Canada air safety checks have big flaws: auditor

Tue Apr 3, 2012 4:43pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's system for monitoring airline safety has major flaws that could result in more accidents unless improvements are made, the government's spending watchdog said on Tuesday.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson said that although the transport department's regulations call for aviation companies to be inspected every year, about 70 percent of them were not investigated in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

"Transport Canada is not adequately managing the risks associated with its civil aviation oversight," he said.

"The significant weaknesses that need to be addressed involve how the department plans, conducts, and reports on its surveillance activities," he wrote in a report.

There are more than 34,000 aircraft in Canada and a total of more than 5,000 air carriers, maintenance firms, airports and aerodromes. In 2010 more than 75 million passengers flew with the borders of Canada, the world's second largest country.

In 2009 and 2010, the total number of accidents was the lowest recorded in a 10-year span in Canada. The last serious accident occurred last August when a First Air jet crashed in the northern Arctic, killing 12 people.

Ferguson said that the International Civil Aviation Organization has forecast that the current volume of air traffic in North America could more than double by 2025.

"If nothing else changes, this increase in volume could lead to more accidents. The department recognizes that it will have to do more just to keep the accident rate per revenue-generating passenger mile traveled in Canada at current levels," he said.   Continued...

Canada's Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks during a news conference on the release of his report in Ottawa April 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie