Jim Bagnall/OTTAWA

CANADA'S Transportation Safety Board has criticised Transport Canada for failing to ensure that safety deficiencies it had uncovered during routine airline audits were actually fixed.

In a report to transport minister, Doug Young, the Board notes that it has investigated 19 aircraft accidents since 1984, mostly involving small regional carriers, in which the quality of auditing or follow-up inspections was an issue.

The report notes that Transport Canada auditors gave Air Manitoba a clean bill of health in June 1993. In January 1994, two months after the crash of an Air Manitoba Hawker Siddeley 748, auditors discovered "maintenance shortcomings" serious enough to result in suspension of the airline's operating certificate.

The Safety Board questions how two audits so close together could produce such completely different results.

In another case, involving the fatal crash of a Central Mountain Air Douglas DC-3C, the Board discovered that the carrier had regularly been exceeding weight limits for years. Transport Canada auditors failed to notice that the cargo pallets were 2.2m further aft than shown on a sample calculation sheet provided by the company.

Because of these and other examples, the Board is recommending that the transport minister order more in-depth audits immediately an airline shows a higher risk profile.

The Board also recommends that Transport Canada develop ways of systematically ensuring that airlines correct safety violations uncovered by audits - and impose penalties where carriers prove reluctant to do so.

Source: Flight International