In response to an open letter written to major Canadian airlines on January 5, 2017, in which the Canadian Minister for Transport requested confirmation by February 15 that appropriate protocols regarding flight crews were in place, the top-eight Canadian airlines have all confirmed this to be the case.
The letter written by Marc Garneau, P.C., MP was as a result of an incident which occurred on the Saturday, 31st December, 7am low-cost carrier Sunwing’s flight which was due to fly from Calgary, Alberta, to Cancun, Mexico. Shortly before the plane was due to leave the terminal, the co-pilot discovered the 37-year-old pilot slumped in his seat in the cockpit. The pilot was removed from the plane and subsequent tests revealed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0,08, which is three times the legal limit. The Canadian pilot was subsequently charged with having care and control of an aircraft while being impaired.
In Canada it is a criminal offense for any flight crew to work within an eight-hour period of having consumed alcohol, or to work while under the influence of alcohol. This is part of Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) and while Transport Canada is responsible for enforcing them, the airlines are responsible for ensuring all their staff adhere to them.
Major Canadian airlines are also expected to have a Safety Management System (SMS) in place to help them identify potential risks before they become major problems; this includes putting procedures in place to ensure that pilots are fit to fly.
Garneau also made it clear in his letter that a workshop will be held in spring by Transport Canada with the aim of bringing together companies, unions and medical experts to discuss further steps that can be taken to ensure aviation safety, including:
• Raise awareness on the importance of employee assistance programs;
• Provide information on practical methods of promoting a healthy workforce;
• Establish networks for information-sharing and partnerships;
• Provide health services information; and
• Discuss the topic of random alcohol and drug testing.
In December last year, two executives with an Indonesian budget airline resigned after unsettling footage was released showing an Indonesian pilot staggering through an airport metal detector en route to the cockpit of his plane.
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