Aviation Safety: An Open Letter from the Air Canada Pilots Association

The following is the text of a letter from the President of the Air Canada Pilots Association to the National Chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association:

Captain Daniel Slunder
National Chair
Canadian Federal Pilots Association
Suite 509 - 350 Sparks Street
Ottawa, ON  K1R 7S8

Dear Captain Slunder,

I am writing to ask that you publicly retract the inaccurate, misleading and damaging statements made by the Canadian Federal Pilots Association to a parliamentary committee and to news media yesterday regarding the conduct of Air Canada pilots.

It is disappointing and harmful to our entire profession that you would choose to attack the reputation of our members in your rush to gain publicity for your criticisms of the government's Safety Management System (SMS).

Being one yourself, you of all people should know that pilots are the primary guardians of aviation safety on behalf of their passengers. No Air Canada pilot would ever operate an aircraft that he or she believed to be unsafe. Our pilots exercise their full professional judgement in such matters, secure in the knowledge that the Air Canada Pilots Association will stand behind its members and support the decisions they make in the interest of aviation safety.  Our Technical and Safety Division works full-time, tirelessly and continuously, to protect air safety on behalf of our members and the flying public.

For your information, the crew aboard Air Canada flight 271 acted professionally at all times, despite dealing with the multiple challenges of a diversion to Grand Forks, the need to refuel, a lack of ground power and the inability to deplane passengers due to the refusal of U.S. Customs and border officials to allow it. After completing a full consultation with Air Canada Flight Operations, Systems Operations Control and Maintenance, the crew completed engine-on refuelling under these difficult circumstances, with safety vehicles standing by. Prior to departure, the First Officer personally carried out a visual inspection of the aircraft exterior to ensure that conditions were safe for takeoff, in accordance with existing policy. The flight resumed soon thereafter and concluded safely for all passengers. As a professional association, we are working with the pilots involved, the airline, the regulator and other parties to glean any lessons to be learned from flight 271 that can be applied to improve safety in the future.

Despite these facts, you chose to level sensational, unsubstantiated allegations about the conduct of Air Canada pilots. Instead of an intelligent debate on the pros and cons of SMS and a useful discussion on ways we can all work together to improve safety, you have undermined public confidence in Canadian pilots and the safety of flying in Canada.

Canadian pilots are recognized and admired around the world for operating aircraft safely and professionally in one of the most challenging environments on earth. I'm embarrassed on their behalf that you would choose to attack the reputation of the men and women flying for Air Canada, who should be your closest friends and allies in promoting aviation safety. You owe them an apology.

Sincerely,Captain Paul Strachan President Air Canada Pilots Association

Paul Howard
Director of Communications
Air Canada Pilots Association
905-678-9008 ext. 222

Published on:Publié :
Dec 01, 200901 Dec 2009

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