Transport Canada (TC) recently undertook research into Airborne Collision Avoidance Systems (ACAS). As a result of this research, TC learned that the FLARM has limitations and that the mandating of ACAS, specifically the FLARM, for gliding and tow-plane operations is not necessarily the best solution to prevent mid-air collisions.
With this in mind, and due to similar work being conducted under Transport Canada Civil Aviation’s General Aviation Safety Program, TC is looking into non-regulatory solutions. These solutions directly address the root causes of the Leinweber accident.
- After TC-lead meetings with the Soaring Association of Canada (SAC), SAC took the initiative to update their tow-pilot training manual – emphasizing standard procedures, which should be followed during tow-plane operations.
- TC is drafting guidance material to clarify procedures for the proper recording and deferral of aircraft defects. This material will be published in aviation publications and promotional materials, which are focused toward bringing more awareness of safety issues and concerns to the general aviation community, in the coming weeks. The guidance material not only addresses the proper recording of inoperative items, but also includes a risk management assessment prior to commencing a flight.
- TC reached out to several other civil aviation authorities, which provide oversight of significant gliding activities, namely: the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (Australia), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and the Federal Aviation Administration (USA), as well as the Soaring Association of Canada (SAC) and the Soaring Safety Foundation (USA) to exchange both on best practices and as well as technological shortcomings, including with the FLARM. Other countries are developing new standards for collision avoidance equipment, which can provide a pathway for the glider community to be more visible to other aircraft. However, it should be noted that despite the shortcomings with the FLARM, the voluntary equipage in Canada is estimated to be at 70% (based on data reported by SAC). SAC also continues to provide incentives for their members to equip their aircraft with FLARMs.
In light of the above, while FLARM can provide an additional layer of safety if properly used and managed, at this time a non-regulatory approach is believed to be the best solution. TC will therefore:
- Continue to engage with SAC and support their efforts for voluntary equipage of FLARMs in all privately owned gliders and tow-planes;
- Continue to develop and distribute guidance, educational and promotional materials addressing the root causes of the Leinweber accident, as well as other similar accidents; and,
- Continue engagement with other civil aviation authorities so TC is aware of any new developments and/or new standards for collision avoidance equipment. These developments could impact and/or further enhance our own standards in the future.
The “Leinweber accident” refers to a fatal mid-air collision between a glider and a tow plane in Alberta on July 26, 2019. The acting student pilot and the instructor were fatally injured. The TSB found that although both aircraft were equipped with FLARM, the one on the tow plane was not working on the day of the accident nor was it required by the regulations. In the Safety Message of the report, the TSB also highlighted the importance that operators have procedures in place for the safe operation of their aircraft and that personnel follow their procedures.