Excellent story about SMS in Canada – by Carlos Da Costa

Excellent story about SMS in Canada - by Carlos Da Costa

“Excellent story about SMS in Canada”
Recently, I came across a very interesting but lengthy story about Safety Management System (SMS) in Canada titled “Fly At Your Own Risk: Why is Transport Canada moving toward self-regulation for the country’s airlines?”

Once in a while you come across a story that just can’t be ignored and captures the issue in its entirety from someone else’s perspective. This story featured in The Walrus magazine, is 13 pages long but very well written and offers a compelling story for anyone, whether it be a mechanic or an ordinary Canadian to read and understand where our country is headed with aviation safety.

It tells of Kirsten Stevens’s quest for answers into the death of her husband Dave, who perished in a plane crash off the west coast of British Columbia in 2005. When she couldn’t obtain any satisfactory answers from various government agencies involved in aviation safety, she got vocal. It drew her into the battle against declining aviation safety standards in Canada and the implementation of SMS or Safety Management Systems. Mechanics across Canada have long feared and are worried about Transport Canada’s new SMS initiative, which has not been fully debated by the public. To make matters worse there are glaring examples of system failures south of the border including Southwest airlines grounding of the aircraft fleet and fines imposed by FAA and similar stories recently with other airlines including American Airlines, and Continental.

Do we wait for a disaster here in Canada before the pressure is so great that Transport Canada abandons SMS in its entirety?  After all who would believe that we can trust the foxes to look after the chickens?

The quality of the journalism in this story by author Carol Shaben is very high.  Perhaps some of you don’t care about some aviation story out of Canada, or even SMS.  But, here’s my challenge:  Read some of the  paragraphs we have selected from this story, and if you are intrigued, then click on the link at the end to read the full story.  If you really care, I can guarantee that you will end up reading it in its entirety because it hits really close to home, that is your maintenance home at work, and possibly your family or friends may be impacted as a result.
Fly At Your Own Risk: Why is Transport Canada moving toward self-regulation for the country’s airlines?
by Carol Shaben (photographs by Eamon Mac Mahon)

Excerpts quoted below………..

“When she realized her husband’s death might have been prevented, Stevens began reading everything she could about the aviation industry: Canadian aeronautics regulations, the Aeronautics Act, crash investigation reports, civil aviation studies and recommendations, and books with titles like Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents; Black Box: Why Air Safety Is No Accident; and Flying Blind, Flying Safe. She also joined AvCanada, Canada’s busiest aviation employment website and discussion forum, where she discovered that many aviation professionals shared her concerns about the lack of oversight of Canada’s commercial air carriers.

“Her mission has since broadened to encompass the overall decline in Canada’s aviation safety standards, and especially recent federal legislation involving a cost-cutting approach called safety management systems. SMS is a form of industry self-regulation in which airlines develop and maintain their own safety protocols. Under SMS, the responsibility for hands-on monitoring largely shifts from the government to the airlines themselves. The legislation has been making its way through Parliament in various forms since 2001. Its latest incarnation, Bill C-7, An Act to Amend the Aeronautics Act, died last September when Parliament was dissolved in advance of the federal election, but Transport Canada is moving ahead with SMS nonetheless. The department intends to have the protocol fully implemented across all regulated civil aviation organizations by November 2011. In concert with other critics, Stevens charges that the government is using self-regulation to justify extensive cutbacks to traditional oversight programs. She has mounted a spirited campaign to stop Transport Canada, garnering support from pilots, victims’ families, whistle-blowers, and organizations across the country.”


Carlos DaCosta
Airline Coordinator,
IAMAW, Canada