February 21, 2020

Transport Canada To Scrutinize New U.S. Aircraft Designs


Transport Canada (TC) has announced that they will be changing the way aircraft manufactured in the U.S. are certified for operations in Canada. Previously, TC would trust U.S. certifications by their regulator (the FAA) with cursory validation as FAA certification was traditionally held in high esteem by the industry. However, since the crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Maxes last year, hearings held by the U.S. Congress have revealed that the FAA delegated much of their oversight responsibilities to Boeing staff, leading to the loss of trust in the U.S. certification process.

“We are making changes to improve the rigour of our validation system,” Amy Butcher, a spokesperson for Transport Minister Marc Garneau, told The Globe and Mail newspaper last weekend. “Transport Canada will conduct its own flight testing after the FAA completes their own.”

Families of the 18 Canadian victims of the Ethiopian crash were pressing the federal government last year to hold public hearings so that the public can follow any corrective action taken. Parliament’s Select Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN) was presented with a motion last summer that would have allowed the families to testify publicly but it was voted down at the time by the then-Liberal-dominated committee.

On Tuesday of this week Todd Doherty, the Opposition’s Transport critic and vice-chair of TRAN, proposed a motion in the House of Commons that would require TRAN to study “Transport Canada’s aircraft certification process, including, but not limited to, the nature of Transport Canada’s relationship to the Federal Aviation Administration and other certifying bodies, as well as the role of airplane manufacturers in the airplane certification process.” The motion received the support of Liberal committee member Chris Bittle, who is also the parliamentary secretary to transport minister Marc Garneau.

It remains unclear to what extent foreign-certified aircraft would require more rigorous review before being allowed to operate in Canada, such as which countries would be considered less trustworthy than others, and what aircraft categories would be included, e.g. Part 525 (transport-category aircraft, such as airliners) and Part 523 (normal-category aircraft, such as privately operated smaller aircraft).