By Brian Whitehead
It's been over two years now since the first Canadian Aviation Regulations (CAR) dealing with maintenance issues came into force, and a situation report might now be in order. I think it's fair to say that, by and large, the new rules have been welcomed by most in our industry — Maintenance and Manufacturing Branch certainly receives lots of positive feedback. When dealing with a subject as complex as ours, you can never satisfy all points of view, but the number of complaints is reassuringly low. One common criticism relates to the time taken to implement changes. Admittedly, it often takes longer than we would like to promulgate an amendment, but everything is relative — what seems slow to us would look like lightning speed in some regulatory systems.
The time from first inception of a new requirement to its implementation varies according to the complexity of the topic, but it can go from a low of around six months to a high of three years. Introduction of the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) has speeded things up greatly, but CARAC does not replace the established system, it merely supplements it. Roughly speaking, aviation rulemaking involves two distinct stages: consultation with the interest groups most directly affected, and establishment and formal implementation of the basic policy through the legislative process. CARAC has had an extremely beneficial effect on the first stage, not only in streamlining the process, but also in ensuring the maximum participation of affected groups.
By any measure, CARAC would have to be seen as a success. I am constantly impressed by the professionalism of the industry participants in the Technical Committee meetings and working groups, as they balance the interests of their own constituents with those of the industry as a whole. Most maintenance issues are settled in only one or two Technical Committee meetings. The more complex topics are referred to specialist working groups, but even the working groups can usually arrive at a recommendation within two or three meetings. If the topic is a standard, which among other things means it cannot control conduct by creating a chargeable offense, agreement at the Technical Committee stage effectively ends the process. The new standard will be published with the next scheduled amendment.
If the change involves a regulation, the formal legislative process then kicks in. The proposal goes through a system of review to ensure it is legally and constitutionally sound and in keeping with government policy. Finally, it is submitted for comments from the public at large, through the Canada Gazette.
During this part of the process, aviation regulations must compete for priority with other initiatives across the whole range of law making. What may seem important to us in the world of aviation, may turn out to have quite a low priority when competing with legislation on the environment, agriculture, or fisheries, for example. It is in this later stage that we experience delays and there is not much that can be done to change this. The system is designed to avoid putting too much power in the hands of bureaucrats, and it's part of the price we pay for living in a democracy.
The good news is the CARs have been designed to keep the regulations as simple and objective as possible. Wherever possible, the material that is most subject to change has been located in the standards. Introduction of the regulations themselves is now almost complete. A first round of minor changes will be needed to "fine tune" the rules and correct the inevitable minor glitches, but once those adjustments are made, the great bulk of future amendments should be restricted to the standards, with accompanying benefits in response time.
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