From oil spills to manhunts, Transport Canada Director of Flight Operations reflects on an exciting career serving Canadians

From Transport Canada

Transport Canada Director of Flight Operations Steve Buckles

From surveying oil spills to assisting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the search for suspects, Steve Buckles, Director of Flight Operations at Transport Canada’s Aircraft Services, has seen just about everything during his many years of service.

Mr. Buckles has worked for Transport Canada for over 31 years. As he gets ready to retire this year, he reflects on the past and looks towards Transport Canada’s future for providing aviation services to Canadians.

Mr. Buckles joined the department on its 50th anniversary after working for 15 years as a bush pilot flying helicopters across Canada. In this role, he participated in a variety of operations, including fighting forest fires, tagging polar bears, and supporting off-shore oil rig production and exploration programs. He got his start with Transport Canada flying helicopters for the Canadian Coast Guard in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

“The best parts of my job are the people I work with and the excitement that comes from being involved a dynamic national operation where every day brings another challenge,” says Mr. Buckles. “It is very satisfying to be able to make a difference and work with my team to ensure operations run smoothly as we meet those challenges.”

In his current role, Mr. Buckles oversees the delivery of aviation services to other government organizations, including Environment and Climate Change Canada, National Defence, Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, as well as to Transport Canada. Mr. Buckles leads a team that operates a fleet of 13 airplanes and 26 helicopters. His team also trains over 250 Transport Canada aviation inspectors from across the country.

Over the years, Mr. Buckles has also had the opportunity to participate in some unique operations. In June 2014, he was part of the team that assisted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during the search for a suspect alleged to have fatally shot three police officers and injured two others in Moncton, New Brunswick. The National Aerial Surveillance Program Dash 8 aircraft he manages was deployed to assist in the search, and used heat-sensing equipment to help detect the suspect in a wooded area, where he was detained by law enforcement.

Mr. Buckles also coordinated Transport Canada’s efforts to assist the United States Coast Guard in monitoring the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Buckles was part of the team that deployed the National Aerial Surveillance Program aircraft along with 13 employees from Transport Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

While Mr. Buckles has enjoyed many exciting career highlights during his time with Transport Canada, he is most proud of the day-to-day services his team provides to Canadians. He enthusiastically discusses their many achievements, including:

  • Spending a winter supporting Canadian Coast Guard operations on an icebreaker near Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories;
  • Establishing a 24/7 response capability to support Health Canada during the 2014 and 2015 Ebola crisis in West Africa; and
  • Modernizing Transport Canada’s fleet of aircraft.

As he works towards his retirement, Mr. Buckles notes there are many exciting projects on the horizon for Aircraft Services. He is confident the group will continue to grow stronger while maintaining a high degree of aviation safety.

“During my years at Aircraft Services I’ve seen major changes and many ups and downs,” says Mr. Buckles. “I believe we borrow from the future and when it is time to move on we need to give it back in better shape than when we received it. I hope I’ve been able to do that with this organization. It has been a privilege to work here – and it’s been quite a ride!”