Articles

COPA and the TSB – Partners in Advancing Aviation Safety

By Kathy Fox,
Chair, Transportation Safety Board of Canada

Adapted from an article originally published in the July 2016 edition of COPA Flight magazine.

I am pleased to contribute to COPA's inaugural magazine as I have been a member of COPA for over 30 years and appreciate the work of this valued association. Today, I lead an organization dedicated to making transportation safer for Canadians, and there are a number of areas where we share common interests. First let me tell you a little bit about the TSB.

The TSB came into existence in 1990. It was created as an independent investigative agency with a mandate to advance transportation safety in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation by:

  • conducting independent investigations into selected transportation occurrences;
  • identifying safety deficiencies;
  • making recommendations designed to eliminate or reduce any such safety deficiencies; and
  • reporting publicly on our investigations.

The TSB is separate from Transport Canada, reporting to Parliament through the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. We don't attribute blame or determine civil or criminal liability. The TSB is only concerned with making things safer by finding out what happened and why.

It's a big mandate and a big responsibility. It's also a big country and the TSB receives, on average, about 3700 occurrence reports each year, of which approximately 1,000 are in aviation. Today, we know that of those 1,000 aviation occurrences (incidents and accidents) each year, about 200 involve private aircraft, and, on average, there have been 34 fatal aviation accidents each year for the past 10 years. Of accidents involving private aircraft, roughly 110 percent have fatalities. The numbers are evocative and they indicate that we can and must do better. It is my hope that we will.

One of the questions I am often asked is, “Why didn't the TSB investigate a particular accident?” I can tell you that a full investigation is conducted if it is determined that there is a high probability to advance transportation safety. That's what we're about. At a minimum, we will collect key information about the accident or incident for statistical purposes, and for trend analysis, and to support the needs of any involved agency, such as a coroner's office. If the assessment leads us to identify a safety issue that needs to be communicated, the TSB does have other methods, such as safety information letters or safety advisories, for communicating the issue to the regulator and industry. Of course, the TSB will also provide information to family members upon request.

As you all know, the aviation environment is a dynamic one where things constantly evolve and progress. The TSB will continue to press for improvements that can make aviation safer. Our Watchlist is a powerful tool to indicate those issues that pose the greatest risk to Canada's transportation system. Currently, approach-and-landing accidents, the risk of collision on runways, and safety management and oversight are included on the list of aviation issues that need to be addressed. In addition, we also continue to press for implementation of other outstanding recommendations such as those related to floatplane safety.

Our activities make a difference. Whether we are advocating for new equipment to improve safety, or gathering information for future analysis, we are always focused on delivering on our mandate. I hope that your association and this magazine will become strong partners in making our sky safer for all Canadians.