Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications
Issue 2 - Evidence, October 26, 2011
OTTAWA, Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met today
at 6:47 p.m. to examine and report on emerging issues related to the
Canadian airline industry.
Senator Dennis Dawson (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, I declare this meeting of the
Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications open. Thank you
for your attendance.
Today we are continuing our study on the airline industry. Appearing
before us are Captain Paul Strachan and Captain Gerry Perkins from the Air
Canada Pilots Association. You have the floor.
Captain Paul Strachan, President, Air Canada Pilots Association:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable senators. It is our pleasure
to be able to be here today to hopefully assist you in discussing some of
the emergent issues in the Canadian airline industry as we see them. You
have our material before you. I will not read from the report. I would
rather just highlight the six points that we make here, but of course we are
happy to discuss not just these issues but any other issues you feel are
pertinent to your work.
The overarching suggestion that we have for the Government of Canada is
we see a tremendous need for coordination between departments of government,
and we recommend that the best way to move in this respect would be to have
a clearly iterated national transportation policy that embraces the aviation
industry and the airline industry as the critical components of the overall
Canadian economy that they really are.
I will speak for our airline, and of course there are others. Our
airline, in terms of its scope, employs some 24,000 employees from coast to
coast directly, and they live in places from Victoria to St. John's and
everywhere in between. When you start to imagine the secondary economic
activity that occurs because of the operations of Air Canada, you start to
consider organizations or corporations like Consolidated Fuel, Cara or NAV
CANADA, obviously airports, all sorts of spinoff economic activity that
occurs in direct business relationships with Air Canada, which employs tens
of thousands of other Canadians as well. If you take it one more step to the
tertiary level, it gets even bigger. I am trying to impress that this
airline has a huge economic footprint. It is larger, for instance, than I
think the three auto manufacturers put together, certainly in terms of its
impact in a nation such as ours, which is vast. We do not connect simply
business centres, which of course we do. We carry the mail, we carry
prisoners, we carry any manner of people and goods from point to point, and
we connect to a lot of our remote communities to the rest of the country.
We discern that there are difficulties incumbent upon our industry by
virtue of the fact that there seems to be difficulty in coordinating
activities between different government departments. I will give you an
One of the bellwether flights for our airline is 2873. This is
Toronto-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Toronto. That flight is a 777 aircraft, and it
typically carries 360-odd passengers. It departs Toronto around suppertime
in the evening and arrives in Frankfurt in the morning. It departs Frankfurt
a few hours later and returns to Toronto, arriving in the afternoon.
Typically, of those 360-odd passengers, we find that 250 of them will be
making connections to ultimate destinations elsewhere — the Lufthansa
network in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, here in Canada of course across
our own country and into the United States as well.
This is a critical flight for Air Canada. Of course, it is paid
appropriate attention by virtue of that. Our dispatchers will plan the route
for that flight carefully to ensure that we are maximizing our on-time
performance in order to facilitate these connections. The good folks in
Europe, European airspace control and in the various air traffic control
centres through which that flight will operate, are very good at providing
us with routings that are as direct as possible as well as our requested
flight levels in terms of best wind field. The pilots, of course, adjust
that based on real-time information and what they are actually seeing. There
is coordinated activity of many agencies here to ensure that this aircraft
arrives where it needs to be when it needs to be there.
All these agencies have done great work and gone to great efforts to get
the aircraft to Toronto. Perhaps we have had a snow event in Toronto, but
the GTA has done a great job kept the runways clean, and we get this plane
to the gate within ten minutes of schedule. The gate opens, and the
passengers are all off to make their connections. Canada Customs shows up
and decides today is the today they are going to examine passports on the
jetway, holding people on the plane and on the jetway before they re-examine
the passport in the customs arrival hall. Our passengers miss connections.
It costs us money. It costs the Canadian economy money because it deters
people from travelling over our hub airports. We cannot have this. We have
to have coordination. That is just one example where public safety needs to
coordinate its efforts with Transport Canada in order to facilitate an
industry that does what it is supposed to do. The impact is spread across
the entire industry when it does not.
There are some labour market issues that we have raised with government
and on which we have recommendations. One in particular is the increasing
employment of foreign pilots to operate Canadian aircraft in our busy winter
charter season. In the past, this has been done in enshrined reciprocal
agreements with Canadian charter operators in a very symbiotic relationship
whereby our busy winter season is served by foreign pilots operating
aircraft here in Canada and, in turn, in the busy European summer season,
Canadian pilots have worked in the U.K. predominantly but elsewhere as well
to help them out in their busy season. By virtue of this, both parties
benefit. There are no layoffs in slow seasons for one side or the other, and
it has been very good. What we see happening now is that we are missing that
enshrinement of reciprocity.
To give you an example, my information tells me that Sunwing Airlines
this winter will employ over 200 foreign pilots in its charter operations,
which I believe would place it in the position of having more foreign pilots
than Canadian pilots. If we did not have a source of Canadian pilots
available to us, this might make sense, but we do. We have Canadian pilots
who are eager to perform this work but are being denied access to these jobs
by virtue of their lack of holding a specific type endorsement for this
aircraft. In this case, it is a 737 new generation, 737NG. You have to
understand how an airline transport licence works. The ATPL licences the
pilot to operate virtually any aircraft on the planet except for high
performance jet aircraft or helicopters, unless it is specifically
annotated, and the space shuttle, but anything else is within that person's
competence to operate. However, for any aircraft over it 12,500 kilos, the
person must have a specific type of endorsement and training on that
specific type of aircraft. You have endorsements to the licence which
licence the pilot to operate whichever type of endorsed aircraft he or she
may be trained on. By advertising for type-rated 737NG pilots, you are
excluding all of the ATPL pilots in Canada who do not possess that
endorsement, and this is the basis on which the operators are saying they
have no Canadian labour available and have to bring these people in from
overseas. They are really avoiding the cost of training Canadians, because
there are licensed Canadian pilots who are perfectly qualified to do that
work. They simply lack the training.
