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The 2018 TSB Watchlist

To their credit, the Transportation Safety Board is in the process is visiting the content and form of their 2018 Watchlist, with a view to determining how they can find more safety value from the process – in fact, HAC is holding a Town Hall meeting at our Upcoming Convention, so that TSB Board members can generate some open dialogue on this subject. The two Watchlist items that affect the helicopter industry most directly, relate to SMS and Fatigue Management.

First, let’s talk about SMS. For over 15 years, Transport Canada has been talking about implementing SMS across “all certificate holders”. To date, SMS is now a requirement for Airports (Part III of the CARs), Air Navigation Service providers (Part VIII of the CARs),  Business Aviation Operators (CAR 604), and Airline operators (CAR 705). Since SMS was first raised as a concept, it was acknowledged that it should be “scalable to the size and complexity of the operation”. I want to be clear, HAC supports the concept of SMS. The safety benefits of identifying risks in your operation, before they become accidents is irrefutable. What HAC objects to, is the “backdoor SMS” that has materialized. It is reminiscent of the old American caselaw on obscenity. In 1964, in Jacobellis v. Ohio, US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described his threshold test for obscenity by writing “I know it when I see it”. The problem is, that with SMS and obscenity, no one should be held accountable to a standard that is not prescribed, in some intelligible way. As it is, Transport Canada is insisting that operators manage their own risks – fair ball – but until the regulator prescribes that it is to be done, and how it is to be done from a regulatory prescriptive, then neither the regulator nor the TSB should be insisting that it is to be done in any particular way – or that any particular way is inadequate. In spite of the TSB’s intentions otherwise, the findings and recommendations in the accidents they investigate do lead to the apportionment of blame and liability.

Second, let’s talk about Fatigue Management. During the period 1990-2018 (28 years), the TSB has identified sleep-related fatigue as a contributing factor or a risk in 34 air occurrences. Three of those involved Canadian Commercial helicopter Air Operators – and in two of those, the pilots did not take advantage of opportunities to sleep between duty periods or engaged in other work-related activities before the commencement of scheduled flight duty time. In the third and final accident, “The pilot's work/rest schedule increased the probability of him making fatigue-related errors in both aircraft handling and judgement” and “according to the company records, the pilot had, on several occasions, exceeded the legislated flight- and duty-time limitations of the CARs.” And yet, here we are with a completely overhauled regime of new, oppressive flight and duty time regulations, that will change the complexion of the Canadian helicopter industry. HAC believes in regulation that is based on evidence AND on relevant fatigue-related science. Particularly since our regulatory structure is based on industry segment-specific rules, HAC believes that where the evidence portion is concerned at least, that the TSB and the regulator should be using a rifle, rather than a shotgun.