OTTAWA - The union representing federal licensed pilot inspectors says one in five inspection jobs is vacant, jeopardizing airline safety.
The Canadian Federal Pilots Association has released a study that shows there are 100 openings for licensed pilot inspectors out of a federal workforce that is supposed to total 499.
The association says that's the highest vacancy rate ever.
The study found that 30 per cent of aviation enforcement jobs are unfilled and 29 per cent of aviation safety system jobs are empty.
Capt. Daniel Slunder, the president of the pilots association, says major air carriers such as Air Canada, West Jet and Air Transat are no longer closely inspected because of the staffing shortfall, coupled with a system of airline self-regulation.
"You only get concerned when something goes wrong," Slunder said in an interview, citing the recent tainted meat scandals.
"Our government is fond of saying we have one of the safest aviation systems in the world. Well, they're absolutely correct, but we'd like to see it kept that way."
Officials from Transport Canada acknowledged to a parliamentary committee earlier this week that staffing levels are not where they should be, more than four years after a 2008 report by the auditor general highlighted inspection shortfalls.
However the department said in an email Friday that "Transport Canada has enough inspectors to do the job, and to do it well."
"The number of staffed inspector positions is constantly fluctuating as new inspectors join the department and other inspectors leave or retire," said spokeswoman Maryse Durette.
"Attrition numbers are being managed and are within the normal rate."
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had an incorrect spelling for Capt. Daniel Slunder's name.