I do not know, but I suspect that there is no difference in the amount
that these operators are charging to the tour companies for providing them
the lift, but they are avoiding the cost of training, and it is significant.
These types of endorsements typically cost $25,000 to $40,000, depending
on the type of aircraft. However, what operators have done in the past to
protect themselves is they have asked for a commitment of time from the
pilot, after having been trained on the new aircraft to commit a period of
time to them for which they will remain in the employ of that carrier so the
carrier realizes the appropriate return on their investment, which is
entirely reasonable. That is not even an option here today.
What is happening, then, is in the case of the failure of Skyservice,
Canadian pilots have been on EI rolls, or they have left the industry
because they have not been able to find work, or they have left the country
to find gainful employment. We find many of them working now in the Middle
East or in the Asia Pacific, those two regions predominantly, but there are
other places where they have found employment. The net effect to the
Canadian industry is that we have a tremendous brain drain happening here.
The human resources and skills are leaving the country. It is a loss of
human capital to our nation. These are unique skills and experience which
are reposed in a small community. There are only 6,000 or 7,000 of us in the
whole country who do this work. By losing this human capital, then, we are
losing an incredible repository of the skills, knowledge, experience and
To give you an example, I am a military-trained pilot. The military spent
over $1 million for each of us to get us to wing standard. Since then, we
develop ourselves all the time. We are constantly renewing our skills. Our
industry is constantly changing. Our work is constantly changing. We lose
that. We lose the tax revenue for those people who would otherwise be paying
for these good jobs in Canada. How are we replacing them? We are replacing
them with foreign pilots to operate our aircraft for which we realize no tax
revenue to the Government of Canada. Furthermore, we stagnate the labour
market in our industry. There is no opportunity for progression for those
who are already in it to move up to more complex aircraft or more
responsibility as a captain, for instance, but ultimately we bar entry for
new folks who want to be part of this industry. We think this is poor public
policy, and it is something specifically that we think needs to be examined
Security at airports is a constant concern for us. We have a unique
perspective because we see most of the things that are going on at the
airport from our vantage point in the flight deck. We see ground operations.
We see airside operations. We see terminal operations. We see what happens
in security. Of course, we are well aware of what is going on in our
aircraft. We have made recommendations in a white paper we submitted to
Minister of State Merrifield on the occasion of his CATSA review where we
made specific recommendations, which echoed many of the recommendations we
have seen in the RCMP Spawn report, from the Auditor General, and from a
former member of this committee, Senator Kenny. There are still problems. We
are very happy to see the government move away from concentrating on
screening of passengers, which we call keeping bad things off planes, and
moving to behavioural pattern recognition, which seeks to prevent bad people
from boarding aircraft. We think that is where the focus needs to move —
good intelligence, good police work and good coordination. Let us keep the
bad people off the planes, and we do not need to be so concerned at that
point about some of the other things. That is not to say that we should not
pay attention to that as well, but up to now we have not done enough on the
bad people side of the equation.
We are still concerned about the airside operations on the ground, that
is, ground access to the airside of our airports. We believe it is still in
dire need of examination by the government. We repeat again that we are
waiting for a hammer to fall here, and it needs to be looked at and needs to
be looked at quickly.
The revision of flight time and duty time regulations in the Canadian
Aviation Regulations is one process that is under way, which we have
advocated at great length. Our jurisdiction is lagging far behind the rest
of the world in its sensitivity to human physiology, and the realities that
we face. If you look at a chart of prescriptive duty regulations and you
plot on a 24-hour clock — on the X axis versus hours on duty on the Y axis —
you will see a characteristic shape. CAP 371 in the U.K. has a back of the
clock sensitivity. Pilots are not allowed to work as long during dark hours
in the middle of the night as they are if they report for duty in the middle
of the day. The European EASA guidelines are the same. The FAA and PRM in
the U.S. are the same. It approximates our collective agreement — in which
the Air Canada pilots have expended bargaining capital — to have flight
time, duty time and rest regulations that approach reasonable. We do not
think it should be left to the disparate bargaining strength of various
pilot groups to address a regulatory issue. In fact, the ICAO standards in
recommended practices insist that contracting states have prescriptive
regulations which are founded in science. There is a large body of science
with respect to fatigue, which is available.
The others I have mentioned have a characteristic curve. The Canadian
regulations are stark in their contrast because they are a flat line across
the top. These two pilots can report to work at any time in a 24-hour clock
and work 15 hours on duty. We think it is a big safety issue. We are happy
to see that the government has commissioned the Canadian Aviation
Regulations Advisory Committee process, which is under way as we speak. Its
mandate has been extended to the end of the year. We predicted there would
be divisions among stakeholders based roughly along industry lines. I am
talking about a scheduled airline versus a chartered airline, medevac
operation, helicopter operation, or a business aircraft operation. Those
divisions are beginning to emerge and it threatens to hamstring the process.
This should have happened a long time ago. It has been 25 years since we
last amended our regulations, and even then it was in a cosmetic fashion.
This is an important issue for us. We hope and trust that the Government
of Canada will see the necessity to have concrete movement in respect of our
Others have been here to talk to you about airport rent. If our industry
is going to be competitive, we must have something that approaches better
harmony with competitors. We are seeing revenue leakage south of the border
to proximate airports in Canada because people are driving. It is because
tickets are cheaper. A large portion of cost these days is airport
improvement fees, security surcharges and other add-on fees. These are
almost sin taxes on the industry. It is hurting us big time. It may not all
be airport rent. Rents are paid to the Canadian taxpayer, but we have
disjointed, semi- fiefdoms in the airport authorities that we have created.
