Safety Inspection Overhaul Draws Fire

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Transport Canada’s plan to transfer some safety oversight and inspection responsibility to the country’s airlines, along with an aggressive cost-cutting regime, are being criticized by a prominent safety expert. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Virgil Moshansky, who headed a commission of inquiry into a 1989 Air Ontario accident that killed 24 people, told a House of Commons committee looking at changes to the Aeronautics Act that conditions are ripe for another airline disaster. “I certainly think it’s on the horizon, especially if this oversight divesting is allowed to proceed,” Moshansky said. “Today, 18 years after Dryden, history is repeating itself, only worse. Cost-cutting is again in vogue at Transport Canada and has been for some time,” he told the committee. Transport Canada is proposing an overhaul of the safety inspection system that would put more onus on the airlines and result in audits being conducted only on operations thought to be at higher risk. Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon rejected the criticism and said safety will be enhanced with the new system. In the Air Ontario crash, a Fokker F-28 jet went down shortly after takeoff from the northern Ontario town of Dryden. Moshansky found that the root causes of the accident were budget cuts at Transport Canada, combined with airline deregulation. In current circumstances, cost-cutting is being combined with the change to a risk-management-based safety regime that he says will result in far fewer actual inspections by TC staff. “Regulatory oversight is not being merely reduced. Except for limited focused audits, it is being systematically dismantled,” he said. Some members of Parliament and the union representing safety inspectors have also been critical of the plan.