Sisyphus Posted November 11, 2004 Report Share Posted November 11, 2004 As with any any service industry regulated by the government, there are helicopter operators try to improve the bottom line at the customer's expense. Flight time is defined in the Canadian Air Regulations as 'the time from the moment an aircraft first moves under its own power for the purpose of taking off until the moment it comes to rest at the end of the flight'. Air time is defined as 'the time from the moment an aircraft leaves the surface until it comes into contact with the surface at the next point of landing'. Maintenance schedules and the life of aircraft components are predicated on air time. These two things comprise a substantial portion of the operating cost of the helicopter. Never the less, operators often charge the customer for flight time. The customer should determine in advance whether he is paying for flight time or air time. If the customer is paying for flight time, he is paying for all the time the helicopter is running even while it is sitting on the ground. Many helicopters are equipped with hour meters which are activated when the collective is raised. The hour meter is an accurate measure of air time. However, some unscrupulous operators will instruct their pilots to raise the collective just slightly when the machine is sitting on the ground so that air time will accrue. If the work consists of many short flights, the customer may find himself paying for an extra 0.1 hours flying for every start. This could easily add up to $1000.00 per day. Some operators charge a minimum of 0.2 air time per start. This is fine as long as the customer is aware of the practice. The following excerpts from Fraser River Helicopters vs Pemberton Helicopters serves to show that playing fast and loose with flight and air times has happened at least once. It is fair to say if evidence of this practice has emerged in court then it is not an uncommon occurance. Logbooks The keeping of logbooks was the subject of much testimony. There is an "aircraft journey logbook" for each helicopter. Air navigation regulations require that such logbooks record all the time the aircraft is in use. There are also personal logbooks kept by the pilots as their own record of hours flown. Logbooks kept by the parties in this case were inaccurate. There can be no doubt, and I find as a fact, that there were many flights that were not recorded, as required by the relevant regulations, in the aircraft journey logbooks . There was evidence, including that from an official of the Ministry of Transport called by the defendants, that such infractions could result in the loss of operating certificates for particular aircraft or of the licence of the company. This is without doubt a safety concern. According to the testimony many components on helicopters have a predicted lifespan and must be replaced at specific intervals expressed in hours. It is disturbing to find the logbooks inaccurate. I will return to the significance of this, but first will consider the contract Mike Redman, another helicopter pilot who has been flying since 1981, also testified. He worked for Pemberton from February 16, 1990 to October 4, 1991. He flew out of most of their bases: Squamish, Whistler, Meadow Creek and Clearwater. He was an employee who worked on a salaried basis. On the subject of the logbooks, he understood that he was to log non-revenue flights, but that he was to "bill max and log minimum". This meant he tended to round up the time on the flight tickets but round down the time in the aircraft journey log. He said that when he flew "ferry flights" he would telephone and ask either Patricia or John Goats how he should fill out the log. He had some conversation on this topic with Patricia Goats who told him that "this is why John and Ed got along - John knew how to fill out a journey log". Ed had previously employed John Goats and Mr. Redman took this to mean that John was good at manipulating the logs to the benefit of the company. Mr. Redman also testified about filling out the form required by Forestry. He said when he was asked to fill it out, Patricia Goats suggested that he add a "1" in front of the hours so they would appear higher. He testified she told him that it would be "probably better if you fill it in as I've asked as there will be less problems later". He testified that he filled it in as she requested. He said that later on there were complications with Forestry. Mrs. Goats telephoned him and told him to create a new logbook and pad it to show time consistent with what he had filled in on his form. He did prepare such a phony logbook. He brought it with him to court. He said he did it "because she asked me and so I could continue to work flying Forestry flights". He finished flying with Pemberton in October of 1991. When he got another job with another company in 1992 he went to Forestry and explained what had happened the previous summer regarding the form he had filled out. He said they accepted his explanation. Turning to the aircraft journey logbooks, he said in all of his jobs he had attempted to bill what he could. He said that if he could "log less legitimately" he would. But he testified that it was only at Pemberton that he was asked to log inaccurately - that is to say no other employer had made such a request. He agreed that he would always log the "least time legitimately". Redman testified that the helicopter known as XWR was not leased but owned by Pemberton. When flying that machine, the journey log would frequently agree with his personal log because there was no benefit to Pemberton in trimming the hours. In cross-examination he was adamant that he would not have under logged unless he discussed it with the Goats and they wanted it. He said he would not do it on his own. He also testified about an occasion during which he flew a leased helicopter, PGM, but was told to log it in the journey logbook of the Pemberton owned XWR. As to the work available in the summer of 1991 he said he only got about 200 hours. However, he testified that this was because for at least four weeks they were suspended from Forestry work and this meant a significant reduction in the time they were able to fly. The plaintiff Chris Guichon also testified that he was told by Pemberton, in specific circumstances, to omit logging certain hours. Thus, he frequently did not log "non-revenue" flights including promotional flights, trips to investigate business opportunities, and some ferry flights. He admitted at trial he now believes this was wrong, but stressed that as far as log entries were concerned "I depended on the Goat's - they told me how to handle it". Further, he testified that there were many days when the aircraft journey log showed more time than the machine was actually airborne. Thus, when he was finished with the helicopter he used most of the time, the Hobbs meter recording hours was within five hours of the log book. This satisfied him that all maintenance was completed within what he testified was the acceptable window - ten hours either side of a 100 hour period. Mr. Goats testified on this subject. He had been in court when Messrs. Guichon, Powis and Redman testified that they had been told by Pemberton not to log certain flights. He said they were not telling the truth. He admitted, however, filing inaccurate statements of his pilots' flying hours with the Ministry of Forestry. He justified this by testifying it was necessary to do so to get the document past the first stage of filing, and that in the end the Ministry would accept the pilots in any case. Mr. Goats testified at trial that his personal log had not been kept up to date since 1989, but that he brought it up to date for these proceedings. In his examination for discovery Mr. Goats had agreed that he did not fill in his own log each day, but might fill it in days, weeks or even months later. At that time he did not say he stopped keeping a log in 1989, or that he had simply completed the log under discussion for the litigation. His explanation at trial for this omission was unsatisfactory. Considering all of the witnesses on this point, I reject the suggestion of the defendants that Guichon, Powis and Redman are lying. I find that it was the practice of Pemberton to under log or fail to log certain flights, and that from time to time hours were logged on a different helicopter than the one on which they were actually flown. As a result, Pemberton cannot stand on Fraser River's failure to log accurately, a failure in which they were complicit, as a basis for termination of the contract. For all of the above reasons, I find Pemberton did not have just cause to terminate the agreement on June 21, l991. It is amazing that this operator was not punished by Transport Canada. For their own protection, customers must know precisely what form of helicopter time they are paying for before work commences. It is also advisable to keep a record of the helicopter's up and down times to see if it agrees with that of the pilot's. This is also an argument for the reinstitution of tarriffs as it is likely that the motive for falsification of times is done to compensate for low hourly rates charged by some operators in order to be 'competitive'. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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