Civil Aviation - Oversight Program Description and Delivery - Fiscal Year 2022-2023

Table of contents

1. Overview of the program, operating context and environment

Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Branch oversees everything connected with aeronautics. We support a safe, secure, efficient, and environmentally responsible air transportation system through our regulatory framework. We also work with the international aviation community to strengthen Canada’s influence and regulatory expertise on the international stage.

The branch delivers the aviation safety program and makes sure the aviation industry complies with Canadian regulations through the following core activities:

  • Regulatory Authorizations: Certification and licensing through the determination of compliance of people, organizations, and products
  • Surveillance: Risk-based, planned, and reactive oversight activities
  • Enforcement & Investigations
  • Education, outreach, and awareness
  • Safety Management System oversight

Operating context

The Civil Aviation Branch supports and promotes aviation safety through our national aviation safety program. We are responsible for overseeing:

  • air navigation services operated by NAV CANADA, the largest single air navigation service provider in the world
  • 15 million square kilometers of airspace, managed by NAV CANADA
  • Canada’s aerospace design and manufacturing industry
  • 36,918 Canadian registered aircraft
  • 24,698 licensed pilots
  • 15,870 aircraft maintenance engineers
  • 351 approved check pilots
  • 56 design approval representatives
  • 2,808 air carriers (40% Canadian, 60% foreign)
  • 863 approved maintenance organizations
  • 545 certified aerodromes (airports and heliports)
  • 65,468 registered drones
  • 63,455 Basic Drone Pilot Certificates, and
  • 6,994 Advanced Drone Pilots Certificates

Key changes in external operating environment

COVID-19 shutdowns continue to have a major impact on aviation. Since the pandemic began, we have worked with internal and external stakeholders to limit the pandemic's impact and respond to this public health crisis. These measures include:

  • travel restrictions
  • added cleaning and sanitation practices
  • physical distancing
  • mandatory health checks
  • masks, and
  • temperature checks

As of October 31, 2021 vaccines are required for passengers (aged 12+) boarding domestic or international flights departing from most airports in Canada. This includes charter and foreign airlines carrying commercial passengers.

Outside of the impact of the pandemic, the past few years have seen a rapid rate of technological change within the industry. For example, drones (officially known as “remotely piloted aircraft systems”) now outnumber piloted aircraft in Canada. This change has created challenges for us and has forced us to look at the way we develop regulations and oversee the sector.

Key changes in internal operating environment

As the pandemic continues, our plans will evolve. When the Government of Canada required most travellers to have COVID-19 vaccinations we quickly reassigned staff and resources to support this vaccine mandate.

Due to COVID-19, most Civil Aviation employees have been working from home. This forced us to quickly roll-out systems and technology to support remote work. With the pandemic restrictions beginning to ease we’re looking at a hybrid work model that will allow us to slowly return to the office, while also taking advantage of the features and flexibility of virtual work.

Outside of COVID-19 there have been a number of key changes in our internal environment.

As drones become more popular, we need to make sure that they’re used safely. To support this goal, we have developed a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems regulatory framework, licensing and certification requirements, and oversight mechanisms.

Our State Safety Program Manual was published in fall 2021. The State Safety Program is a set of standards and activities aimed at improving global aviation safety. It sets a framework to support data-informed and evidence-based decision making.

We have also begun to put in place a voluntary Safety Management System Program for organizations that design and manufacture aircraft. This program is different than traditional oversight programs as it requires the Civil Aviation Branch to confirm compliance of elements that are outside the current scope of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

Work is underway to update Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) and make sure they align with international standards. Current initiatives are outlined in the Forward Regulatory Plan.

Lastly, we’re working on a safety management system (SMS) policy review to:

  • find ways to support innovation and economic growth
  • provide recommendations on updating the SMS requirements in the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs), and
  • find ways to better align with international best practices

2. Considerations and drivers for oversight activities priorities


A normal part of Canada’s aviation industry is that the operating status of aviation companies can change throughout a given year. Each year there are a number of companies whose certificates become invalid for various reasons.

This results in a difference between the numbers of surveillance activities planned versus completed, usually around 10%. Civil Aviation’s new surveillance model gives us the flexibility to fill any gaps created with reactive surveillance.

Any difference between planned versus actual inspections are closely monitored and tracked with the goal of completing as many planned surveillance activities as possible. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the aviation system. In the short term, the drop in activity in the air transportation system has led to a drop in aviation occurrences (aviation accident risks).

But in the medium and longer term, the changes and impacts from the global pandemic may lead to higher risks in the aviation system. We’re working to identify and monitor key operational concerns that directly result from COVID-19.

