Foreign pilots free to fly Canadian aircraft after Ottawa quietly removes restrictions

Canada has become the only industrialized nation in the world that allows foreign licenced pilots, some of whom may have obtained their licenses without ever having flown a plane, to operate local commercial aircraft, after Ottawa quietly altered the regulations without any public consultations.

Air Transat Pilot Gilles Hudicourt explains:

In the past, Foreign Licence Validation Certificates, a certificate issued by Transport Canada to a pilot with a foreign licence allowing him/her to temporarily operate a Canadian registered aircraft, could only be issued for specific and limited reasons: For short term recreational reason, to ferry or position an aircraft, to provide or receive type training, to operate a Canadian aircraft for a foreign operator, or to operate a Canadian aircraft wholly outside of Canada. and also also, for specific commercial purposes like fighting forest fires, evacuation, etc in case of national emergencies such as fires, floods etc.

Then in 1998, TC added CASS 421.07(2)(j)

for reasons other than those mentioned above where approval may be given if, in the opinion of the Minister, it is in the public interest and not likely to affect aviation safety.
(amended 1998/03/23; no previous version)

Except that the French version read like this :

j) lorsqu'une demande a la prétention de servir l'intérêt public canadien pour des raisons non pas visées par les circonstances pressantes énumérées ci-dessus, le ministre peut accorder une approbation dans les cas exceptionnels.
(modifié 1998/03/23; pas de version précédente)

The French version of this clause specified that 421.07(2)(j) could only be used in exceptional circumstances, and when authorized by the Minister. It so happens that the original draft of the English version also read that this clause could only be used in exceptional circumstances, and only when authorized by the Minister but for a reason that is not explained in the CARAC archives, of which I have a copy, the part that restricted the use of this clause only in exceptional circumstances was deleted from the published English language version but remained in the French version.

Then Transport Canada, using this clause, began to allow foreign licenced pilots, to fly commercially in Canadaat the controls of large transport category jets operated under 705. Many FLVC were issued to foreign licenced pilots to fly for Skyservice airlines, the Sunwing Airlines and Canjet began using foreign pilots as well.
Some winters, there were over 200 foreign licensed pilots flying large Canadian commercial jet inside of Canada using FLVCs issued under 421.07(2)(j), in clear violation of the French version of the CASS.

In fact, according to statistic obtained from Transport Canada, during certain calendar years, the vast majority of FLVCs issued by TC were issued under 421.07(2)(j).
Lawyers that were consulted all agreed that when an English and French version of a law or Regulation did not match, the most restrictive of the two applied. So the French version of 421.07(2)(j) should have applied since 1998. Yet it was simply ignored.

When Transport Canada was advised of this, they continued to ignore it until last month, when TC unilaterally adjusted the French version of the CASS to the English version, without any public consultations or a second thought.

j) lorsqu’une demande a la prétention de servir l’intérêt public et que la sécurité aérienne ne risque pas d’être compromise pour des raisons autres que celles énumérées ci-dessus, le ministre peut accorder une approbation.
(en vigeur 2016/07/31)

Transport Canada sees no contradiction in having on one hand a very restrictive rule that states:

for operation of Canadian aircraft on Canadian commercial air services in urgent circumstances; such as fire suppression operations, emergency agricultural and forestry aerial application, airlift in relief of domestic natural disasters, and search and rescue operations;
followed right after by clause j) which states that TC can issue FLVCs for any other reason.

With a clause j) with no restrictions, why does a clause g) even exist ?

While pilots licensed by Transport Canada go through rigorous training and testing, there are many countries, such as India, where fake pilots licences are easily obtained, and those who obtained their licences through fraudulent means may soon start operating airlines here putting lives of Canadians at risk, pilots warn.

“I know of no other developed country that has such a liberal policy on allowing pilots licensed in another country to fly for its domestic airlines,” Hudicourt said. “Even the countries from which Canadian airlines import these foreign licenced pilots do not reciprocate in granting the same privilege to Canadian licenced pilots in their country.”

“So why does Transport Canada allow this?” Hudicourt added. “To accommodate the few commercial operators who requested the use of the foreign licenced pilots.”

“The regulations, standards and policies that prohibited this practice in the past were never modified to allow it,” Hudicourt concluded. “Transport Canada just did it, and no one contested it. This practice must stop.”

[Photo Credit: Canadian Aircraft flown by Canadian Pilots]

38 Responses to Foreign pilots free to fly Canadian aircraft after Ottawa quietly removes restrictions




  2. Garry Green says:

    who would have thought pilots would have to compete against Foreign Trade Workers? Our country have gone to hell. Welcome to the struggle all you pilots. Whom 1 month ago didn’t give 2 cents about Foreign Trade Workers stealing 1,000\s of jobs from the lower class… Which industry is next? Doctors and nurses next would be my guess.

    • Steve says:

      Pilots been fighting this for years. Previous government finally closed some Loopholes after years of lobbying. Looks like some new loopholes are being opened up.

  3. Reim says:

    Is this accurate?

