Features Operations

The 2006 Air Transport Association of Canada tradeshow and seminars were extremely popular this past November.

September 27, 2007
By Ken Armstrong


The 2006 Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) tradeshow and
seminars were extremely popular in Victoria, BC, this past November,
with a host of experts providing briefings with the goal of enhancing
aviation safety and reducing costs.

Barone, ATAC president and CEO, who recently took the organization’s
reins declared: “The government is treating the aviation industry as a
cash cow…. There is a growing disconnect between aviation and the
regulators such as: Transport Canada, Nav Canada, Airport Authorities
and CATSA. These organizations are creating price increases for
operations which marginalize our ability to be competitive in the world
marketplace. Moreover, conflicting mandates from multiple federal
departments handicap our businesses.”

Barone cited the
four-centsa- litre tax on jet fuel and noted that Americans pay only
one cent. This creates an “unlevel playing field that gives US
companies an unfair competitive advantage.” Adding to Canadian aviation
tax burdens, which are twice as high as in the US, are the high airport
transfer fees that have added $2.5 billion to government coffers. This
is particularly onerous because the system only cost taxpayers $1.2
billion in the first place.

Other issues discussed included high
airport rents. Calgary is a good example; the airport has been paid for
three times over since the airport authority took control. Concern was
expressed over the CADORS program (Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence
Reporting System) as there is a move to make these public. This act
would fly against the SMS implementation program and it was recommended
that the CADORS program be cancelled.

Canada’s Jim Dow, chief of flight training, discussed statistics – in a
time of unprecedented growth of the Canadian economy from 2001 to
September 2006, we saw major reductions in pilot licences. In 2003,
there were only 2,200 Private Pilot Licences granted compared to 5,800
in 1979!

Experts continue to forecast that Canada will be faced
with a pilot shortage with our growing fleet of aircraft and fewer
pilots trained to fill these cockpits. Considering Canada has the
world’s largest cohort of ‘baby boomers’ now beginning to enter
retirement, we have a profound problem with our aviation/transportation
infrastructure. One CFI asked: “Where will our pilots come from if we
continue to close training airspace and chase VFR operations from the

Dow’s department provided some good news for schools by
advising increased use of simulators would be approved with up to 10
hours acceptable for the commercial licence and 55 hours for the ATP.
He also announced more flexibility for students to conduct their final
flight test before the exam, and to modify lesson sequencing. The big
news for instrument pilots will be the ability to take their IFR
renewal ride in a Flight Training Device (FTD) in the future. Dow says
there is a trend at Transport Canada to allow alternative means of
training in lieu of flight hours through integrated programs. He used
US flight school Embry Riddle as an example. Its 250-hour commercial
pilot course is accomplished in approximately 100 flight hours with
students spending considerable time in simulators (FTDs).

Apparently we have significant safety issues in our airspace as Russ
Bowie and Larry LaChance (director safety systems performance) for Nav
Canada advised that the number of altitude deviation reports in our
skies has increased from an average of 3,500 per year to over 11,000 in
2005. (It should be noted that Nav Canada has been forced by Transport
Canada into closer monitoring and reporting – causing some skew in
statistical change.) Also, in the strictly IFR world, the number of
deviations from Standard Instrument Departures increased from 77 in
Vancouver in 2005 to more than that in the first nine months of 2006!
In the meantime, runway incursion operating irregularities increased
from 40 in 2002 to 44 in 2005. Another disturbing trend (according to
Nav Canada) is that pilots are not questioning controllers like they
used to under conditions when they expect to be challenged on a
clearance. No one seems to know why, but this trend is scary.

Fox, VP Operations for Nav Canada advised that Nav Canada is working on
ways to increase capacities to handle more flights, while reducing fuel
burns and environmental pollution. The not-for-profit organization is
considering multiple landing clearances in the future as the procedure
has been well proven in the US. They can also reduce spacing on final
from 3nm to 2.5nm if they can consistently get airliners off the runway
in less than 50 seconds. Nav Canada has concerns with the possible
misunderstanding of foreign pilots’ accents creating safety issues, and
are continuing a study to employ conditional instructions that are used
commonly in other countries. An example would be: “WestJet 190 cleared
across runway 19 after the landing Airbus 340.” This would save time
and frequency congestion.

Hugh Dunleavy, executive VP commercial
distribution for WestJet, said Nav Canada needs to adopt more efficient
flow patterns since the current model creates high costs and
inefficiencies. These costs are then passed on to the public creating
an artificially high price for airline flights. Nav Canada’s tendency
to descend flights too early rather than leave them at higher, more
efficient altitudes for reduced fuel flows also creates additional
noise and pollution issues for the general populace. Airline staff
attendees also pointed out that descending higher-speed jets into the
general aviation environment creates collision issues. ATAC attendees
observed that Nav Canada doesn’t need to grab the lower level airspace
at Vancouver and Toronto, it needs to adopt more effective flight
control. Dunleavy pointed out that while load factors were at record
high levels, profits were being eroded by the Nav Canada inefficiencies.

is expanding its collection of Required Navigation Procedures (RNP)
approaches. These advanced techniques create approved procedures for
making curving approaches around obstacles. While this would allow
their advanced Boeing 737 fleet to make mountainous terrain approaches
into runways such as 19 and 25 at Abbotsford, they encroach on
special-use airspace and bring these airliners cruising down valleys at
low altitudes and relatively high speeds, creating possible traffic
conflicts for low-speed VFR traffic. Imminent implementation of these
approaches creates another form of conflict between Nav Canada and
general aviation pilots who are concerned with losing airspace that has
been used for flight training, commuting and business flying – to name
a few. Negotiations continue.