These folks have virtually unlimited powers of taxation, and no
accountability. There is no national policy directing their activities. I
would like to ask some of those people — as a percentage of their revenue —
how much money is going to pay airport rents and how much is going to
Banks are fairly happy to lend money to organizations, having the powers
of taxation that they do. I suspect a lot of the beautiful terminals we have
built across the country have cost a lot of money. While we have invested a
lot of money in terminals, we do not see a commensurate investment in the
operational side of the airport. We have one runway here in Ottawa that has
been a problem a few times recently because it is not long. When it gets wet
or contaminated with snow or ice, it can be difficult to operate. I am
talking about runway 2507 in Ottawa. We have had three planes in recent
memory that have overrun. These are the types of places where we think we
need to reinvest fees collected from this industry, including things which
make airports operational and that help us make connections. We do not need
beautiful terminals if people do not have to spend all day in them. People
want to get where they are going, which means build another runway and
provide the facilities to move people, aircraft and goods. Let us make our
airports work. That needs direction from the federal government. That needs
to be an overarching directive to say, "Folks, this industry needs to
work." That is a strong recommendation for us.
Finally, something that we have been working on in order to prepare
ourselves, we are probably the only profession in the country that is not
self-regulating. However, there are pilots who work for the regulators and
perform functions that are unique or pertain to our craft. It is like being
a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. Very few others are equipped to make
commentary, and the folks who fly the aircraft at Air Canada main line — who
we represent and who fly in the rest of the country — are among the best in
the world at what that they do. The calibre of people that I have been
fortunate to work with over the course of my career is tremendous. These are
strong, intelligent, dedicated, driven people who are the subject matter
experts in what they do. No one is more capable to determine what is good,
what is not good, what needs to be changed, to be the repository of
knowledge, and to discipline. We think this is properly reposed in the
pilots of Canada in an independent college, along the lines of the College
of Physicians and Surgeons and bar associations in different provinces. This
is perhaps a cost-effective way of government to unload some of the
regulatory functions in terms of licensing standards and training to pilots.
This is an initiative that we support. We intend to be ready if and when the
government is ready to sit down and talk about how we might get this done.
Those are my six points. I am happy to discuss these or other issues at
play in the industry today. Thank you, honourable senators.
Senator Eaton: I am a big fan of Air Canada and I fly it weekly.
You brought this up — when you talked about security and the silo effect
— and I have asked every other group of witnesses, including Air Canada and
WestJet, why they would not want to sit and be members of the board of
various airports. Do you see another way of trying to break down the
information silo? Perhaps this is wrong, but if we look at the governance of
the airports themselves — whether you are there, airline companies are
there, security people are there — our airport authorities do not seem to
represent any of you. As you say, they are entities on their own. How would
you begin to break down the silos that seem to incapacitate most of our
Mr. Strachan: I think the airport authorities have tried to
respond to some of the industry stakeholder concerns. I think of the
Vancouver Airport Authority and the change it instituted since we had a
major snow event in Vancouver. It ground operations to a halt for a period
of days. They have taken steps to improve their operational capability. They
have invested in some infrastructure, have some new snow clearing equipment
and de-icing equipment. It is not entirely a barrier. It is not a brick
wall. They listen to much of what we tell them.
What is missing is an overall direction or policy promulgated by the
federal level to say, "This is what we want to do." The big thing missing
from the airport authorities is accountability. They need to be accountable
to some agency.
Senator Eaton: You said so yourself — we have these wonderful,
beautiful terminals and they keep on building them. They know the debt is
good. Banks know because the Government of Canada is standing there. They
are not accountable to the airlines or to you guys.
I keep harping on this. I know I am not getting anywhere, but I feel if
you, Air Canada and WestJet were at the table and said instead building
another building we need another runway, or three of my flights from
Frankfurt came in and 900 passengers were stopped and missed their
connections because no one communicated they were looking for one person,
you might get somewhere. There seems to be no basic communications that
happen of a regular basis for such a huge entity.
Mr. Strachan: I agree, absolutely. If we could be tied into that
governance process, it cannot help but be better.
Senator Eaton: At least you have a voice.
Mr. Strachan: We do consult with them, but we do not have any
In fairness, since I used the customs example, it kind of shows you how
the interdepartmental issues go beyond those you would think of immediately.
I have been told — and this is anecdotal so it may or may not be the case —
that the reason customs inspects peoples' credentials on the jet way from
time to time is there is some crazy law we have that says if the person gets
off the jet way, they can claim asylum. There is an immigration idiosyncrasy
If that is the case, it is silly. Let us change the law. Why are we
ripping our hair out in respect to the industry? If the law does not work,
let us make it work. That is where other government departments have to
coordinate with this one. However, it cannot hurt for us to be part of the
governance process at the airport authorities.
Senator Eaton: Everyone that has come before this committee says
the same thing you do — silo. They do not want to sit on the board, but they
still feel they have no voice.
Mr. Strachan: I think the Minister of Transport is perhaps the
appropriate federal entity. If there was accountability to the federal
government from these airports, perhaps we would be in a better position to
control some of the things that go on.
However, that is a question for the Government of Canada. I am just
trying to tell you there is a problem. I think it is because the airports
are operating as if they were businesses.
Senator Eaton: Yes, but they are not in touch with their
Mr. Strachan: I disagree with the notion to begin with. They are
facilitators; they are infrastructure. They support an industry, but they
are not an industry themselves. They generate some revenue for the local
economy but it is not the airport that is carrying people to our
communities, it is the airlines. That is why airports exist. I think we have
a little bit of the cart before the horse here.