    And no, I’m not going to try and wade through the 100’s of links at the link TC website.

    Where’s the Air Canada Pilots Union/Association on this?

    • AW says:

      Yes, it is true. Air Canada’s pilots really don’t have skin in the game. It’s Canadian airlines such as Sunwing and Air Transat that hire TFW’s. They have been doing it for years, and this will only open the floodgates.

      • Steve says:

        Air transat has never hired a TFW. Sunwing and the former Canjet did (Canjet being a service provider for Air Transat at the time but a separate company)

  4. GC. says:

    I work for Air TRANSAT. It’s not true that the airline I work for hires or has any intentions of hires Foreign Trade pilots.
    My company has actually sent a complaint to TC about this and has fallen on deaf hears. Why is this being allowed? The safety of crews and passengers is at stake! It’s ridiculous.

    • John says:

      No they didn’t do it .. They just contracted out work to companies that did….

    • AT says:

      That is bullshit and G.C you know it. Foreign guys are trained as well in Canada to fly C reg aircraft. They received the same training then the canadian ones. And they have to succeed the same check ride. And I know what a=I am saying because I trained this guys for years. So stop your bullshit buddy.

      As far as I know, Piché was a Canadian pilot flying a canadian airplane, like yourself. And by the way I worked for Air Transat as well.

    • Arul says:

      Hey, Indian pilots are not fake pilots. Who do you think flies for the Indian airlines in India and abroad? We are trained to International standards. So, don’t believe in some media hype. Training and Licensing in India has become very strict. It’s getting more and more difficult to get a CPL in India compared to US or Canada. The fake pilot scam was at one flying club out of the 40 good clubs and the erring club was penalised and closed down, back in 2009.

  5. TGale says:

    AC does have “skin in the game”. These pilots will eventually seep into the roster as demand for pilots continues to increase pressure on their hiring process.

  6. TJ says:

    So let’s let get all the facts strait. Were foreign pilots flying Air Transat passengers in the winter of 2016? Answer, YES. Transat had foreign aircraft and crews from the Czech republic flying their passengers to holiday destinations. Transat is also going to be flying their Airbus 330’s for a foreign airline in Europe this (2017) winter. Kettle meet the Pot

    Gilles, go ahead and tell us the facts.

    • Steve says:

      A wet lease is different than TFW and is now highly restricted to 20% of the fleet size. Air Transat had 3 wet leases last year out of a total fleet size of 32 aircraft. The gross abuses we saw a few years ago by Sunwing doubling their fleet size in the winter using hundreds of foreign pilots through a mixed use of TFW and limitless wetleases were very harmful to the industry as a whole

  7. Captain Bigbarz says:

    Nobody ever expects common sense from the Ministry of Smoke and Mirrors. (TC) This industry is already shitty enough, without letting every foreign pilot in to take Canadian jobs. Pilot pay in Canada sucks. The entry process, working the ramp, washing the boss’ car, walking the owner’s dog, etc, etc, sucks, and now the few opportunities that DO exist will evaporate, for those willing to take even lower pay. Maybe it’s time for that useless twat in Ottawa to stand up for something Canadian. Maybe next time he gets home from a trip abroad, throwing Canadian taxpayer’s money at third world countries he will step up to the plate, but I’m not holding my breath…

    • TJ says:

      Mr Bigbarz. If you look at the airlines in Canada the only ones with absolutely terrible pilot pay are Air Canada and WestJet branded airlines like Jazz, Sky, Georgian and WestJets Encore. A first officer (copilot) making $33,000 a year to start was not caused by any forgin workers. It was caused by a top heavy work contract negotiated by the senior pilots selling their young. Air Transat and Sunwing have starting pilot pay above $50,000 and both top out at $200,000. This is good for Canadain as long as it stays part of a RECIPROCAL agreement. Both Air Transat and Sunwing have pilots working overseas in Europe each year.

  8. Sasky306 says:

    This is bad news for us! The most effective and quickest way to fix it is for every single pilot in Canada to email Trudeau, the minister of transport and your own local MP. Tell them what is happening (they likely don’t know) tell them the effect and then offer solutions.

    Another option but a very slow and uncertain plan would be to rally all Canadian pilots again and form a collage. Once we have a collage we will eventually get control over licencing and regs. We may not end up in 100% control but I think we could be taking care of most regs.

    This is a better option for the long term but in order to make it work you would need a few guys to do a cross country trip and stop at nearly every airline and meet with their pilots and explain our concept and agenda.

  9. Rene du Lac says:

    We should remember that many Canadiens fly aircraft all over the world with the approval of local authorities, often with minimum hassles and paperwork. This is potentially taking jobs from other local pilots is it not ?. Aviation is an international industry. Whilst fake licenses are a risk, no company worth speaking of will simply allow a pilot to jump in and fly without check rides, assesements, medical, license verification etc. Canada has a poor reputation for protectionism that must be shaken off if we are to be a part of the global “aviation” village.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Air Transat pilot Gilles Hudicourt is clearly misinterpreting what was written. Anyone who’s ever translated English to French or vice versa knows that the wording is never a direct translation.