Drivers for oversight activities priorities

Ministerial priorities

As reflected in the Minister of Transport’s mandate letter, our immediate priority is to enforce COVID-19 vaccination requirements and support the commercial air sector as it restarts and rebuilds.

The branch is also working to improve our regulatory process. Our priorities include:

  • focusing on transparency and digital service delivery
    • For example, delivering licensing and certification programs through online platforms, such as the Drone Management Portal, and reducing red-tape by aligning with international standards
  • updating the Canadian Aviation Regulations to provide more flexibility in the regulatory framework, more coordination among jurisdictions and collaboration with industry, and
  • a need for clarity and certainty within the regulatory framework

Risk based priorities

Surveillance activities can be either planned or reactive. Surveillance inspections are done to assess industry’s compliance with the regulatory framework. Surveillance includes all activities associated with preparing, conducting, and reporting on an inspection. It also includes any action taken in response to industry non-compliance (issue found), like reviewing and following-up on Corrective Action Plans (CAPs), enforcement action, and certificate action.

We will continue to use an interim planning method for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Including system risk is key to an effective planning method, as such we’ve used a dynamic risk-based planning methodology that looks at risk across the entire system using quantitative and qualitative data points in conjunction with peer groups and/or enterprise sectors.

Operational priorities

Regulatory authorizations

We grant and maintain permission for people and organizations to operate in Canada’s civil aviation system. Regulatory authorizations are typically demand driven. We use historical data to predict future demand. Numbers are calculated based on the average actual number of Regulatory Authorizations delivered in the previous 3 fiscal years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the number of regulatory authorizations we conduct and will likely introduce further variations until the situation stabilizes. Overall, we saw a drop in regulatory authorizations during the pandemic. As the situation normalizes and aviation personnel return to work, we may see a significant jump in regulatory authorizations in the coming fiscal year.

In addition, the number of regulatory authorizations will see a significant increase in 2022-2023 following the addition of authorizations related to the drone program.

Transportation safety board recommendations

The risks listed in the Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations can inform how we deliver planned surveillance within a given year.

Transportation Safety Board recommendations are also factored-in to reactive surveillance through targeted inspections.

3. Oversight delivery in 2022-23

The delivery of oversight activities, such as planned risk-based inspections and reactive inspections, will be reported through the Canadian Center on Transportation Data (CCTD).

4. Organizational contact information

Transport Canada welcomes your comments on this report.


Annex A: definitions

Required Field Description

How Transport Canada promotes, monitors or enforces compliance with our safety and security requirements.

Regulatory authorizations

Given when a regulated party (for example, a railway company or vehicle manufacturer) applies for permission to do a regulated activity, or be exempt from it. We may give permission in various forms, including a permit, licence or certification. Transport Canada does not control the number of regulatory authorizations per planning cycle.


A documented, formal examination of industry compliance with Canadian transportation safety and security rules, regulations and requirements. Authorized Transport Canada officials record the results of each inspection. For the purposes of this document, audits are a type of inspection.

*Includes pre-site, onsite, and post-site inspection and oversight activities. Is complete when the inspector submits an approved inspection or oversight activities report. Does not include follow-up action, quality control checks or outreach activities.

Planned, risk-based inspections

All inspections Transport Canada initially commits to doing in a given planning cycle. The SO3 Management Board may authorize updates as needed.

*Include inspections that are announced (and expected), and those that are unannounced. Does not include:

  • estimated numbers of demand-driven activities, such as regulatory authorizations
  • “reactive” or “opportunity” inspections that happen because of a change in oversight
Follow-up activities

Arise from findings of an initial inspection. May include an on-site inspection, requests for more information, or enhanced monitoring.

*Do not include enforcement.

Other activities

Oversight activities that Transport Canada did not initially commit to in a planning cycle, and are not a follow-up to an inspection or audit.


Measures we use to enforce requirements and compel compliance. For example:

  • letters of non-compliance
  • directions or orders
  • ticketing
  • notices of violation
  • administrative monetary penalties
  • prosecutions
  • suspensions or cancellations of certificates or authorizations
Education, outreach and awareness

How we educate the public, and encourage people and companies to comply with the law (for example: industry conferences, air shows, training, web portal)

Quality control

How we ensure inspectors follow policies and procedures, and complete required documentation. Applies to an entire oversight activity, from inspection, to follow-up, to resolving non-compliance. Supervisors and managers are responsible for quality control.

Each program must have:

  • a documented, nationally consistent way of doing quality control
  • a procedure or set of procedures to ensure inspections follow approved standard operating procedures