Senator Zimmer: We had a witness last week who said exactly the
same thing — that 90 per cent of the fees do not go to infrastructure,
runways or anything. It goes to general revenue. Does anybody in this
country have an idea how much money we are talking about? We cannot find
Mr. Strachan: I presume it would be a question for the Minister of
We agree that the revenues collected from this industry ought to be
reinvested in the industry. I think the regulator is in a difficult position
too; the regulator is having a hard time. There may not be enough people
there and not enough clear direction for them to be effective in what they
Maybe that is a good place to reinvest some of the fees and taxes into —
having a capable and effective regulator for starters, acting hopefully as a
facilitator between other government departments.
I was at a conference here about six weeks ago; it was the Canadian
Aviation Executives' Safety Network. It was a who's who of the aviation
industry — everybody was there. Transport Canada was asking: What is our
role, what should it be and how can we help the industry? I said exactly
that — be a facilitator between government departments. I think that
requires a guiding policy and guiding principles as well, and that has to
come from the federal government.
Senator Greene: You fly into airports all over the world and have
experience in airports all over the world. In a general way, are your
experiences in the average large airport in Canada equal to your experiences
in the average large American or European airport? I am interested in
knowing about the services that you receive from airports.
Mr. Strachan: I will let Mr. Perkins take a stab at that. He has
done a lot of international flying.
Captain Gerry Perkins, External Affairs Committee: I have flown
all over the world and have been to a lot these airports. I see problems,
like everyone does, at the Canadian large airports. For example, in cities
like London and Frankfurt, Germany, I find the airports have the same
services inside the terminal — big beautiful terminals, lots of Starbucks
and book shops — but they are easier to operate. They have multiple runways
operating all the time for the pilots and airlines to get in and out. They
move a lot more traffic at movements per hour for larger airplanes than they
do in Toronto or Vancouver.
Even in the United States, especially where I fly up and down the eastern
seaboard to Florida and Atlanta, Georgia, the airports are fantastic. You
can see the money they have spent on them. There are not the delays we have
We get cleared for an approach in airports in Florida 150 or 200 miles
away. In Toronto, we could be over Lake Simcoe eight minutes from landing
and they still have not picked a runway for us to land on — one of the two
runways. They have spent a lot more money on the air side, building the
airports in the United States, than they have in Canada.
Mr. Strachan: There is a regulatory aspect to this also and it
ties in with air traffic control. I think the air traffic control manual of
operations in Canada is far more restrictive than that in the U.S.
Toronto is the finest example. We now have three east-west runways in
Toronto. We only have two northwest- southeast runways. These are the ones
that arrive over the City of Mississauga, or the opposite, coming over
Brampton to land from the south or north.
What typically happens in Toronto weather wise — summer or winter, it is
the same — when you have a cold front coming through bringing a snow or
thunderstorm event, often you have a very strong frontal passage that will
dump a lot of snow or stop airport operations because of lightning.
Once that cold front passes, you get a tight pressure gradient on the
winds behind it. The winds start howling out of the northwest. The skies are
beautifully clear and you would think it would be the perfect conditions to
catch up from the delays we just suffered, but we cannot because we have to
switch to these north-south runways. They are not far enough apart to allow
us to operate simultaneously and put through the same number of movements
per hour as we can when we are operating east-west.
Often we will operate east-west and suffer crosswinds. It is not a
serious degradation, but it is a safety consideration to be landing in
crosswinds. However, we cling to those east-west runways as long as we can
because we want to keep moving airplanes.
We cannot stop the weather event; we can only deal with it. When the
front has gone by, the wind starts howling out of the northwest. It is a
beautiful day, we should be able to catch up but we cannot.
Those runways in Toronto are about 3,500 feet apart. Off the top of my
head, I can think of airports in the United States like Boston, Newark,
Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Francisco, St. Louis — any number of U.S.
airports — where they operate simultaneous operations on parallel runways
that are less than half that far apart.
In some cases, they operate in instrument flying conditions, under a
procedure we call "precision radar monitor," PRM, approach. They are
finding ways to put the traffic through the airport, which is what we need
to do. There is no reason why we cannot do this. We should be doing this.
If it requires an investment in infrastructure, we should do it. If it
requires us to change our operations' procedures for air traffic control, we
should do it because it makes good sense for the industry.
Senator Merchant: In recent days the travelling public is
beginning to ask whether Air Canada is an essential service. You advocate on
behalf of the airline industry. What do you say?
Mr. Strachan: I think it is essential for this country. As we sit
here today, it is absolutely essential. It is a cornerstone of our entire
economy. It is a national asset. We need to look after it. It pains me when
I think about what happened to this airline in the last decade. We had the
most catastrophic terrorist event in the history of mankind, which impacted
this industry like no other.
Then, shortly after, we had the largest health pandemic in Canada since
polio, affecting predominantly the major hub of this airline. Predictably,
the revenue crunch came upon Air Canada, and we were forced to seek creditor
protection in the CCAA.
The folks that showed up with the money in that process were not
interested in operating an airline. It was bad money. The bad money came and
insinuated itself into this terribly distressed airline, took control,
carved out assets, former wholly owned subsidiaries whether it be the
regional aircraft, our operation Jazz, or the most successful loyalty
rewards program on the planet at the time, I think, Aeroplan.
Air Canada maintenance, now called Aveos, technical services, hived these
assets out of Air Canada and paid Air Canada a fraction of the true market
value, which is given by the amount that they were able to turn around and
sell those assets to as separate entities. Of course they pocketed the
difference. Then they left.
These billions of dollars in asset value that were stripped out of Air
Canada through these processes left not just the corporation, it left the
country. This represents the wealth generated by, what, three generations of
Canadians it took. We have been around 75 years. This used to be a Crown
In my estimation, in large degree, those were public assets. It took us a
long time to build up that wealth in that organization and it is gone. That
is not sustainable. We cannot continue to allow people to be rewarded for
decapitalizing our industries.
Senator Merchant: Following up on that, if a group of Air Canada
employees goes on strike, first of all you are not the only airline in
Canada. There are other airlines that fly. If Air Canada is not flying, I
think that people will find another way to get places. This is what I mean
by "essential." I think you dealt with it a little differently.
