Ottawa invests in safety at three Quebec airports

Lux FBO is a key tenant of St. Hubert Airport. (Photo: Lux)

The Government of Canada on March 4 outlined new safety investments at local and regional airports in Quebec through Transport Canada’s Airports Capital Assistance Program. Three airports in Quebec will receive more than $3.4 million for safety-related projects

La Grande Rivière Airport is receiving $476,000 to purchase a medium-sized snowblower and a runway surface friction tester. Mont-Joli Airport is receiving 451,000 to purchase a grader, a runway condition reporting system and a runway surface friction tester. St-Hubert Airport is receiving $2.5 million to rehabilitate the airport’s field electrical centre and purchase a wet/dry combination material spreader.

“Local and regional airports play an integral role in Canada’s transportation system and are important hubs for the communities they serve,” said Diane Lebouthillier, Canada’s Minister of National Revenue.

This funding is in addition to the more than $24.8 million announced under the program in May 2021 to support safety-related projects at the Gaspé, La Grande Rivière, Mont-Joli and St. Hubert airports.

Since the Airports Capital Assistance Program started in 1995, the Government of Canada has invested over $1.2 billion for 1,215 projects at 199 local, regional and National Airports System airports across the country.

WestJet Group to acquire Sunwing

WestJet and Sunwing reached a definitive agreement under which the WestJet Group of companies will acquire Sunwing Vacations and Sunwing Airlines. Following the close of the transaction, a new tour operating business unit will be created under the WestJet Group, to include both Sunwing Vacations and WestJet Vacations Inc., and will be led by Sunwing CEO Stephen Hunter.

The tour operator business will be headquartered in Toronto, with a Quebec head office in Laval and the business will continue to market the Sunwing brand alongside WestJet Vacations. The WestJet Group will maintain its head office in Calgary.

The WestJet Group of companies will expand to include Sunwing Airlines. This will add increased capacity, explains WestJet, dedicating otherwise seasonal aircraft to operate year-round in Canada, instead of Sunwing supplementing seasonal demand with imported aircraft, which translates into more jobs for Canadians.

“This is an exciting moment for WestJet, Sunwing and Canada’s travel industry,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, CEO, WestJet. “We are bringing together two highly complementary businesses with powerhouse brands to strengthen our successful leisure business and deliver greater value to our guests.”

As a result of the resiliency created by the transaction, Sunwing expects to no longer require the pandemic-related Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) Sunwing obtained from the Canadian government in early 2021, which will be fully repaid upon closing of the transaction.

The combination, which remains subject to receipt of regulatory approvals, is anticipated to close late 2022. Sunwing’s current shareholders will become equity holders in the WestJet Group.

(Image: Sunwing)

Cèdres closing May 22

— By Leo Nikkinen

Aircraft owners based at Cedars CSS3 had been aware for several months that the lease for the property used by the airport and flight school operator, Laurentide Aviation, was up for renewal this spring. Development of the land for other uses would be a more profitable option for the property owner, and aircraft owners based at Cedars were eagerly waiting for news of a lease renewal. Starting in mid-February, anyone paying for tie-down was advised verbally that the airport would be closing this May. With no lease, the airport operator would be obliged to vacate the premises; the closure of CSS3 on May 22, 2022 was confirmed by an email sent to Cedars’ aircraft owners/operators.

There would appear to be little that can be done about the closure at this point. Aircraft and hangar owners at Cedars are searching for alternatives and deciding on their best course of action. Aircraft ownership has its challenges and the danger is that this closure might force some to sell their aircraft or give up flying. The departure of Laurentide Aviation from Cedars removes a flight school that was well placed to serve the Island of Montreal and in particular residents from its West Island and off-island communities.

The conversion of airports and other properties into more profitable enterprises is easy to justify when money is the prime or only consideration. Cedars CSS3 was created in the late 1980s when Laurentide Aviation, then located at CYCV Cartierville airport, was forced to move by the closure of CYCV in favour of a more profitable development of the airport land. Following on from the 2016 closure of Mascouche CSK3 just off the east end of the Island of Montreal, that trend seems to be continuing. In the end, it looks as if every property that is not owned by the resident airport community will be judged on its ability to maximize the financial return for its owners. Eventually, we will become a land of shopping centres, residential subdivisions, commercial developments and high-rise apartment buildings.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Block time arrangements, the devil is in the details

By Steven Godfrey, Vice President – Aviation, The Magnes Group

There is much discussion in the pilot and aircraft owner communities about block time arrangements between owners of private aircraft and pilots who want to fly something other than flight school / flying club aircraft. Discussion tends to focus on a few common questions:

• Is it legal?
• What should aircraft owners be concerned about when screening potential renters?
• How much can someone charge per hour of block time?
• What do aircraft insurers think of this?

