Regulations Amending the Canadian Aviation Regulations (Parts I, VI and VII — Seaplane Operations): SOR/2019-49

Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 153, Number 5


SOR/2019-49 February 25, 2019


P.C. 2019-94 February 23, 2019

Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, pursuant to section 4.9 footnote a and paragraphs 7.6(1)(a) footnote b and (b) footnote c of the Aeronautics Act footnote d, makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Canadian Aviation Regulations (Parts I, VI and VII — Seaplane Operations).

Regulations Amending the Canadian Aviation Regulations (Parts I, VI and VII — Seaplane Operations)


1 (1) The definition personal flotation device in subsection 101.01(1) of the Canadian Aviation Regulations footnote 1 is repealed.

(2) Subsection 101.01(1) of the Regulations is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:

seaplane means an aeroplane that is capable of normal operations on water; (hydravion)

2 Subpart 3 of Part VII of Schedule II to Subpart 3 of Part I of the Regulations is amended by adding the following after the reference “Section 703.82”:


Column I


Column II

Maximum Amount of Penalty ($)



Subsection 703.83(1)



Subsection 703.83(2)



3 Paragraph 602.59(2)(b) of the Regulations is repealed.

4 The reference “[703.83 to 703.85 reserved]” after section 703.82 of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

Flotation Devices

703.83 (1) Subject to subsection (4), the air operator of a seaplane shall have, in its company operations manual, procedures to ensure that each crew member and passenger wears an inflatable life preserver, an inflatable individual flotation device or an inflatable personal flotation device when the seaplane is operated on or above water.

(2) Subject to subsection (4), the pilot-in-command of a seaplane shall give an instruction to each crew member and passenger to wear an inflatable life preserver, an inflatable individual flotation device or an inflatable personal flotation device when the seaplane is operated on or above water.

(3) For the purposes of this section, a person is wearing an inflatable life preserver, an inflatable individual flotation device or an inflatable personal flotation device if it

(4) This section does not apply in respect of a person who is carried on a stretcher or in an incubator or other similar device.

[703.84 and 703.85 reserved]

5 Subsection 703.98(2) of the Regulations is amended by striking out “and” at the end of paragraph (c) and by adding the following after paragraph (c):

6 Subsection 704.115(2) of the Regulations is amended by adding the following after paragraph (a):

Coming into Force

7 (1) Subject to subsection (2), these Regulations come into force on the day that, in the 18th month after the month in which they are published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, has the same calendar number as the day on which they are published or, if that 18th month has no day with that number, the last day of that 18th month.

(2) Sections 5 and 6 come into force on the third anniversary of the day on which these Regulations are published in the Canada Gazette, Part II.


(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)


In seaplane accidents on or over water, survivors of an impact with water (i.e. passengers and pilots) may not have enough time to locate and put on a flotation device, or may overlook doing so before leaving the sinking seaplane. Currently, the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) require that a flotation device must be provided for each person on board the aircraft (e.g. it can be under the seats), but it is not mandatory for each person to wear that device during the flight.

Commercial seaplane pilots are not currently required to undertake underwater egress training (i.e. how to exit the plane underwater). Pilots who do not undergo underwater egress training are at greater risk of not escaping a submerged aircraft and/or not being able to help passengers to escape the aircraft.

The amendments to the CARs are necessary to require passengers and pilots of commercial seaplanes to wear a flotation device when the aircraft is operated on or over water, and to require pilot underwater egress training. These requirements will reduce the risk of passenger fatality caused by seaplane accidents.


A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off from or landing on water. Seaplanes include float planes (an aeroplane on which floats have been attached), amphibious aircraft (an aeroplane on which retractable wheels are installed) and hulled aircraft (a plane which has no wheels nor floats, but has a smooth surface hull).

The Canadian commercial seaplane industry is comprised of approximately 188 active air operators across the country, 80% to 90% of which are considered small businesses. These businesses take passengers to fishing or hunting camps, conduct seaplane tours, and transport passengers or goods to remote locations. The larger seaplane operations are found in the province of British Columbia, where they generally transport passengers and goods to and from cities, towns and villages or operate seaplane tours. There are seaplane operations in eight provinces and all three territories. Most operators are seasonal, but there are some that operate year-round.