If I cannot fly from Regina to Ottawa on Air Canada, maybe I will come on
WestJet because I am happy to fly WestJet. Some people travel on business
and they have to get somewhere right away.
Senator Greene: Point of order. This question is off topic. We are
here to talk about the report that we are doing, and labour issues are not
part of the report.
Senator Merchant: These gentlemen said they advocate for the
airline industry and would answer questions on anything.
The Chair: I said at the beginning that we would deal with the
report issues. I know they offered to answer other questions, but I think we
should address the report issues. If we have time at the end you might bring
up other subjects.
Senator Merchant: I want to know what happens with the contracts
they have with the other airlines. The other day we had Jazz here.
If someone goes on strike and you are unable to fly, what happens to the
contracts? Does everyone go on strike?
May I ask that question?
The Chair: Yes, briefly.
Senator Merchant: I do not know what happens. You have Jazz.
Mr. Strachan: You mean all the other labour units, would they be
on strike, de facto, by virtue of the fact that we were?
Senator Mercer: Does Jazz go on strike as well?
Mr. Strachan: No, that is a completely separate entity.
Senator Merchant: They can still be flying even though they work
for you, all the feeder airlines?
Mr. Strachan: Yes.
Mr. Perkins: I wanted to address the question that the senator
asked about the essential service. There are few countries on this planet —
I can think of two, maybe three — where you can fly an airplane for five
hours and never leave the country. It is a broad country, and I believe is
an essential service.
I heard some numbers, we have 24,000 employees. I heard our support
network is in the tune of a quarter million people. Jobs depend on us flying
every morning at seven o'clock. I believe it is essential.
If Air Canada goes on strike, there are other options to fly. There are
always other options, but not covering the network we have. Not many
countries this size have one airline. The United States has dozens of
airlines that fly transport category jets, where Air Canada has one. We have
WestJet, but they provide a different service than we do. There would be a
crisis to get the people from coast to coast, including representatives back
to Ottawa from their ridings all across the country, if we were not flying.
Senator Cochrane: Thank you very much for your presentations.
I want to talk about security. Tell me about the behaviour pattern of the
people that you referred to in regard to having the ground access people.
You said you had concerns about different things happening on the runway
with these people that are there all the time. They are bringing in luggage,
taking luggage and they are there spotting the planes in and out.
What are your main concerns? What is wrong with them? Is it the screening
of the ground staff that is the problem? Before they are hired are they not
screened? Do they have open access to the planes so that anything can
happen, which means our security is jeopardized? Has the pilots association
brought their concerns to the airport authority personnel?
Mr. Strachan: All airport staff are screened. We all undergo a
security clearance procedure. It is unknown to me just how robust it is. I
wonder how well our government departments communicate with each other. I
left the air force 15 years ago with a top secret security clearance, and
the next day I was presumed guilty. I had to go through the whole process
again because I was not a military pilot anymore; I was just a civilian
They are screened. I cannot tell you how robust that screening process
Where we would be more concerned in respect of screening is if we are
consistently screening them for prohibited items every time they re-enter or
exit the secure side area. We know that criminal elements have penetrated
our airports. They operate there today. Canada customs last year seized, I
think, over $10 billion street value worth of narcotics alone. We know these
criminal elements are operating in our airports. It is not a long stretch of
the imagination to think that somebody's intent could be far more nefarious
than moving drugs.
That is the caution. It has been identified before, most particularly by
the RCMP in the SPAWN report.
Senator Cochrane: That is where your problem is, is it? This is as
you enter the airport to go through that screening.
Mr. Strachan: We see it as one of the areas where we have not paid
enough attention. We have spent all kinds of time, effort and money keeping
bad things off planes, and we have all seen the lines in the screening room.
We have these new X-ray view things, whatever they are called, the scanners,
and that is all good. It is all good that we have done that, but it is the
bad people side of the equation.
We are seeing the government with a pilot project now in Vancouver. We
applaud it. It is a tremendous move in the right direction. It is not new.
Other jurisdictions have been employing these sorts of techniques forever. I
think immediately of Israel which, of course, has no choice. They also have
an easier time of it because they basically have one airport, one access
point to the secure side that it needs to observe.
Here in Canada that is not the case. We have literally hundreds. It is a
much more difficult thing for us to do, but not one we can ignore. It is
particularly in the case of those people working on the ground, not pilots
or flight attendants. The ground staff of the airport, whether they are
working for an airline, a fuelling company or caterer or whoever, we have to
ensure we know who they are, what they are bringing with them. Based on the
evidence, we are not doing very well.
Senator Cochrane: You are not happy with that.
Mr. Strachan: No, we are not.
Senator Cochrane: Has your association brought this intention
Mr. Strachan: Yes, we have. As I said, we presented a white paper
to Mr. Merrifield, then Minister of State for Transport, about two years
ago. We are on record with those concerns and recommendations.
Senator Cochrane: Let me talk about the foreign pilots that you
say are coming in now. We have pilots here, excess pilots, who cannot run a
737NG because they do not have the licence to do that.
Mr. Strachan: It is because they do not have the endorsement on
their licence to do that.
Senator Cochrane: What will it take to get the endorsement on the
licence? Does the pilot have to go through more training, of a year or so?
Mr. Strachan: It depends on what aircraft the pilots may have
flown before. I have flown a Boeing 767, so when I sought my Boeing 757
endorsement, I simply had to do a day-long classroom course. There is so
much commonality between these two types that it didn't take much to train
me. If I had never flown a Boeing aircraft, that would be a different story.