I do not want to debate the legality of block time arrangements here, though I will start to refer to these arrangements as what they are, rental. Make no mistake, if you sell 15 hours of access to your aircraft for an hourly fee you are renting your aircraft to a third party for remuneration. This is no difference between these arrangements and the flight school or flying club you trained at other than, the flight school has an operating certificate, commercially registered aircraft, and an insurance policy that allows for that activity and the increased potential liability that renting an aircraft to another party carries.

Regarding the issue of legality, well, that is very grey right now. Recently, there was a decision at a Maritime tribunal where the Aeronautics Act definition of “Hire or Reward” was upheld. The definition reads:

Hire or reward means any payment, consideration, gratuity, or benefit, directly or indirectly charged, demanded, received, or collected by any person for the use of an aircraft.

In the end, the rental of a private aircraft constituted the operation of the aircraft for hire or reward. Let us turn our attention to what insurers think of these arrangements.

Aircraft insurance policies highlight in the declarations what uses are acceptable and define those uses in the definitions section of the policy.

In the following example, we see the permitted use and definition.

Purpose of Use: Private Pleasure & Business

What matters now is how the term is defined. See the following definition from this same Policy:

(b) “Pleasure and Business” means the use of your aircraft for personal and pleasure purposes, or in connection with your business, but excludes the use of your aircraft for:
(i) hire, reward, or any use for which any remuneration or benefit is received, promised, or anticipated, other than a bona fide reimbursement to you for operating expenses only of your aircraft,
(ii) instruction, other than as permitted under Paragraph 31 (c); or
(iii) rental to others.

The definition under (iii) expressly excludes rental to others. Every insurance policy contains language that defines accepted uses for the aircraft and a definition of the uses that clarify what the accepted uses include and exclude. In every private aircraft policy that I have reviewed, there is wording that excludes rental to others or it limits remuneration to the reimbursement of specific costs relating to a specific flight. Either way, block time arrangements fall outside the scope of the policy.

Ultimately, no matter what you hear at the hangar, if you arrange to take money from someone in exchange for the use of your aircraft you are very likely to violate the accepted uses for your aircraft under your insurance policy. As such, you are exposing yourself to significant potential loss financially. Remember, there is an increased duty of care when you enter an arrangement like this. Someone who pays to use your aircraft has a right to expect that a certain airworthiness standard is met with your aircraft. Failure to meet that standard carries with it increased liability.

What is the solution? You must discuss your intention to do this with your broker and have it disclosed to your underwriter. Your underwriter can decide if they want to take the exposure and rate your policy accordingly if they accept it.

Within the COPA Gold Program, we can ensure that Block Time Arrangements are covered under the policy with up to five named pilots. Simply advise your COPA broker that you will be selling block time and who the pilot will be. Once the pilot is approved, an endorsement will be added to your policy that provides coverage for the Block Time Agreement. With this done, you can be confident that there will be coverage in the event of a claim.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Doesn’t the verdict come at the end of a trial?

— By James Ferrier, Director, Aviation Operations, COPA

Last week COPA highlighted the first concern around the lack of regulatory authority of NAV CANADA to announce an ADS-B mandate on behalf of the State. This week COPA would like to explore its second concern about how a decided course of action can be announced when trials are still ongoing, and the results of those trials have not been made public for review, consultation, or challenge.

NAV CANADA’s ADS-B “Mandate”?

In 2019 NAV CANADA, with UK NATS, first implemented space-based ADS-B over the North Atlantic. We know significant trials were conducted, operational data and results reviewed and accepted by the international community before use of ADS-B over the North Atlantic was implemented.

Based on the information from the successful implementation in North Atlantic airspace, use of ADS-B above FL290 was introduced in Canada’s domestic airspace for suitably-equipped aircraft. The evidence of the oceanic trials validated the extension of use between suitably-equipped aircraft but still recognized the need for other aircraft not equipped to operate based on current regulation and using traditional separation standards. ADS-B-equipped aircraft were given an operational benefit, but others were not excluded.

Moving forward and quoted from NAV CANADA’s website, “NAV CANADA is conducting a trial within specific airspace below FL290 in Montreal Flight Information Region beginning December 10th, 2021, followed by Edmonton FIR in early 2022. This trial represents the first time ADS-B data is used below FL290. The trial will help evaluate performance, gather air operator, air traffic controller and flight service specialist feedback, and address any potential technical issues prior to the mandate going into effect.”

This last statement raises the question and concern that needs to be addressed. The quote itself states this is the first-time space-based ADS-B is used below FL290 and is to evaluate performance, gather feedback and address technical issues. If this is the case, then the trials are not complete, the performance, procedures of the system are not validated and the evidence to decide to implement the use of ADS-B below FL290 is just not complete. How can a defined course of action be decided if trials are not complete?

