Nearly three-quarters of federal aviation inspectors think a major airline accident is likely, due to increasingly lax safety oversight in Canada, according to a survey released yesterday.
The Pollara survey of 247 licensed pilots employed as aviation inspectors by Ottawa says the likelihood of air travel fatalities grows as Transport Canada gives airlines more powers to monitor themselves.
"Our inspectors feel strongly that they're being prevented from catching safety issues before something happens . . . ," said Greg Holbrook, national chair of the inspector's union which is called the Canadian Federal Pilots Association. "You don't have an independent investigation arm anymore. It's companies looking after themselves."
Holbrook, who testified yesterday before a federal standing committee on proposed changes to the Aeronautics Act, defined "major" accidents as those involving deaths.
Government inspectors whose job it is to keep the flying public safe are urging Transport Canada to significantly toughen up its new approach to safety oversight -- a strategy which calls for more self-monitoring by companies.
Transport Canada officials, who have given their new regulatory regime the name "safety management system," saying the system will enhance safety.
"The inspectors are continuing to do their job. That is not in question," Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon said yesterday.
Airline industry officials, who have welcomed the new safety system, also challenge inspectors' criticisms.
"There is no greater imperative than the safety of our passengers," said Fred Gaspar, vice-president of policy and strategic planning for the Air Transport Association of Canada which represents Canada's large and small airlines. "Nobody benefits from putting people's lives at risk. Canada has an enviable safety record which we won't imperil."
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