    He’s creating fear mongering by attempting to compare “opinion” with “exceptional”. The French version states exactly what the English version is stating.

    Also, since only subsection J was shown, it’s pulling the contents out of context, despite having the link. Most people won’t go back and re-read the whole section.

  11. GQ says:

    Air Transat pilot Gilles Hudicourt is clearly misinterpreting what was written. Anyone who’s ever translated English to French or vice versa knows that the wording is never a direct translation.

    He’s creating fear mongering by attempting to compare “opinion” with “exceptional”. The French version states exactly what the English version is stating.

    Also, since only subsection J was shown, it’s pulling the contents out of context, despite having the link. Most people won’t go back and re-read the whole section.

    421.07(1) still applies and is still in effect. The validation certificate is still one year.

    Anyone with two properly firing synapses knows that you can’t just open up an airline in Canada, since all airlines need to be Canadian owned under different legislation.

    • Gilles Hudicourt says:

      I’m afraid you commented without properly reading what you were commenting about.
      1) The French and English versions were totally different before July 31 2016.
      2) One year FLVCs are renewed every year when applied for.
      3) Starting an airline …!!!!!?????

  12. Nyet says:

    What a crock.

    Really? Pilots who “fake their licences” currently working for European Carriers coming to Canada? Gimme a break, they wouldn’t even have a job over in Europe with the JAA ATPL regs and exams.

    All foreign pilots working on a C reg need to meet Canadian PPC standards. So they, by law, need to have proper ground school and simulator training.

    Also, if you look at the business model attacked here – let’s be honest, only Sunwing remains of the 3 mentioned in the article -, im willing to bet a good chunk of Sunwing pilots would only have seasonal jobs instead of full time jobs with benefits, should the foreign pilot program stop. No accordion business model would provide stability to pilots otherwise.

    • Gilles Hudicourt says:

      Dear Must,

      Where do you get the notion that foreign pilots hired as TFW in Canada and issued an FLVC by TC to fly Canadian aircraft must filter through Europe ?

    • Gilles Hudicourt says:

      Where do you get the notion that foreign pilots hired by Canadian airlines as TFW and issued FLVCs to operate Canadian aircraft must filter through Europe ?
      It’s not because past pilots have mostly come from Europe that future pilots will exclusively come from there, especially when the math will drive bean counters to countries with greater savings (since $$$ is what this is all about)

  13. Dazed and Confused says:

    Never mind the foreign validation process and portability of PPC silliness and whether or not any of these guys and girls can speak a word of english; where is Immigration Canada on this? Don’t foreigners have to get work permits? And why are they being allowed to get them when Canadian pilots are heading overseas to find work????

    And the bigger question – are foreign pilots any less safe than Canadian trained ones? At the end of the day it’s all about the Benjamins!!

  14. Me says:

    I could not agree more. Canadian jobs to Canadians. But the question is : why are the big players hiring outside Canada ? Because they want pilots rated on the type they fly and can’t find any in Canada. And while there is a lot of airbus and Boeing pilots in Europe (flying the line with 200 hours TT), companies in our country won’t consider you for a jet position unless one has several thousands of hours as PIC on turboprop. Maybe it is time for Canadian operators to join the rest of the world and train pilots with a bit less experience and stop asking for 2000hrs PIC to fly a B1900 as FO. The Majors would not have to go outside the country to find somewhat qualified pilots for the job.

    • Death pencil driver says:

      This is untrue, you can get on an Embraer or a CRJ in Canada as soon as you get your ATPL, people are getting right seated on Dashes, metros, 1900s with 500 hours, sometimes less. You just have to move out of southern Ontario to find the jobs.

  15. Robert Kirkpatrick says:

    Would everyone please write their local member of parliament to state their disagreement. The government has to know we are aware and not impressed. More social media targeted at Justin Trudeau may also get some attention.

  16. James Herlock says:

    A lot of courageous John Doe’s on here bashing on Gilles for obvious anti-Canadian and pro Sunwing lobbying. Give yourself a good look in the mirror gentlemen and women that do not support Gilles. You are working against Canadian interests if you encourage or support Sunwing.

  17. Anonymous says:

    You guys think you have it rough, try being a low time helicopter pilot in Canada. You have to some how get from 100 hours as a newly licensed commercial pilot to a 1000 hours to even be considered employable here. To make matters worse operators are happy to hand over the slim picking of positions to Kiwis and Ozzies when there is an over abundance of Canadian pilots who have no where else to go to work.

  18. Death pencil driver says:

    A lot of entitled whining going on both in the article and in the comments. Come on people! The pilot industry is facing a massive shortfall, numbers are down both for new pilots and flight instructors. If you want something to really gripe about, gripe about the cost and complexity of ab-initio training! Statistics show this is the #1 reason why student pilots don’t finish their training.

    Sounds to me like a lot of top level captains on here are lamenting their pay scales… if you don’t like it, you have the mobility to find other work… Quit whining.

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