Seaplane operators in Canada are regulated by the CARs. All air operators, including seaplane operators, are subject to the specific rules set out in Part VI, General Operating and Flight Rules, which stipulate that a flotation device must be on board for every person in the aircraft and that the flotation device must be easily accessible when the person is seated.

Air operators are also subject to additional rules depending on the nature of their operations, whether it is a private operation (subject to Subpart 604 of the CARs), an air taxi operation (subject to Subpart 703; aircraft with 9 passengers or less) or a commuter operation (subject to Subpart 704; aircraft with 10 to 19 passengers). Specific training program requirements for pilots are set out in subparts 703 and 704 of the CARs.

Survivable seaplane accidents, following an impact with water, present the twin risks of the inability to egress the aircraft and drowning. In Canada, there is no requirement for flotation devices to be worn by either the pilot or the passengers, nor are there any requirements for pilot underwater egress training.

On November 29, 2009, a fatal accident of a de Havilland DHC-2 (Beaver) occurred at Lyall Harbour, Saturna Island, in British Columbia, when it collided with the water. The pilot and one passenger survived with serious injuries. The other six occupants drowned inside the aircraft.

Following the accident, Transport Canada launched a seaplane/floatplane safety promotion and education activity and, in July 2010, published the Seaplane/Floatplane — A Passenger’s Guide footnote 2 to provide advice to passengers on reading the safety briefing cards, stowage of baggage, location and use of exits and life preservers, how to use the seatbelts, and steps for underwater egress.

On March 17, 2011, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) released their Accident Investigation Report (A09P0397) footnote 3 to the public, finding that 50% of people who survive a crash are unable to evacuate the aircraft and drown, that those inside a sinking aircraft are unable to locate and don a life vest or overlook doing so, and that of those that are able to evacuate, 86% drown. The TSB made two recommendations:

In 2010, Transport Canada conducted a study of 39 seaplane accidents that were investigated by the TSB for the period from 1990 to 2009. Of the 31 survivable accidents, the study showed that 97 of 165 people survived the impact (59%) but only 21 people (22%) donned their flotation device. None of the 68 people (41%) who did not survive were wearing flotation devices.

In the same study, it was found that 18 of the 39 accidents (46%) involved the aircraft overturning, 14 of the 18 accidents (78%) were considered to be survivable. In the 18 accidents involving overturned aircraft, 33 of the 60 people on board survived (55%; 6 of which were able to evacuate the cabin before it was submersed) and 27 people were fatally injured (45%; 2 of which were able to evacuate the cabin but did not survive). None of the fatally injured were wearing a flotation device.

The accidents reviewed in the 2010 study represent a significant loss of lives, and Transport Canada believes that many of these lives could have been saved had the pilots undergone egress training (i.e. helped passengers to exit the aircraft) and if passengers had been wearing their flotation devices.

In 2017, Transport Canada conducted a more detailed assessment of the incidents involving seaplanes comparing air taxi operations (Subpart 703) and commuter operations (Subpart 704), and concluded that risks associated with seaplane incidents were greater for air taxi operations. Seaplanes operated under Subpart 704 are generally larger and their interior cabin space provides enough room to allow occupants to don their flotation devices. In comparison, seaplanes operated under Subpart 703 are smaller than those operated under Subpart 704, and do not provide enough interior cabin space to allow a person to don a flotation device while on board.

Additionally, the accident records of occurrences not investigated by the TSB show that over half of Subpart 703 aircraft that have accidents on water end up overturned in the water. The disorientation experienced by occupants in overturned aircraft in the water prevents them from being able to find and don a flotation device before leaving the seaplane.

Following accidents on water involving Subpart 703 aircraft that resulted in overturned aircraft, Transport Canada also found that not a single occupant was able to don a flotation device. Transport Canada found that none of the seaplanes operated under Subpart 704 involved in an accident on water overturned. Seaplanes typically have a single engine mounted at the nose and, as a result, are front-heavy. This results in roll-overs being more likely for the smaller Subpart 703 seaplanes whose centre of gravity is towards the front of the aircraft, while roll-overs are less likely for seaplanes operated under Subpart 704 because the centre of gravity on the larger seaplanes is further towards the back. In addition, when a seaplane operated under Subpart 703 is fitted with floats, the entire fuselage is raised higher off the ground than when fitted with wheels. The combination of a high centre of gravity and a heavier weight in the front of the seaplane makes the smaller seaplanes more susceptible to overturning following an impact with water.


