Building an aerospace powerhouse

Published: 01 Mar 2017

Denis Guindon has worked for Transport Canada since 1992, and in various roles has witnessed huge growth in the country’s aerospace industry. In 2015, he was appointed director-general, civil aviation.

How did you get started?

My passion for aviation started at a very young age. When I was 12 years old, I watched a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 fly by my house and was mesmerised by it. I remember thinking that the pilot had the greatest job in the world. At 16 I obtained a private pilot licence, and was teased by my friends and family as I didn’t even have a driver’s licence to get myself to the flying club. I enrolled in the Airline Flying programme at the Cégep de Chicoutimi, a community college. Fifteen years after reading Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, I flew a VIP military aircraft and circled the world westbound in eight days. During this time, I realised I had truly accomplished my dream. I still reflect on that as one of my proudest moments.

Where have you worked?

I first served in the Canadian armed forces as a pilot-in-command of the Lockheed Martin CC-130 Hercules. I was very lucky to be able to fly on both the tactical and strategic levels at such a young age, seeing the fjords of Norway, the Andes and the Himalayas. One of the most rewarding assignments during this period was flying relief missions in Africa to support the Ethiopian people during the great famine of the mid-1980s. I also piloted a Bombardier Challenger 600-series business jet, which afforded me the honour of flying prime ministers, heads of states and dignitaries. My experience with the Challenger, both flying and training new pilots, paved the way for my arrival at Transport Canada in 1992 as an air carrier inspector overseeing the operations of regional jets. I rapidly moved into performing inspections on larger aircraft such as Airbus and Boeing airliners, and became a manager fairly early on in my career with Transport Canada. I occupied various positions related to the oversight of national and international air carriers which, once again, brought me around the world. At the last count, I had touched down in more than 50 countries and protectorates. From 2008 to 2012, I worked on a number of Transport Canada’s organisational development projects in areas such as rail safety, aircraft services, marine safety and civil aviation. In 2012, I was promoted to director of national operations, where I was responsible for the regulatory oversight of Canada’s major airlines and the country’s air navigation service providers.

What do you do now?

In April 2015, I was appointed as one of two directors-general of civil aviation at Transport Canada. My mandate is aviation safety oversight and transformation, which includes the delivery of national surveillance activities and safety services, such as aircraft certification. My responsibility is to develop a clear change management plan to ensure that strengthened and consistent direction is provided, nationally and within the regions. Canada is the third-largest aeronautical manufacturer in the world and it’s amazing that our employees are so successful in sustaining and supporting the development of this thriving industry.

Certification of the CSeries was a pretty big deal?

This project was a significant undertaking. The certification of Bombardier’s CSeries was a historic moment for Canadian aerospace, and Transport Canada is very proud to have been a part of this process.

Any advice for people considering a career as a pilot?

Today we can take passengers from North America to Paris within minutes of their scheduled arrival time, all while they’re sitting comfortably, sipping a drink and watching a movie. We do this consistently, day in and day out. I really feel that learning to fly gives you the tenacity to do great things with your career and in your life. I would encourage any new pilot to pursue your dreams and excel in this thriving and diverse field. Nothing can be better. 


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