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Privatizing the freedom to fly: 1997 to 2002


This is the last in a series of articles, “Looking back” at the history of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association in five-year increments.

The 50th Anniversary was officially celebrated during the COPA Convention 2002 in Red Deer, Alta. June 21-23, 2002.

During the 1990s, Transport Canada embarked on several programs to divest itself of a large part of its aviation responsibilities. It shed air navigation services, including air traffic control, airports and many of its inspection services. COPA has been very active working with all levels of government and other associations to ensure that general aviation did not get thrown out with the bath water. The cost of these initiatives was covered by COPA membership dues and contributions to COPA’s Special Action Fund. Most COPA activities are on-going but the following are some of the accomplishments realized by those efforts.

Nav Canada fees

COPA led the opposition to Nav Canada air navigation fees for light aircraft. The original estimate by Nav Canada consultants for these charges was $250 to $750 per aircraft per year. COPA’s feedback resulted in fees of $60 per year for small aircraft. COPA also convinced Nav Canada to remove all fees from aircraft below 600 kilograms (1,323 lb) including ultralights, gliders and balloons. COPA also convinced our ANS provider that higher fees for recreational aircraft over two tonnes was unacceptable and the fee was dropped to $60. COPA maintains a member on the Nav Canada Advisory Board.

Banff and Jasper Airports

All COPA members should be proud of this one. For some pilots, rescuing Banff and Jasper Airports from closure by Parks Canada will be a life saver. The airstrips are being kept open for emergency use.
Provincial parks access: The association has supported COPA members in British Columbia and Ontario in their bid to maintain the freedom to fly floatplanes into provincial parks and wilderness areas. COPA staff and members attended consultation meetings for Ontario’s Lands for Life review of crown land use to ensure access for aircraft.
Propeller overhauls: COPA successfully campaigned Transport Canada to reduce the propeller overhaul regulations.

Radio Licence

COPA successfully campaigned Industry Canada to drop the Aircraft Radio Licence annual fee.


COPA successfully pushed for the postponement of an implementation date for new ELT requirements.
UL passenger-carrying: The association has provided continuous support to the ultralight industry to facilitate passenger-carrying in ultralights. COPA paid the expenses of UL industry members to meet in Ottawa regarding this issue.
Foreign ex-military aircraft: COPA participated in meetings with Transport Canada that led to flight permits for foreign ex-military aircraft.

Formation flying

COPA successfully intervened in a Nav Canada initiative to prohibit formation flying in certain controlled airspace.

Owner-maintenance Aircraft Category

COPA helped develop the Owner-maintenance Aircraft Category. It is designed to save owners of older, unsupported aircraft on the cost of parts and maintenance. The O-M Category was launched in 2000.

New Sportplane Category

COPA is leading the development work for a new Sportplane Category. The association is working with Transport Canada, the National Research Council and the aircraft manufacturers to create a category in between ultralights and certified aircraft.

Medical streamlining

Your association was successful in persuading Transport Canada to extend the sign-off period for pilot medical renewals by Civil Aviation Medical Examiners to the full term of the medical. COPA also campaigned Transport Canada to extend private pilot medical period requirements.

General terminal charges

COPA has reduced the impact of general terminal charges. The association has warned members about Transport Canada’s practice of automatically billing aircraft owners landing at TC airports for terminal building fees regardless of whether the facilities were used. COPA continues to fight the fees themselves and the unfair application of them.

Public airports

The COPA Special Action Fund was used to help fund an airport study that measured the economic impact of general aviation in a community. The study is used to show that general aviation is already paying its way in Canada.
Fire/rescue services: COPA fought against increases in fire/rescue services which would add to the current cost of operating medium-sized airports.

Terminal airspace

Many COPA members and staff were involved in rolling back unnecessary terminal airspace expansion requiring Mode C transponders.

Airport/housing conflicts

COPA successfully opposed revisions to Ontario Provincial Airport Policy that would have allowed housing developments closer to the ends of airport runways.

Freedom to have private airports

COPA’s Special Action Fund paid legal fees that prevented a hydro company from closing private airstrips that it considered a danger to its wires. The association published the COPA Guide to Private Airport Development to encourage more members to follow this alternative.

Flight training

The association staff provided extensive feedback to Transport Canada during a flight training revue that has resulted in a list of improvements such the increased use of flight training devices to supplement instrument training requirements.

Free-lance instructing

The association worked with the Air Transport Association of Canada to level the playing field between flying schools and free-lance instructors without unduly restricting free-lance.

Young Eagles

COPA funds liability insurance for COPA Flight activities, a requirement to maintain the COPA member connection to the EAA Young Eagles Program.

Travel discounts

Arranged significant hotel discounts for COPA members at Choice Hotels’ seven different chains across North America.

Aircraft purchasing

Published the COPA Guide to Buying Used Aircraft in Canada to encourage more members to consider aircraft ownership while showing them how to avoid purchasing pitfalls.

Aviation enforcement

Published the COPA Guide to Understanding Aviation Enforcement which walks members through the process, advising them of their rights and privileges.

Weather information

COPA worked with Nav Canada to develop free internet on-line weather information. COPA also proposed plain language weather reporting which is now available on the Nav Canada Web site.