The objective of the amendment, which is in response to recommendations made by the TSB, is to enhance the level of safety for seaplane operations in Canada to increase survival rates for commercial seaplane occupants following a seaplane impact with water.


The amendment

“One-for-One” Rule

The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply, as there are no new record keeping or reporting requirements, and no change in administrative costs incurred by business.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply, because the amendment is anticipated to have nationwide cost impacts less than $1 million annually, and small businesses will not be disproportionately impacted. Small businesses were consulted on the amendment, and some small seaplane operators have already begun implementing the requirements.


A focus group, formed of representatives from the seaplane industry (those involved in commercial operations and the associations that represent them), aircraft manufacturers, and Transport Canada inspectors, discussed the TSB recommendations from August 22 to August 25, 2011. The purpose of the focus group was to determine the best mitigation strategy to improve levels of safety for commercial seaplane operations in an effective and sustainable way.

The focus group determined that mandating the constant wearing of a flotation device was acceptable, and would enhance safety, but deemed the TSB recommendation of requiring that all new and existing commercial seaplanes be fitted with regular and emergency exits to be not viable. Instead, the focus group recommended that commercial seaplane pilots be required to undergo specific training to facilitate egress of both pilots and passengers after an accident occurs, to further mitigate the risk associated with exiting a seaplane following an accident. The lack of mandatory underwater egress training was a finding documented in the TSB’s investigation report.

On August 15, 2014, a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA), with a 30-day consultation period, was made available to all members of the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) for consultation. footnote 4 The NPA was also sent by email to approximately 525 stakeholders. Sixty-two comments were received from seaplane operators (including small businesses), seaplane pilots, seaplane passengers, underwater egress training providers, air operator associations, private pilot associations, and a passenger briefing card provider. Comments pertained to the mandatory wearing of flotation devices and to the mandatory egress training, and their application to both air taxi operations (Subpart 703) and commuter operations (Subpart 704).

Mandatory wearing of flotation devices

Fifty-nine stakeholders submitted comments regarding the mandatory wearing of flotation devices, of which fifty-four were opposed, four were in support (three operators and one provincial association), and one suggested that the proposed rule should be extended to private operations as well.

Opposed stakeholders expressed concerns relating to safety and human factors, as well as concerns pertaining to durability and maintenance of the flotation devices. The lack of availability of aviation-related flotation devices was also perceived as a potential problem by some stakeholders.

Most pilots felt that inadvertent deployment of the devices prior to exiting a sinking seaplane is a significant safety risk. Transport Canada is of the view that, although there could be incidents where passengers inflate their flotation devices before getting out of the aeroplane, the possibility of this happening can be addressed by focussed briefings before each flight. Many seaplanes have marginal space in the rear cabin area, which greatly restricts effective donning of a flotation device after an accident. The combination of the confusion, the shock, and the urgency to get out of the seaplane makes it unlikely that the passengers will retrieve and don their flotation device at that time, especially if the seaplane is sinking. Transport Canada maintains that a passenger forgetting their flotation device on board in the rush to escape an overturned seaplane represents a greater safety issue, and that mandating the wearing of flotation devices is the best option for mitigating the risk of drowning outside of the seaplane after an incident or accident.

Many pilots feel that the flotation devices are not durable enough for constant wear applications. Transport Canada is of the view that newer models of flotation devices address concerns of durability and maintenance. Newer models remain in a pouch attached at the waist of the passenger. Other models of approved flotation devices are available with nylon covers to protect the devices. In addition, a quick visual inspection by the air operator between flights will normally reveal any damage or tampering. Durable models of flotation devices that are to be worn repeatedly and constantly by passengers, while on or over water, are currently available. As to perceived lack of availability of aviation-related flotation devices, Transport Canada is of the view that the various models currently available are effective and appropriate for aviation operations.