I would have to take the course from start to finish, which typically
involves a week to a week and a half of ground school, learning the systems
of the aircraft, and then a few days learning procedures and flows to
operate the aircraft in normal circumstances. Then you go to flight
simulator devices, where you practice normal operations and you learn to
deal with emergency operations in a very realistic flight scenario. Once
that is complete, you go into a line-indoctrination phase of actually flying
the aircraft with a training captain. Finally, you complete what we would
call a line check or operational evaluation, at which point your licence is
fully endorsed to operate that aircraft.
Senator Cochrane: Is that about six months of training?
Mr. Strachan: No. Typically, the start of the course to the finish
of the simulator phase would take a month, and the line indoctrination might
take a couple of weeks, maybe less. It does not take long to do line
Senator Mercer: I will continue on the line that Senator Cochrane
You say it takes about a month. I am looking for a solution to this
problem. We have a whole bunch of jobs in Canada that are being filled by
people who are neither immigrants nor new Canadians. These are people who do
the job and then leave.
They are not here as long as the people who are here, at this time of
year, to pick apples in the Annapolis Valley.
Is the solution to find a way to join together the airline, the Pilots
Association and government to fund this? Is that what we need? We are
talking about the problem, but we are not talking about the solution.
Mr. Strachan: If there was government funding available, that
would assist operators in bearing some of the cost. It is not insignificant
cost. Our airline trains its own pilots on the types they operate. Air
Transat trains its open people. WestJet is probably the best example. You
have about 1,200 pilots there who all fly the 737NG. I guarantee you that
very few of them, if any, had a 737NG endorsement before WestJet gave it to
In order to protect that significant investment that the operator is
making in a pilot's training, it is not unreasonable for that operator to
expect some commitment of time from the pilot to ensure that they realize
the return on their investment. When I joined Skyservice, that is what
happened to me. I was given an A330 type endorsement. It took me about a
month to do. It cost the corporation a significant sum of money, and then I
was asked to commit to a period of four years of employment. That $40,000
obligation was drawn down every month to zero at the end of four years. That
is a way that the operator can protect their investment, while still
allowing Canadians to get the advantage of the training and to develop our
own skills indigenously.
Senator Mercer: You continue to use not insignificant amounts of
money, and it seems to me that government is always providing funds for
employment stimulus and training elsewhere. It would seem to me that if
industry, unions and government could get their act together, they could,
perhaps, share the costs. However, I do not have an idea of what the cost
is. If you wanted to be qualified for the 737NG, what would it cost to bring
either one of you up to speed?
Mr. Perkins: As we said before, anyone holding a valid Canadian
airline transport-pilot licence is eligible to fly an airplane. It is just a
matter of going on a course. I know people who have done it for anywhere
between $10, 000 and $15,000 to, maybe, up to about $20, 000 or $30, 000. It
is somewhere in that $10, 000 to $20, 000 range. If it was not so easy for
these companies to hire the foreign pilots, they would be forced to take
this cost on themselves and to train the Canadian airline pilots that are
here, unemployed, with valid Canadian airline transport-pilot licences,
willing and waiting to go to work and forced to leave the country. The cost
savings that these companies are making doing this are not really being
passed on to the public. They are just getting around the training cost of
Senator Mercer: My point is that if some incentive were provided
to the companies, with the involvement of the union, perhaps we could solve
some of this problem and keep some people here. Those people who are staying
here will pay taxes, et cetera.
Mr. Strachan: It certainly could not hurt, obviously. Most
airlines find a way to do it. It is only a very few that we are talking
about here that do not seem to want to bear that expense. Like I said, I do
not think there is any difference in the amount they are charging the
Senator Eaton: Picking up on his question about pilots, if you
formed a pilot association, to direct your own profession, would you then
insist on taking on all the training of pilots so that it becomes
standardized across Canada?
Mr. Strachan: That would be a very long-term project. It might be
one that might be able to be undertaken. The logical partner in doing that
would be the manufacturer — the people who build the airplanes — because
they are the same aircraft. That is ideal. If all pilots are flying it the
same way, we can monitor the best practices and make sure everyone is doing
it the same way. We spend a lot of time making sure everyone does it the
Senator Eaton: It would be like a medical association. You set the
standards, and everyone has to meet those standards. Then, they can fly for
Mr. Strachan: Yes.
Senator MacDonald: Captain Strachan and Captain Perkins, thank you
for being here. Good to see you again. I just want to touch upon what was
raised by Senator Eaton. You were talking about establishing a college of
pilots. It is interesting that you compared it to the medical and legal
professions. The simple truth is, when we are up in the air, all of our
lives are in your hands. I am always aware of it when I am on a plane. We
all fly a lot here. When it comes to this college of pilots, are there
similar organizations in other countries, and how do they work? Is there a
template out there that you could use and apply?
Mr. Strachan: The most proximate one I can think of is Mexico.
There is a college of airline pilots in Mexico. We could all learn a lot
from what they do there. They have a good operation there. It is logical. No
one is better capable of facilitating these things than those people who do
it day-in and day-out. Like I say, there are not a lot of us.
Senator MacDonald: Has there been an attempt in Canada to
establish one? Have they taken the initiative? Why haven't they?
Mr. Strachan: Our organization has provided some seed money for
some philanthropically minded folks to go out and do just that, so that we
can determine what the structure needs to look like, how the governance
would occur and how would it interface with Transport Canada. Obviously
there would have to be some sort of interface there. We are talking about
personnel issues here, personnel licensing standards, training, discipline
and these sorts of thing, but there is another cadre of regulatory
responsibilities that is probably not appropriate for a college of pilots.
We have instituted the process, and we have folks working on that from
all the pilot groups around the country as we speak.
Senator MacDonald: You think it is an idea whose time has come?
Mr. Strachan: Yes.
Senator MacDonald: Captain Perkins was talking about flying to
other countries and international airports. I want to reverse that and look
at Canada and flying into airports that are not part of the National
Airports System. I fly into Sydney, Nova Scotia. Are there discernible
differences in certain levels of service or security? Does anything stick
out repeatedly as being different when you fly into those airports?
