Decisions

CAT File No. A-1434-02
MoT File No. 6504-P-204223-029259

CIVIL AVIATION TRIBUNAL

BETWEEN:

Brian James Saunders, Applicant

- and -

Minister of Transport, Respondent

LEGISLATION:
Aeronautics Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-2, s. 6.9(8), 7.3(3)
Canadian Aviation Regulations, SOR/96-433, s. 401.03(1)(b)

Expired medical certificate, Positive professional attitude


Review Determination
Faye H. Smith


Decision: May 12, 1997

In view of the circumstances of this isolated event, and because Captain Saunders took immediate steps to remedy the situation on the day following discovery of the lapsed medical, and because he possesses a positive professional attitude regarding his responsibilities as a pilot, pursuant to subsection 6.9(8) of the Aeronautics Act, I hereby reduce the duration of the suspension from fourteen days to two days. Said suspension will begin on the fifteenth day following service of this determination.

The Review Hearing in the above matter was held Monday, May 5, 1997 at 10:00 hours at Moncton, New Brunswick.

At the commencement of the hearing, Mr. Bateman on behalf of Captain Saunders indicated agreement with the facts as alleged that Captain Saunders' medical certificate had expired prior to the stated flight on December 12, 1996.

Mr. Bateman indicated that the Secretary's Certificate dated April 16, 1997 attesting that on December 12, 1996 no Licence Validation Certificate was in effect, contained a typographical error regarding the expiration date of the Licence Validation Certificate which should read October 1, 1996 in lieu of September 1, 1995. The Minister's representative agreed, and the change was made on Exhibit 3-M as filed. Following this correction, Mr. Bateman advised the Tribunal that he would be addressing the issue of sanction only.

NOTICE OF SUSPENSION

Pursuant to section 6.9 of the Aeronautics Act the Minister of Transport has decided to suspend the above indicated Canadian aviation document on the grounds that you have contravened the following provision(s):

Schedule A

Canadian Aviation Regulation section 401.03(1)(b) that on or about December 12, 1996 at or near Moncton, New Brunswick you did act as a crew member on an aircraft to wit: a Piper PA-31 aircraft bearing Canadian registration marks C-GIIZ, more specifically, you could not produce a valid and appropriate medical certificate while acting as a flight crew member and did thereby commit an offence contrary to s. 7.3(3) of the Aeronautics Act, R.S. 1995, c. A-3, s.1 as amended.

The Minister suspended Captain Saunders' commercial pilot licence for a period of fourteen days.

THE LAW

Paragraph 401.03(1)(b) of the Canadian Aviation Regulations reads:

401.03 (1) No person shall act as a flight crew member or exercise the privileges of a flight crew permit, licence or rating unless

(...)

(b) the person is the holder of, and can produce while so acting and while exercising such privileges, a valid and appropriate medical certificate.

ARGUMENT

The Minister's representative, Inspector Miles, briefly outlined the facts of the case as supported by a Ramp Check sheet signed by Inspector McGregor on December 12, 1996 indicating that Captain Saunders did not have a recent medical on board. Two secretary's certificates were produced, one attesting to the expiration of the medical certificate on October l, 1996 and the other indicating that the certificate of registration for C-GIIZ was issued to Prince Edward Air Ltd. An entry in the aircraft journey log placed Captain Saunders as pilot-in-command on December 12, 1996. As aforementioned, these facts were not disputed by the Applicant.

Regarding sanction, Inspector Miles submitted that Captain Saunders did not have a valid medical certificate on the date of the ramp check and was probably flying for the two and one-half month period without a valid medical certificate. He stated that the recommended sanction for this strict liability offence which is a designated provision is a suspension for 14–30 days or an assessment of a monetary penalty in the amount of $1,000. Inspector Miles concluded by stating that, as Captain Saunders had no prior record, the minimum sanction of fourteen days was assessed.

Mr. Bateman indicated that once the company became aware that Captain Saunders' medical certificate was expired, he was grounded until his medical certificate was renewed. The evidence of Captain Saunders disclosed that the certificate was renewed on December 13, 1996, the day following the ramp check. Mr. Bateman indicated that the pilot-in-command overlooked the renewal date as things were very hectic at the company which was in the throes of expansion.

Captain Saunders in his own behalf stated that at the time he was striving to meet a lot of demands both personally and professionally; the latter involved pilot training and line flying. He stated that over the past five years the company had notified him of his medical renewal date, and that this time the date was incorrectly entered on the board as 1997. Captain Saunders was quick to acknowledge and accept that the responsibility for renewal of his medical certificate was his and that in the circumstances of this case it was an oversight on his part. He further acknowledged that he realized it had the potential for a "really nasty situation" with disastrous consequences for the company. He urged the Tribunal to accept this as an unfortunate event and urged that the penalty was excessive, most especially as he was the only captain of the subject aircraft and thus when he is grounded, so is the aircraft.

Mr. Bateman in his sum-up indicated that the company has revised its procedures for notification of renewals and, while not absolving the pilot-in-command of his responsibility, the new procedures should provide a foolproof system.

By way of character reference Mr. Bateman stated that Captain Saunders is highly regarded for his professional standards and competency and his respect for the regulations. This is an isolated incident, and there is no previous history. Captain Saunders is a 34-year-old pilot who is in excellent health with no limitations.

DISCUSSION

The offence of operating an aircraft without a valid medical certificate is a serious one. The range of paragraph 401.03(1)(b) extends from failing to have a copy of the medical certificate on board, to the more serious failure to renew a medical certificate at its expiration and to the most serious offence of operating an aircraft without a valid medical certificate by reason of failure to meet required medical conditions, hence the range of recommended penalties. Clearly a penalty assessed under section 6.9 of the Aeronautics Act is designed to meet the need for punishment for the offence in circumstances giving rise to the case for this pilot-in-command and for other like-minded individuals so as to deter repeat offences and to ensure respect for and compliance with the regulations.

I was impressed with the forthrightness and demeanour of Captain Saunders and believe that he has respect for the Canadian Aviation Regulations. I believe that he is a professional pilot who considers that he was most fortunate that events with dire consequences did not occur during the period of his lapsed medical certificate. I also believe that the duration of the suspension as assessed is more than necessary as a deterrent for Captain Saunders.

The assessment of penalties must also contain the consideration of adequacy of the penalty to deter other pilots from the commission of this offence. In this regard my review of Civil Aviation Tribunal jurisprudence over the past number of years has produced only one similar case, a fact which leads me to conclude that pilots are already aware of the impact, professionally, of a failure to observe renewal dates for medical certificates.

Mr. Bateman's references regarding Captain Saunders' professionalism and good character as well as his assertions of checks and balances set up by the recently established company procedures in this respect were helpful to me.

I thank the representatives of the parties for their efficiencies, courtesy and candour herein.

DETERMINATION

In view of the circumstances of this isolated event, and because Captain Saunders took immediate steps to remedy the situation on the day following discovery of the lapsed medical, and because he possesses a positive professional attitude regarding his responsibilities as a pilot, pursuant to subsection 6.9(8) of the Aeronautics Act, I hereby reduce the duration of the suspension from fourteen days to two days.

Faye Smith
Chairperson
Civil Aviation Tribunal