Mandatory underwater egress training

Twenty-four stakeholders submitted comments on the mandatory egress training. Eighteen stakeholders were in support (six individual pilots, five air operators, five regional/provincial associations, and two egress training companies). Two companies indicated that they already provide this training to their pilots. Two air operators were opposed to the proposed amendment. The remaining four stakeholders were partially supportive, citing concerns over the commuting costs associated with, and the availability of, egress training for remote or northern companies. Private pilots also proposed that a new focus group be established to review the design and use of underwater egress trainers, rather than making egress training a mandatory requirement. Most passengers that were able to evacuate an aircraft after an accident on water did so with the help of the pilot. Therefore, egress training for pilots will benefit passengers and increase the likelihood that passengers are able to evacuate an aircraft.

Prepublication in the Canada Gazette, Part I

The proposed amendment was prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on May 21, 2016, with a 30-day comment period. Forty-eight comments were received, mostly from commercial pilots and air operators. A majority of comments expressed opposition to the mandatory wearing of flotation devices.

The comments revolved around five themes, namely passengers to don flotation devices before boarding, constant wear of flotation devices, scope of constant wear of flotation devices, egress training and, finally, impact on tourism.

1. Passengers to wear flotation devices before boarding

The proposed amendment included a requirement that flotation devices be donned before boarding the aircraft. Stakeholders indicated that operational constraints (such as the logistics of flotation device hand-out on the docks, and increased flotation device wear-and-tear, and associated maintenance) would have a negative impact on air operators. A large seaplane operator indicated that the requirements would result in hardship for larger seaplane operators because of the large volume of passengers and frequency of flights.

A large seaplane operator in Canada identified a number of concerns (1) increased wear-and-tear due to frequent handling; (2) logistical challenges associated with flotation device transfer given annual passenger volumes up to 500 000; (3) potential delays due to the donning of flotation devices before boarding; and (4) incompatibility with alternative flotation device products (e.g. devices attached to passenger seats).

Transport Canada has taken these concerns into consideration. Given that a requirement to don a flotation device before boarding would not have any impact on risk, the amendment does not require that flotation devices be donned prior to boarding — passengers may don their flotation devices once they are on board, and are required to wear them when the seaplane is operated on or above water. This revised requirement will have the same result as requiring passengers to wear the device throughout the duration of the flight (i.e. during the times when the seaplane could impact water, passengers will be wearing their flotation devices). To provide operators with an opportunity to adopt the requirement, the implementation timeline has been extended in the amendment, from 12 months to 18 months.

2. Constant wear of flotation devices

A number of stakeholders reiterated their views that there are additional risks due to the inadvertent or premature inflation of flotation devices inside submerged seaplanes, and that no suitable design exists.

Inadvertent / premature flotation device inflation

Stakeholders, mostly individual pilots, continued to be concerned with inadvertent or premature inflation of flotation devices in the aircraft. There are no reports from the TSB indicating that premature inflation was an issue nor are there any reported cases known to Transport Canada. Available evidence does not corroborate this perception of additional risk related to premature inflation of a flotation device.

Suitable flotation device designs

Transport Canada assessed the availability of suitable flotation device designs, and determined that appropriate flotation devices are currently available on the market, although these devices do range in cost, durability, and life expectancy. Transport Canada notes that high-end flotation devices, which require replacement and repair less often, will be more cost-effective but also recognizes that some operators may choose less expensive models to replace their current devices. These factors, including the associated costs, were taken into consideration when the amendment was developed. Since appropriate flotation devices are available, Transport Canada anticipates that compliance will be feasible within 18 months of the coming into force of the amendment.

3. Scope of constant wear flotation devices

Stakeholders reiterated past concerns that requirements to wear flotation devices during flight were not justified in light of past incidents and that the amendment is a hasty reaction to the recommendations made by the TSB.

Although the amendment does respond to the TSB’s recommendation that all occupants of commercially registered seaplanes wear flotation devices throughout the flight, Transport Canada further considered crash dynamics and survival factors, as well as past accident data for Subpart 703 and Subpart 704 seaplanes.

