HAC’s letter to the federal government regarding COVID-19 outbreak

Mar 20, 2020

Photo: Mike Reyno

The Helicopter Association of Canada issued the following letter to the Canadian federal government as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Prime Minister and Ministers:

We are reaching out to you on behalf of the Canadian commercial helicopter industry for support for our industry segment, as a result of circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. This appeal includes support in the form of financial support for commercial air operators who are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, but also support in the form of administrative action required on the part of the federal government in a number of areas.

We fully support the government in its actions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 however, government financial assistance is urgently required to reduce the significant financial hardship that this crisis presents. We believe that it will significantly impact our members – air operators, the OEMs, and our suppliers, and it will have severe consequences for the travelling public and the Canadian economy. We urge you to implement a financial aid package for the air transportation industry, immediately.

The travel advisory that urges Canadians to “avoid all non-essential air travel” has caused projects and all-but urgent and essential operations in our industry to be cancelled. This has the potential to threaten the survival of many of our members, particularly in our industry as we prepare for what would normally be a busy summer season. Thousands of jobs and many communities rely on the operation of the commercial helicopter industry.

Our crews are preparing to carry out spring training and proficiency testing under “self isolation” circumstances for their employees and for the Transport Canada personnel that are required occasionally to carry out testing; ACP monitor rides; and to process the paperwork. Recurrent ground school is generally carried out in large classroom sessions.

The 14-day self-isolation process for employees returning from international travel, and travel restrictions are frustrating our members that need to send their crews outside the country or elsewhere in Canada for training or ground school. For pilots who are required to carry out initial or recurrent company ground training (CRM training for example), provision should be made to allow on-line training. Particularly for helicopter operators that provide emergency medical services, fire-suppression services and services to northern, remote and indigenous communities, and to communities during break-up — crews unable to fly because of lapsed training/testing/ground school could be life threatening. If we have another fire season like the one in 2018, we will certainly not have an adequate supply of flight crews to meet the demand for firefighting services deployed to save lives and prevent the destruction of homes.

We are aware that departmental staff have recently extended the validity of some aviation medicals certificates, which we applaud, however we urge you to extend the validity of current pilot proficiency checks and recurrent training/testing/recurrent ground school requirements at least until the end of October 2020, or until the federal government had declared that the pandemic is over, to ensure that our essential operations will be allowed to continue.

We respectfully urge you to convene an emergency teleconference of air operators of all types with senior staff from Finance Canada; Transport Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to discuss a financial assistance program for carriers to ensure that our services can continue to be provided to Canadians.

Prime Minister Trudeau, your leadership and strong support are essential to ensure that our operator-members are able to continue to provide their services during this crisis.

(News Source: Skies Magazine)