Mr. Perkins: Not off hand. I have spent a lot of time flying into
Sydney, Nova Scotia, but not recently. Not all airports are suffering in the
way that we talked about. One that comes to mind is Calgary, where a big
project is underway to build a joint taxiway, possibly two runways. They are
not all suffering that way — just the major ones like Toronto and Vancouver.
Like Mr. Strachan said before, they are building beautiful terminals but are
not spending money in the proper areas, such as moving people. For example,
Ottawa needs more runways so we can get people in and out faster. I cannot
really comment on the smaller airports because I have not flown into any in
Senator MacDonald: Most of the infrastructure limitations are in
the major airports.
Mr. Strachan: That is where the biggest problem is. You see
disparities in the level of service between Sydney and Toronto, whether they
be services available, hours of customs operation, hours of tower operation,
size of the terminal or crash fire response. There are differences. Most of
the traffic is focused on our major airports — Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver
and Calgary. Those create the biggest problems for us.
Mr. Perkins: There is a trickle-down effect, too. What is not
working in Toronto affects flights getting to Halifax, which affects the
flights to Sydney.
Mr. Strachan: You are right. A plane you might be waiting for in
Toronto to go to St. John's might have started at LAX in Los Angeles. It
might have been delayed out of Los Angeles or Vancouver before it got to
Toronto. Now, they are just trying to catch up.
Mr. Perkins: There are more to operations than just runways, too.
You will never have a requirement for more than one runway in Sydney,
probably as long as I am alive.
Senator Boisvenu: I do not know, every time I go to Toronto, if
there are always winds blowing out of the northwest, but I am indeed under
the impression that it is always windy in Toronto.
Your association represents Air Canada's pilots, does it not?
Mr. Strachan: Yes, the pilots that operate Air Canada planes, like
Boeing 777s and Embraers.
Senator Boisvenu: Does every company have its own pilots'
Mr. Strachan: Yes.
Senator Boisvenu: So, for problems such as those of foreign pilots
and your schedules, which you say are problematic, there is no one place
where these subjects can be discussed with all companies?
Mr. Strachan: Is there a forum for discussion?
Senator Boisvenu: Are there joint discussions about shared
Mr. Strachan: Yes, we communicate with other pilot groups to talk
about these sorts of things. On the issue of foreign pilots, I cannot say
that I am advocating directly in the interests of Air Canada pilots. It does
not affect us directly. Not every pilot association in the country has the
same robust representation and resources that ours has. Hopefully in this
particular instance I am advocating on behalf of pilots in general and the
piloting profession in Canada as well as the public interest. This is a
public policy issue as well.
Senator Boisvenu: If you wanted to promote this sort of umbrella
association, you could then deal with these subjects more readily with
everyone concerned and more quickly, could you not?
Mr. Strachan: Do you mean a kind of federation? We are discussing
that as well. In fact, I will be meeting with my counterparts from other
pilot associations across the country soon to discuss exactly that.
Senator Boisvenu: My last question is about airport security. I
was a bit surprised when I arrived at the Senate to see that there was the
Senate police and the House of Commons police, and that the RCMP was outside
In an airport, there is airport security and, between passenger arrival
and customs, you have customs security, in addition to municipal security
outside the airport. Do all these people talk to one another?
Mr. Strachan: We support a layered approach to security. It cannot
be one spot only and in support of one particular area. There are bad people
and bad things can happen. At Tel Aviv, it starts the moment you drive onto
the airport property. People watch you when you come in from the parking lot
and enter the airport. They will take you for an interview, where they do
the "good cop bad cop" routine and compare your stories. They measure that
against a body of expertise that allows them to accurately identify which
people may be the ones that ought to be singled out for special attention.
They screen for certain objects just as we do. In fact, the Israeli national
airline, El Al, flies with security on board every single flight. All of
these things cost money; we appreciate that.
Perhaps one of our concerns is that with the creation of CATSA, we have
another federal entity, which has done a fairly good job of the bad things
side of the house. However, when we are talking about behavioural pattern
recognition or coordinating intelligence and police work, we think that that
responsibility is properly reposed in a law enforcement agency. We were
discussing better control at airside ground operations. You have to have
powers of arrest and detainment, otherwise you cannot apprehend. CATSA has
no authority to apprehend persons. Presumably if we identified someone who
was a real threat, we would want to get our hands on them; and CATSA is not
in a position to do that. We have police in all our airports, but they would
be on a five-minute call. By the time they get there, the culprit is gone.
Police are more expensive, obviously, and we are sensitive to that; but
sometimes you have to spend the money.
Senator Martin: I enjoyed your presentation. You convincingly
articulated your unique position and perspective. I am a frequent flyer, as
are many around this table. I cannot get here unless I fly just over five
hours. You talked about pilot fatigue in your point number 4. That concerns
me and I am sure that passenger safety is your primary concern.
You said that our regulations are currently non-compliant; but compliance
is critical. You also said that a process is currently underway. Is that
enough at this time? I know that process takes time, must be done well and
everything has to be considered in making changes to regulations. However,
what else should be done or needs to be done? Several other things concern
me: the lack of runways, in some respects, whereby there are not as many
choices. You pointed out some of your concerns. Specifically, how is this
being addressed and are you confident that it will be in time?
Mr. Strachan: I hope there is the political will to realize that
something has to happen and the situation has to change. We are so starkly
different from most other jurisdictions that it is just glaring. We
recommended that the process be streamlined. We were not all that excited
about seeing it put into the Canadian Aviation Regulatory Advisory Committee
process because it has been co-opted before. We see divisions along industry
lines, and people start to throw up barriers. It is economic interests
conflicting with safety interests. That is what it is. It is a reality. We
can be honest about it.
