Civil aviation – Oversight Program Description and Delivery Fiscal year 2023-24

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. 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
  • 37,018 Canadian registered aircraft
  • 24,721 licensed pilots
  • 16,471 aircraft maintenance engineers
  • 358 approved check pilots
  • 85 design approval representatives
  • 2,371 air carriers (28% Canadian, 72% foreign)
  • 859 approved maintenance organizations
  • 545 certified aerodromes (airports and heliports)
  • 72,324 Registered drones
  • 75,409 Basic Drone Pilot Certificates issued
  • 8,932 Advanced Drone Pilot Certificates issued

Transportation 2030: A Strategic Plan for the Future of Transportation in Canada is our roadmap towards a safe, secure, green, innovative, and connected transportation system that supports:

  • trade and economic growth
  • a cleaner environment
  • the well-being of Canada’s middle class

Key changes in external operating environment

COVID-19 impacted every part of aviation. While some sectors in Canada are showing a strong recovery (like: general aviation, flight training and aerial work) other sectors will continue to lag behind (like: air taxi and airline operations).

Financial pressures will continue to be a factor for the industry, as financial recovery from the pandemic is expected to lag behind air traffic. Other things that will negatively impact the industry include:

  • high oil and fuel prices;
  • the labour shortage;
  • a global parts shortage;
  • and inflation.

We continue to see a rapid rate of technological change within the industry. Emerging technologies like drones, AI (artificial intelligence), biometrics, robotics, alternative fuels, and electric aircraft will change the face of aviation. This faster pace of change creates challenges for Transport Canada Civil Aviation and other organizations that develop regulations and oversee regulated entities.

Key changes in the internal operating environment

As the aviation industry and international standards change, there’s more demand for non-traditional types of oversight. Examples of this include:

Drones – We’ve been developing regulations, a licensing and certification system, and strategies to oversee this new sector (formally called Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems). We’re adding drones into our regular inspection schedule in 2023.

Voluntary safety management systems (SMS) – We’ve been testing a program for organizations that design and manufacture aircraft to help us meet our commitments to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Because the program is voluntary, our inspections confirm compliance of elements that are outside the current scope of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

State Safety Program (SSP) - The program is a set of standards and activities aimed at improving and promoting global aviation safety. It sets a framework to support data-informed and evidence-based decisions. Since it was created in 2021 we’ve:

  • volunteered to have International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assess the program
  • established Canada’s State Safety Program Advisory Council, and
  • started to develop State Safety Program training and Canada’s National Aviation Safety Plan.

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 companies whose certificates become invalid for various reasons.

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

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

Drivers for oversight activities and priorities

Ministerial priorities

Civil Aviation is working to improve how we oversee the aviation industry in accordance with Transport Canada’s 2023-2024 Departmental Plan.

We will improve aviation safety surveillance by:

  • taking a more strategic approach to quality assurance.
  • offering inspector education and training sessions,
  • providing tools and updating our surveillance methods to address Transportation Safety Board recommendations and modernize the surveillance program.

We will continue to focus on drones, including:

  • regulations for safe operations, pilot projects and guidance to operators.
  • developing a framework to make sure an operator is medically fit to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

We will support global efforts to reduce emissions in the transportation sectors, by:

  • engaging with multilateral organizations (like the International Civil Aviation Organization) and efforts carried out with partners
  • developing and implementing decarbonization roadmaps, action plans, and voluntary agreements with industry
  • accelerating the introduction of greener aircraft designs, through aircraft certification, by developing our technical expertise in the certification of green aviation technologies

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 work related to 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 incorporate system risk as its key to an effective method of planning. To help, we’re using a dynamic risk-based planning methodology that looks at risk across the entire system using quantitative and qualitative data points together with certificate 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 difficult to predict because they’re done on-demand. As such, we use historical data to predict future demand. Numbers are calculated based on the average actual number of Regulatory Authorizations delivered in the last 3 fiscal years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the number of regulatory authorizations we do and may continue to affect this process. Overall, we expect the number of regulatory authorizations to remain stable going forward with some sectors forecasting slight drops.

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



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