Aside from the obvious contradiction of declaring a course of action without validation from trials, there are also technical questions that COPA understands need to be answered before implementation of ADS-B in low-level airspace. The main question is to be whether space-based ADS-B can perform in high-density, congested airspace? As early as 2008, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) was concerned about congestion on the 1090 MHZ frequency and the ability of surveillance systems to handle traffic. This was a contributing factor in deciding to implement a two-frequency system to manage bandwidth. If this was a concern with a land-based ADS-B system one can only assume a space-based system would face similar, if not greater, challenges with congestion. While not officially confirmed, COPA believes there is some concern about this problem and there is the possibility that ground-based ADS-B units may be needed to help manage data congestion in high traffic airspace. Knowing this may be a problem it is confusing why ongoing trials are being done in lower volume airspace versus busy airspace where potential problems could reasonably be expected to be encountered?

Understanding there may be a challenge with congested airspace one must look at the current state of surveillance. We know currently Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) systems provide land-based data which is combined with space-based ADS-B and provides surveillance redundancy in busy airspace. This combined data is merged in ATC displays and should be able to be filtered by source to reduce the amount of data processed and displayed and allow systems to manage data congestion. It is also known SSR are high-cost systems that ANSPs are looking to replace in the future with lower costs systems like ADS-B.

From a business perspective, it does make sense to reduce ANS costs but if current SSR capabilities are to disappear in the future what could be used to filter data and be the redundancy factor, or backup? It makes sense that redundancy would be maintained with some form of ground-based ADS-B system which could provide surveillance data should space-based data become unavailable. Knowing there is current surveillance technology available in busy airspace and, a likely, future ground-based backup to space-based ADS-B why do users need ADS-B capability in the near term and more importantly why is there a requirement for antenna diversity or ability to broadcast ADS-B Out to space-based receivers.

Considering that trials are admittedly ongoing, and the future structure of surveillance has not been decided (at least not publicly), the question remains on how a Mandate can be announced with a determined course of action? Has the verdict been decided before all the evidence is available?

Representing the single largest group of Canadian airspace users, COPA reasons that the concerns and questions identified in this article need to be addressed, answered, and explained, publicly, before this “Mandate” can be imposed, in less than one year.

Next week we will look at airspace access questions and the costs to users of implementing the ADS-B mandate as currently defined.

(Image: Aireon, YouTube)

Red Deer Airport to begin $15M expansion

Red Deer Regional Airport, CYQF, is set to begin a $15 million expansion plan with the support of the Government of Alberta, Red Deer County and The City of Red Deer. The expansion plan includes widening of the main runway from 30 metres to 45 metres and strengthening of the main taxiway and apron.

“Now more than ever, aviation and related businesses are actively looking for alternatives to the ever-increasing costs associated with operating out of large airports,” said Garett Cupples, Board Chair, Red Deer Regional Airport Authority. “With low user fees and lease rates, free parking and no airport improvement fees, the Red Deer Regional Airport is well positioned for future growth.”

The airport explains these key infrastructure upgrades will allow it to attract the types of businesses and aircraft commonly associated with low cost airlines, cargo operators, and heavy aircraft maintenance/repair facilities.

“The Red Deer Regional Airport, located in Red Deer County, is situated along on of the busiest transportation hubs in the province. This expansion will provide huge economic benefits to central Alberta,” said Mayor Jim Wood, of Red Deer County. “Additionally, [YQF] is positioned to become Alberta’s first ultra low cost airport providing Albertans and businesses with unique air travel options.”

(Photo: Red Deer Regional Airport)

Blue Line Aviation opens facility, highlights Diamond Aircraft partnership

Blue Line Aviation’s new FAA CFR 14 Part 60 Level 5 certified convertible simulation device for Diamond DA40/DA42 aircraft. (Photo: Blue Line Aviation, Diamond Aircraft)

Blue Line Aviation recently celebrated the grand opening of its new facility at Johnston Regional Airport (KJNX) in North Carolina, featuring a brand-new DA40/DA42 convertible Diamond Simulator.

The new 50,000-square-foot headquarters at KJNX for Blue Line Aviation is an investment matched with what represents one of the largest fleet orders in Diamond Aircraft history at 100 aircraft. First deliveries of the Diamond airplanes began last year.

This aircraft order has a significant impact on Canada’s aviation industry with Diamond Aircraft Industries’ operation in London, Ont., building the single-engine DA40 NG airplanes as part of Blue Line’s order. The twin-engine DA42-Vi aircraft are being built in Austria, which is where Blue Line’s new FAA CFR 14 Part 60 Level 5 certified convertible simulation device was also developed.

