Transport Canada Probes Air Taxi Safety

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Transport Canada has announced it intends to carry out a "full review" of air taxi operators in the West Coast province of British Columbia after six accidents killed 14 people in a 13-month span. Merlin Preuss, director general for civil aviation, told the Vancouver Sun that he's already ordered his staff to look into the string of accidents, which some in the industry say may just be an anomaly. "When you get that number, we start asking ourselves some questions," Preuss said. "We're sitting here fat, dumb and happy, if you like and then all of a sudden we get this spate of stuff going on on the Pacific Coast. We have no conclusions yet." B.C.'s coast is bordered by rugged mountains with numerous inlets and islands, and weather can be horrific, but Preuss indicated that cultural factors within the industry will also be probed. He told The Sun that air taxi operations often employ pilots "fresh out of training school." There have been allegations in recent months that the young pilots, often in their early 20s, are pressured to fly overtime and to push the weather as they build hours for airline careers. Preuss said a similar review was done 10 years ago and fatal accidents dropped 50 percent after the release of its 71 non-binding recommendations. He wants to know if operators have remained as focused on safety as they appeared to be after the last review. "You can start backsliding," he noted.