We were hoping that it would be streamlined because this committee will
come forward with some sort of recommendation to the Canadian Aviation
Regulation Advisory Council, the body that actually passes new regulations.
They will make a recommendation and it will be up to the CARAC what will
actually become Canadian aviation regulations amendments.
We are optimistic that something will happen because we are not going
away until it does. If nothing comes out of this process, you will hear a
lot of noise from me.
Senator Martin: When did the process begin?
Mr. Strachan: I will guess that it was 15 to 18 months ago.
Senator Martin: Generally it would take 18 months to two years?
Mr. Strachan: I believe that the mandate expired, so the parties
agreed to extend the mandate to the end of the year. I would presume that
sometime early in the new year a recommendation will be made and then
however long that process takes to get something in place. We are not
reinventing the wheel here. Most other jurisdictions did this a long time
ago. I cannot think of another country that has more onerous flight time,
duty time, and rest requirement regulations than Canada. It is a national
embarrassment. It is an embarrassment to us and to our industry. Let us get
on with it, folks; it is long overdue.
Senator Martin: You are saying that this is flat-lined, there are
two on it at any time, but is it staggered?
Mr. Strachan: No, there is nothing like that. When we start
getting into long-range and ultra-long-range flying, we start adding pilots.
On a Toronto-Tokyo flight there are three pilots. On a Toronto-Hong Kong
flight there are four pilots. A Toronto-Hong Kong flight with four pilots is
actually easier on the body than a Toronto-Tokyo flight with three. I have
literally fallen asleep on the sidewalk in Narita because I have been so
tired when I got there on a three- pilot operation, but I have never felt
that I was unable to perform to my proper capacity on a Hong Kong flight. I
always felt good with four of us. You get better rest when there are more of
you there. It does make a difference.
I do not want to be alarmist. We have been doing this for a very long
time. We are still pretty darn good at it. That is owing to the
professionalism and the dedication of the people who drive the planes. We
are jealous about that. We guard it carefully. We are proud of it. One thing
that public policymakers will never have to fear from this organization is
that we will allow technical and safety issues to migrate into political
representational functions of the association. We do not use these sorts of
issues to drive industrial agendas. When I am talking to a public
policymaker it is because I genuinely believe there is a public policy
interest and that my interest coincides. Enlightened self-interest, call it
what you like, but we guard that jealously because our credibility is
instantly destroyed if we do not.
Mr. Perkins: Those flight duty times do need attention because
there are very few jobs where you travel from Toronto to Hong Kong and back
inside of two and a half days. You transit all those time zones. You have
been flying 15-hour flights each way, falling asleep at weird times of the
day when you are at destination, you have a short rest and you come home.
You are flying in an airplane at 6,000 to 7,000, which is daunting in
Senator Eaton: Do you think that the crash of the Air France plane
off of Brazil was due to fatigue, incompetence or something else?
Mr. Strachan: I do have a concern about that particular incident,
and it is this: One of the means by which we have drastically improved the
safety of this industry has been by fostering a culture of open reporting
and discussion when mistakes are made or when threats are identified. We
have a robust voluntary reporting system whereby when pilots have difficulty
or have made a mistake they voluntarily provide the information within our
corporations to our flight safety departments. The information should be
shared with pilot associations, but the corporation is not always
forthcoming with it, unfortunately. We keep asking them to do it, but they
do not. That drives through to SMS, and we have some concerns about the
effectiveness of SMS as it pertains to the airline industry as well.
Recently the sanctity and confidentiality of the information that is
being voluntarily provided by the pilots has been coming under attack.
Everyone wants to see these things now. A tribunal has subpoenaed aviation
safety reports from our pilots. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data
recorder from the Air France incident was released to civil litigation. This
causes me grave concern because we have come leaps and bounds in terms of
safety in this industry because of the open culture that we have fostered
and because pilots feel safe revealing what has happened to them so that
others may learn from it. We have done a tremendous job. Just look at the
statistics. This is a very safe industry, and that it is because of the
dedication of many of us who really care about it. Now we are seeing these
things creep into civil litigation in a sue-happy society where everyone
wants to get their hands on the info. We are going to parse the decisions
that two people made, sometimes in split seconds, over the course of a
couple of years in civil litigation and perhaps assign liability, so that
the pilots now may be in jeopardy. If we do that, we will regress 30 or 40
years in terms of aviation safety, because the reporting will dry up.
In order to fix that we need a legislative umbrella; we need protections
around this so that it can be used for its intended purpose, which is to
promote and enhance aviation safety, not to facilitate civil litigation.
Senator Eaton: Does that mean, though, that when something like
the Air France accident happens, which is tragic for all, including the
pilots who went down with the plane, you cannot come back with a verdict of
pilot error or malfunctioning equipment? Does that mean you do not give a
Mr. Strachan: You absolutely do, but for what purpose? What will
we do with what we determine? Let us say we determine that there was a
mechanical failure, the right elevator was not operating properly which
caused an unintended rolling moment and the pilot did not properly
counteract that with opposite aileron, the plane entered into an unusual
altitude, departed control flight and there was a catastrophic event. Will
we use this information to sue the deceased pilot's estate or will we share
it among the piloting community so that others may learn from what happened
so that if it ever occurs to them perhaps we can avoid another catastrophic
event? To me that is the only useful use for that information at that point.
Senator Eaton: I agree with you. You can still bring a verdict,
but you do not allow litigation, you do not put it into the courts.
Mr. Strachan: That is right. We keep it for the stakeholders who
can use it constructively. In that way we keep the information flowing.
The Chair: Captains Strachan and Perkins, thank you for your
presentation. It was very interesting for us and gave us a very different
perspective than what we have previously heard. Since you will probably
follow our debate, if there are further comments you wish to make, please
feel free to forward them to the clerk. Thank you very much for your
Mr. Strachan: Thank you very much.
(The committee adjourned.)