“It has been impressive to witness the growth at Blue Line Aviation,” said Annemarie Mercedes Heikenwälder, Head of Sales and Marketing, Diamond Aircraft Industries. “The team has made tremendous progress and we are proud to partner with them and continue to support their operation.”

With its expansion, Blue Line Aviation is noted as the fastest-growing Accelerated Aviation Training entity in the United States. The flight training facility features ample hangar space, a Professional Pilot Training Center, a rooftop barbeque restaurant with a terrace, a custom simulator room, an operations and dispatch center, flight briefing rooms and administrative offices.

“Our new multimillion-dollar facility at Johnston Regional Airport and supply of the best in industry featured aircraft from Diamond will enable the growth and expansion of Blue Line Aviation’s vision of high-quality Accelerated Flight Training,” said Rich Laviano, President, Blue Line, which was established in 2012.

Government of Canada invests in safety at Saint John Airport

Wayne Long, Member of Parliament for Saint John, Rothesay, on March 1 announced the Government of Canada is making important safety investments at the Saint John Airport, CYSJ, which is located eight nautical miles east northeast of the business district in Saint John, New Brunswick. In 2018, well before the COVID-19 pandemic, the CYSJ terminal handled 282,217 passengers, a seven per cent increase over the previous year.

Through Transport Canada’s Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP), the Government of Canada will provide CYSJ with more than $1.8 million to purchase safety equipment including: an aircraft rescue firefighting vehicle; a shelter to house and protect the firefighting vehicle; a snowblower to keep airside surfaces clear; and a runway surface friction tester.

This funding is in addition to the more than $500,000 in Airports Capital Assistance Program funding provided to the airport in May 2021, to support the rehabilitation of airside apron floodlighting and electrical constant current regulators.

“The Saint John Airport is an important hub for residents and businesses in this region,” said Long. “This investment will help maintain continued safe and reliable airport operations for folks in Southern New Brunswick, many of whom depend on their local airport not only for personal and business travel, but also for access to routine and emergency medical care in larger centres.”

Since ACAP in 1995, the Government of Canada states it has invested more $1.2 billion for 1,215 projects at 199 local, regional and smaller National Airports System airports across the country. ACAP, as announced in the Fall Economic Statement 2020, was to receive a one-time funding top-up of $186 million over two years. This update also introduced a temporary expansion of eligibility for ACAP to allow National Airports System airports with less than one million annual passengers in 2019 to apply for funding under the program in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. The eligible National Airports System airports are: Gander; Charlottetown; Saint John; Fredericton; Moncton; Thunder Bay; London; and Prince George.

(Photo: Saint John Airport)

Humboldt submitting grant for airport condition study

— By Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal

The City of Humboldt is applying for a $30,000 Community Airport Partnership (CAP) provincial grant to fund an aerodrome feasibility and planning study, examining the costs associated with an airport revitalization.

According to city administration, the airport has been a concern for years.

“We are concerned about different aspects of the airport as it is aging and where we should go next with the airport. If we should be expanding it, if we should rehabilitate it,” said Peter Bergquist, director of public works and utilities. “We’re going to be seeking a qualified airport consultant to give us some advice and some guidance and provide us a report on the airport and where we should go with it.”

The estimated cost for the study is $60,000. If the CAP grant is approved, the funds would cover half of the cost, leaving $30,000 to be covered by the city.

The study would cover a current conditions assessment on services, facilities, activities, economic impact; proximity to other airports; comparison to similar aerodromes; a prospective activities assessment including potential users, activity management, access control, development, fees and charges, tracking traffic, property management, runway lengthening, and lot expansion possibilities; cost estimates for rehabilitation or restoration as well as expansion to meet anticipated or prospective use for runways, taxiways, aprons, visual aids, and more; and a governance review with options for ownership and operation, as well as risk management, and environmental considerations.

If the grant is funded, administration would create a public request for proposal (RFP) outlining the elements to be included in the study. Upon awarding to a qualified consultant, staff would require that the local flying club, aerial applicator businesses and other interested stakeholders be engaged.

Joe Day, Humboldt’s city manager, said that the $30,000 would need to be funded from operational savings, and if there isn’t enough operational savings realized by the end of 2022 the study will need to be funded from reserves.

“We’ll look first to see if there’s operational savings that we can find somewhere else,” Day said. “When events like this happen mid-year after budget we try to go ahead with some study or program that hasn’t been budgeted – typically the director would be instructed to be aware that there has been an out of budget approval and if they can find savings in other areas to do so.”

According to the report to council, before the vote on Feb. 28, the local flying club has expressed support for growing the airport.

(Image: City of Humboldt)