Built-up areas

Through several meetings, COPA successfully opposed an initiative to define “built-up area,” a proposal that would have placed an impossible burden on pilots flying at acceptable minimum altitudes.

CARAC mandate

The association opposed the use of an air regulation to solve a political problem at Lac St-Augustin.


COPA staff participated in a Working Group that addressed the problem of keeping GPS databases up-to-date.


COPA participated in meetings aimed at improving the Automatic Weather Observation Systems.


COPA is part of a trilateral group designing a standardized air navigation system for Canada, United States and Mexico.
Flight Plan closing: Feedback from COPA and its members is directly responsible for an exemption to the regulation that had prevented pilots from closing flight plans in the air.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

During the events following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, COPA was instrumental in coordinating the re-opening of airspace in Canada and the United States. Security agencies were busy handling the emergencies in their respective countries with insufficient coordination between countries. COPA’s President Kevin Psutka effectively provided valuable feedback to these agencies both sides of the border. COPA’s Web site became the main source for information on trans-border flying for general aviation. The fall-out from those events continues in 2002 as addition aviation security measures are considered by several government agencies. COPA continues to represent the freedom of the individula to fly during consultation on these measures.



COPA’s Web site: www.copanational.org was started by COPA director Jim Snow. As the functions and size of the site grew, it was taken over by COPA’s publishing staff. The site now contains several thousand pages of aviation information for the flying public and COPA members. The homepage, which carries the latest COPA and aviation news, now averages 15,000 hits per week.


Executive Committee:

Chairman – Herb Cunningham
Eastern vice-chair – Brian Chappell
Western vice-chair/ Treasurer – Rick Sauter
Secretary – Frank Hofmann

Honourary director – John Bogie

Elected directors:

Ken Armstrong
Francis Belanger
Ron Cooke
Sherry Cooper
John Davidson
Ray Hawco
Bob Kirkby
Lary Loretto
Ernie McClean
Jim Snow

AOPA Silver Tray Award winners

COPA’s highest award, the AOPA Silver Tray Award was retired in 1997. The recipient’s names in two columns fill both sides of the tray. But in 1998, the COPA Board of Directors arranged for one more name to be squeezed into the middle at the bottom.
The name was Joyce Else. The occasion of adding her to the award recipients was her retirement from the staff at the COPA headquarters where she had worked for 40 years.

COPA President’s Award

With the retirement of the AOPA Silver Tray, the COPA President Award was created to replace it as the association’s highest honour. The actual award is a large plaque hanging in the COPA office.

Each year a name is added to the award and the recipient is presented with a smaller version to keep.

1997 – Lindsay Cadenhead, Transport Canada – for furthering recreational aviation in Canada.
1998 – J. D. Lyon, CBAA, - for outstanding support of COPA and general aviation in Canada.
1999 – Ben McCarty, Canadian Federation of AME Associations – for outstanding support of COPA and private aviation in Canada.
2000 – Rem Walker, EAAC – for outstanding support of COPA and recreational aviation in Canada.

COPA Conventions and Annual General Meetings

1998 – Edmonton, Alta.
1999 – North Bay, Ont.
2000 – Summerside, P.E.I.
2001 – Peterborough, Ont.
2002 – Red Deer, Alta.

COPA Recognition Dinners

COPA’s annual Recognition Dinners are held in the Toronto area to show appreciation for long service to aviation.

1998 – Jim Leggat and Carl Millard
1999 – Dick Berg and Reg Spence
2000 – Gord Craig and Seneca College
2001 – Heather Sifton and the Buttonville Airport
2002 – Jim Snow (June 15 at Canadian Aviation Expo)


COPA’s Board of Directors gather for a photo at the 1997 COPA Convention in Edmonton, Ont. Left to right: Francois Bougie, outgoing director representing Quebec, Francis Belanger, incoming director for Quebec; Frank Hofmann, representing Quebec; Tony Swain, B.C. and Yukon; John Davidson, Manitoba, Ken McNeill, Alberta and NWT; Rick Sauter, Saskatchewan; Dan Cornell, CSPA, Ron Cooke (behind), Northern Ontario; Gord Oswald (front and centre), Alberta and NWT; Jim Snow, S. Ontario; Ken Armstrong, B.C. and Yukon; Ken Gamble, UPAC; Herb Cunningham, S. Ontario; Brian Chappell, Maritimes; John Lockhart, Maritimes; Kathy Gamble-Lerchner, RAA; Harold Bulter, Newfoundland and Labrador. Ken McNeill was chairman of the board and Gord Oswald was chairman of the 1997 COPA Convention.

Photo courtesy Garth Wallace, COPA


In the mid-1990s, COPA purchased a former Transport Canada portable control tower with money donated by the Jim Frederick Memorial Fund. After being refurbished by COPA volunteers, the truck began annual tours of eastern Ontario and western Quebec acting as a portable unicom to add safety to small airport fly-ins. The truck continues to be operated and maintained by volunteers.

Photo courtesy Kevin Psutka, COPA





Originally designed as a Canadian bush plane in the late 1940s, the Found was produced in Grand Bend, Ont. during the 1960s. In the late 1990s, the design was upgraded by Bud Found (in the right seat in this photo), one of the original Found brothers, and placed back into production in Parry Sound, Ont. as the Found Bush Hawk.

Photo courtesy Garth Wallace, COPA