The revised amendment only requires occupants to don their flotation device when the seaplane is on or over water, as these are the times when the seaplanes could impact water and has the same effect as constantly wearing a flotation device. The scope of the amendment has also been reduced by requiring flotation devices to be worn when a Subpart 703 seaplane operates on or over water. Subpart 703 seaplane operations represent a greater risk of occupant drowning (i.e. they are more prone to roll-overs), therefore, the requirement to don a flotation device has been retained.

As a result, the amendment will not fully address the TSB recommendation that all occupants of commercially registered seaplanes wear flotation devices throughout the flight.

4. Egress training

Some stakeholders felt that recurrent egress training for pilots every three years would be burdensome and that remote operators would have to incur significant travel costs. Emergency procedures training is required every year, except where practical training is required, which must be completed every three years, in accordance with the CARs. Transport Canada also recognizes that egress training providers are available to travel to an increased number of cities where remote seaplane operators may already need to travel for provisions, and, as a result, it would not necessarily be overly burdensome for pilots to receive the training. In recognition of the stakeholder concerns regarding the availability and full cost of egress training, the estimated cost of travel for egress training, in the cost-benefit analysis, was increased from $100 to $1,200.

5. Impact on tourism

One tourism association and one tourism destination were concerned that the flotation device constant wear requirement may affect public perceptions of safety, and reduce demand for tours. It is expected that Transport Canada’s decision to establish flotation device requirements only for air taxi operators (Subpart 703) will alleviate most of these concerns.

Stakeholder engagement subsequent to prepublication in the Canada Gazette, Part I

Since the prepublication of the proposed amendment in the Canada Gazette, Part I, Transport Canada continued to engage stakeholders in informal consultations. Stakeholders continued to raise the issue of flotation device design and how to prevent wear and tear of these devices with Transport Canada. Transport Canada has engaged the National Research Council (NRC) and a large seaplane operator in discussions regarding the development of new designs for flotation devices. It is hoped that these innovative research initiatives will help create better, more durable flotation devices.

Delay in publication between the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the Canada Gazette, Part II

It has been more than 18 months since the publication of the proposed amendments in the Canada Gazette, Part I. After that publication, Transport Canada spent a considerable amount of time reviewing and analyzing the comments received. Consequently, the amendment was revised and resulted in a reduction in scope of the amendment (the wearing of flotation devices is no longer required for Subpart 704 and only requiring flotation devices to be worn when the seaplane is operated on or over water). This change in scope will not impact the safety of seaplane operations, but will reduce the impact of the amendment on stakeholders. In addition, Transport Canada gathered information on the development of flotation device designs and reviewed the amendment to ensure that it contained enough flexibility to allow the use of new flotation devices in the future. During this time, Transport Canada also provided funding to the NRC for research into innovative flotation device design.

Regulatory cooperation

Canada has the highest volume of seaplane operations in the world. In the United States (U.S.), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not mandate the use of personal flotation devices over water in general, but does for air tour operators (commercial passenger operations) in the State of Hawaii using special operating rules. In addition, the U.S. FAA has developed guidance material for Part 91, General Operating and Flight Rules, of the Federal Aviation Regulations and suggests that operators establish a policy where all occupants wear an inflatable personal flotation device anytime the seaplane operates on or near the water.

The International Civil Aviation Organization’s standards and recommended practices requires that seaplanes be equipped with a flotation device for each person on board in a location that is easily accessible from the passenger’s seat. There is no requirement for passengers to don the flotation device while the seaplane is in operation.

Transport Canada maintains that a Canadian approach is appropriate, given the prevalence of seaplane operations in Canada, the risks identified by the TSB, Transport Canada and stakeholders, the lack of a suitable international standard that would address those risks, the low overall impact of the amendment, and the absence of any identified impact on international competitiveness.


