----- Original Message -----
From: Kirsten Stevens
To: campbel@sen.parl.gc.ca
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 11:40 AM
Subject: Request for Review/Public Inquiry

Senator Larry Campbell
Senator D. Ross Fitzpatrick
Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer
Senator Pat Carney
Senator Gerry St. Germain
 
 

Dear Mr. Campbell;
 
More than two years ago, I lost my husband to a terrible air taxi accident off the west coast of Vancouver Island.  Barely five miles from their take-off in Campbell River and still in a well-populated area with steady marine traffic - including the Quadra-Cortes bi-hourly ferry, no emergency transmission was received.  My husband was not seriously injured in the accident and survived for several hours in his floater coat before slowly drowning.  The full "story" can be read on our website, www.questforjustice.ca
 
In the course of my search for answers to how this could happen, I have become more and more horrified by what I have learned about the air taxi industry in Canada. 

I have come to believe there was a time when Canada was a leader in aviation knowledge, and set the world standards for aviation law.  Budgetary constraints, deregulation of fares, lack of oversight, mismanagement and the many difficulties involved in overseeing such a diverse landscape have resulted in our falling far behind that example we once set. 
 
In 1998 the Final Report on Safety in Air Taxi Operations (SATOPs) was completed, with a number of recommendations referencing operational problems in remote regions, pilot remuneration, federal oversight issues, and the need for the Transportation Safety Board to examine operational problems which may have led to accidents.  Many of these recommendations have been all but ignored.  In 2001, the TSB recommended (A01-01) that the "The Department of Transport undertake a review of its safety oversight methodology, resources, and practices, particularly as they relate to smaller operators and those operators who fly in or into remote areas, to ensure that air operators and crews consistently operate within the safety regulations."  According to then Transport Minister David Collenette, "In advance of the TSB recommendation, Transport Canada initiated a phased study to review safety oversight methodology, resources and practices" and "Transport Canada will respond to the findings of that study as the next step in continually improving the safety of the air taxi sector".  The report, known as the "DMR Report", was due to be released on September 12th.  It was shelved post 9/11.  The results sere never published.

In British Columbia, it is believed by most that logging is the most dangerous profession.  However, the WorkSafeBC Fatalities Reports for 1989 to 1998 shows us that the fatality rate for the air taxi industry is more than twice that of logging, with a death rate of 21.5 per 10,000 people-years, compared to loggings' death rate of 9.3.  Some might say things have improved over the last ten years.  Yet between '89 and '98 there were 49 deaths, an average of about five deaths per year.  In 2005, the year my husband (not the pilot, but a logger) was killed, there were 9 pilot deaths accepted through WorkSafeBC - nearly twice that of the previous average.  Things have not gotten better.

To try to understand the aviation industry from an aviator's point of view, I became a part of an aviation forum on the internet in March of 2006.  At the time, I knew very little about the industry beyond my disappointment with the TSB official accident 'report' in my own case.  Over the past year, I have learned that the lack of oversight and common sense I felt had been used by the regulator's over the air taxi operator involved in my husband's death was not unique.  I have learned that across the provinces there are many who feel that this happens far too often.  TCCA officials currently make and enforce interpretations of policy both individually and regionally, without any system of checks and balances.  Worse still, there are several who claim to have tried to complain about the errors and misconduct of various TCCA officials, and have been faced with retribution instead of justice.  Offending officials have merely been moved within the department.  It is believed by some, that there are several officials within the highest ranks of TCCA who have some serious transgressions to answer for.  It is felt that unless these contraventions are made public, no change will take place for the better.  Some of these individuals and operators are willing to come forward and have spoken privately with me, others continue to be afraid and talk only anonymously.  Perhaps some of this information should be considered under the light of the newly enacted Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act.  Currently, the TCCA runs a very large and diverse department without any third-party review system, or method by which they can truly be held accountable.  There is no Ombudsman for Transport Canada.
 
There is currently a great deal of talk in the industry about the 'new' Safety Management System, touted by Transport Canada as being the latest fix-all.  While SMS is in principle an excellent tool, it will not solve many of the problems in the air taxi industry unless Transport Canada Civil Aviation also takes a new approach.  Most safe operators' already have some kind of safety system in place, and unless Transport Canada take more consideration of the recommendations made in regard to their own oversight in the Safety in Air Taxi Operations Report of 1998, SMS will make little difference in the charter air industry.  Unless Bill C-2 is acted upon and enforced, Bill C-6 , An Act to Amend the Aeronautics Act, and its many positive aspects will be ineffectual.  There have been many witnesses heard before the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructures and Communities who agree with my views, and as a result, recent changes to the proposed amendments have been introduced.
Air taxi pilots have no union, professional association or other effective lobbying group.  A Transport Canada inspector recently made a presentation to the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities.    Mr. Hugh Danford remarked that while there are over 19,000 aviation licences issued in Canada, only approxiamately 4000 of those are members of trade associations.  This leaves most flight instructors, bush pilots, charter pilots, corporate pilots, agricultural spray pilots, and air ambulance pilots, among others, with no access to a professional association.  Mr. Danford recommends  the establishment of a mandatory professional association, with something akin to a "Federal Professional Pilots Act" to give it strength.  This recommendation is likely to receive a great deal of support from those in industry.

Adding to this problem is that of accident investigation.  Because of financial constraints and the limited ability of some 220 odd TSB investigators for all Transport Canada sectors to examine the causes of all accidents in all sectors, these occupational injuries and deaths are not always investigated for cause.  In my case, five men lost their lives that day, due to an easily alterable though lengthy chain of events.  Yet no investigation for cause is being done, as we are told nothing new can be learned.  The "lack of information" touted by the TSB resulted in no investigation into infringements of the Canada Labour Code and the responsibilities of the company to maintain a safe working environment.  I believe it is essential that the Worker's Compensation Boards and/or Occupational Health and Safety Boards for all the provinces and territories should be allowed to be actively involved in accident investigations where injuries or deaths of worker's have occurred.  TCCA's OH&S department is not effective.

We have been demanding a public inquiry into this matter for some time.  Neither the TSB nor the BC Coroner Service have responded to these demands.  We believe that this accident should be a "case study" for all that is wrong with the air taxi industry.
 
At this time, we request a formal review of this information, and your assistance in getting a public inquiry into the events surrounding the deaths of these five souls.
 

Respectfully,

Kirsten Stevens

Tel:  (250)287-2725
492 S. McPhedran Rd.
Campbell River, BC
V9W 5K5
kis.ca@telus.net