Currie’s Corner 626, May 24, 2018
Hard to believe that it’s only 115 years since Orville Wright and his brother Wilbur got their strange looking machine to lift off the ground at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.
Flying is such a vital part of our daily life, especially in the vast expanse of Canada where there are no roads. It has been an unusually dry spring, resulting in one of the earliest fire crises in recent memory, all across the prairie region. As I write these words, there has been no loss of life, but it may well have been a different and more tragic story, were it not for the men and women who pilot those water bombers, as well as the float planes and other craft that carry people to safety when the smoke and the flames get too close.
This week, Marc Garneau, the former astronaut who serves as Minister of Transport in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet announced new rules that will only make things more difficult in the north. The number of consecutive hours that pilots are allowed to work is being reduced. Like many rules that are created indoors in Ottawa, the approach is “one size fits all”. It definitely makes sense to closely monitor and regulate working hours for the folks who drive planes for Air Canada and WestJet, but the very same rules will apply to the people in the cockpit of those water bombers. When their time is up, they will be obliged to land and switch off. If there isn’t another pilot ready to take over, who knows what the consequences might be, especially when thousands of hectares are burning and communities are threatened. Fortunately or unfortunately, these frontliners tend to ‘push the envelope’ in emergency situations. When lives are on the line, I suspect that the last thing they worry about is their personal clock that is counting down.
A toast if will to Canada’s heroes of the air.
I’m Roger Currie