Following the prepublication of the amendment in the Canada Gazette, Part I, Transport Canada modified the requirement for the wearing of flotation devices so that it applies only to air taxi seaplane operators (Subpart 703), excluding commuter seaplane operators (Subpart 704). The scope of the amendment has been modified to target the area of higher risk — seaplanes operated under Subpart 703. In addition, it has been modified so it only applies when the aircraft is operated on or over water. Reducing the scope of application of the amendment reduces the associated costs, but it is not anticipated to have a significant impact on risk, or the benefits of the amendment. Transport Canada did not make any changes to the requirement for egress training, which applies to pilots operating seaplanes under subparts 703 and 704 of the CARs, because many pilots work in both operating environments and the presence of more trained pilots on the water will increase safety overall, by facilitating successful evacuation of passengers from an aircraft under water.

The overall cost impact associated with the amendment is estimated to be $7.34 million in present value (PV) over 10 years with a base year of 2018 or $1.05 million annualized. Transport Canada anticipates the costs associated with the flotation device requirement to be $3.99 million in PV over 10 years or $0.57 million annualized. The cost to operators associated with the egress training for pilots is estimated at $3.35 million in PV over a 10-year period or $0.48 million annualized.

For the purpose of this analysis, it was assumed that 100% of the current Subpart 703 seaplane operator population would be required to equip themselves with new models of flotation devices that are more practical and durable. It is a conservative estimate, since Transport Canada does not know how many operators will maintain their current flotation devices or for how long before replacing them. With inflation and a discount rate of 7% and the cost of a new flotation device of $140 for each of the possible 4 524 passengers and crew in the Canadian commercial air taxi (Subpart 703) seaplane fleet (630 seaplanes), the cost to the operators is estimated at $7.34 million in PV over 10 years. The estimate, which accounts for 2.5 times the required flotation devices, amounts to 11 310 units due to the fact that they may need to be rotated out of service for inspections and repair. The current flotation devices have about a 10-year life cycle, but the increased wear devices may have a 3-year life cycle, thus Transport Canada estimates total replacement of each unit every 3 years. Current annual maintenance costs of the flotation devices are estimated to be $32,000 for all of the 4 524 flotation devices; thus the change in cost due to the amendment is estimated to be an additional $48,500 annually for all of the 11 310 units.

The total population of pilots in the Canadian seaplane fleet (Subpart 703, Air Taxi Operations, and Subpart 704, Commuter Operations) is estimated at 716 pilots plus 25% for alternate pilots. After consulting air operators, it is assumed that 316 of the 716 pilots have already received underwater egress training. Initial training is estimated for 400 pilots in the first year. Recurrent training is every 3 years and calculated for the 400 pilots in addition to those lost to turnover. It is assumed that due to turnover, 12.5% of the total pilot population would have to be trained each year. The estimated cost of the training is $400 per individual plus $1,200 in travel expenses. The initial training and recurrent training is estimated at $2.93 million in PV over 10 years.

The benefits associated with the amendment are related to the increase in the level of safety following a seaplane accident in Canada. Pilots and passengers benefit, from a safety perspective, by the increased probability of evacuation of the aircraft underwater, as a result of the requirement for pilots to undergo egress training as well as decreasing the probability that passengers who have evacuated the seaplane will drown (i.e. through the wearing of a flotation device). Accidents over a 19-year period show that at least two people drowned outside of the seaplane following a survivable accident. With the statistical value of a life at $6.11 million, the regulatory amendment could be beneficial. When considering the cumulative effect of the amendment, the mandatory egress training will likely increase the number of occupants able to egress an overturned seaplane in water and will justify the need for flotation devices.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

Inspectors will ensure compliance (wearing of flotation devices and training schedule) during the course of their regular oversight activities. The amendment comes into force 18 months after the day on which it is published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, except for the initial underwater egress training requirement, which will come into force 36 months after the day on which it is published in the Canada Gazette, Part II.

The amendment will be enforced through the assessment of monetary penalties imposed by designated provisions under sections 7.6 to 8.2 of the Aeronautics Act, and which carry a maximum fine of $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for corporations; through suspension or cancellation of a Canadian aviation document; or, as applicable, proceeding by way of an indictable offence, pursuant to section 7.3 of the Aeronautics Act.


Regulatory Affairs (AARBH)
Civil Aviation
Safety and Security Group
Transport Canada
Place de Ville, Tower C
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N5
Telephone: 613‑993‑7284 or 1-800‑305‑2059
Fax: 613‑990‑1198