to ensure adequate oversight of civil aviation. In a report published in March 2013, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts consequently directed the Department to do so by June of 2013 (recommendation 3).
Questionable risk management
Transport Canada says that inspections are now planned at intervals of “between one and five years” after a “detailed risk analysis.” However, as recently as November of 2012, the Department was unable to specify the number of aviation companies judged to be high risk.
And now, more cuts?
To correct these deficiencies in the oversight of civil aviation, additional investment is necessary. Nevertheless, the aviation safety program of Transport Canada, responsible for oversight of civil aviation, is facing permanent cuts of 5.9 million dollars per year by 2015.
But it gets worse. According to projections released by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), airplane traffic should increase by around 4% per year through 2025. The Auditor General concludes “if nothing else changes, this increase in volume could lead to more accidents.” He adds that Transport Canada “will have to do more, just to keep the accident rate per revenue-generating passenger mile travelled in Canada at current levels.” (5.14)
Can Transport Canada really “do more” without adequate funding? It’s very doubtful.