May 20, 2021

A return to busier skies


By Sharon Cheung, COPA, Director, National Programming

Sharon Cheung of COPA spoke with Heather McGonigal, Assistant Vice President of Stakeholder Relations and Communications with NAV CANADA, about the challenges of the current environment for General Aviation and the prospects of returning to busier skies in the near future.

Welcome Heather! Before we get started, it would be a pleasure to introduce you to our community of 15,000 General Aviation pilots. Can you tell us about your industry experience and about your current role at NAV CANADA?
Hello General Aviation pilots! NAV CANADA values the collaborative relationship we have with COPA and its membership and appreciate the opportunity for information sharing.

I have been a professional pilot for over 25 years. My first job in aviation was as a flight instructor which ignited my love for aviation. Over the years, I was fortunate to fly various aircraft which, in later years, included training pilot roles. In addition to pilot responsibilities, I held several regulatory-required positions which included Director of Flight Operations, Flight Attendant Manager and Safety Manager.

Being on the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) Board for several years provided the opportunity to collaborate with individuals of mutual interests and work together towards the everchanging needs of the Canadian aviation community.

I have worked for NAV CANADA for just over one year in the capacity of Assistant Vice-President of Stakeholder Relations and Communications. In this role, and with the support of my exceptional team and fellow NAV Canadians, I oversee Stakeholder and Commercial Relations, Stakeholder and Industry Relations, Level of Service and Communications. One of my favorite things about my job is the interaction we have with stakeholders and the opportunity for continued collaboration and learning from each other.

What examples can you share about NAV CANADA’s role in responding to the pandemic?
There are many ways NAV CANADA has responded to the pandemic. From supporting the critical delivery of essential goods to our northern and remote communities to ensuring the safe delivery of vaccines to Canada. Most recently, we made our publications on our online store available at all hours, delivered to people’s home (paper) or available right away (ePubs).

We’ve also enjoyed the temporary increase in interaction with GA in airspace where they’re not as often active.

There are misconceptions between what NAV CANADA and Transport Canada are each responsible for. Can you please clarify these responsibilities for our members?
Transport Canada is the department within the Government of Canada responsible for developing regulations, policies and services of road, rail, marine and air transportation in Canada. Transport Canada is the primary Canadian authority for overseeing the safety and security aspects of civil aviation.

NAV CANADA is a privately run, not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system (ANS). Our services encompass air traffic control, airport advisory services, flight information, weather briefings, aeronautical information, and electronic aids to navigation. While both organizations are separate entities, both work collaboratively together with the shared goal of aviation safety.

NAV CANADA offers many tools and publications. What top resources should our members be aware of?
NAV CANADA recently launched a new website this past winter, switching to a new system to ensure the reliability of our website and to protect it from online threats. This new solution provided us with a cost-effective opportunity to restructure the site, which will help visitors quickly and efficiently identify the information they require.

Examples of popular NAV CANADA resources include our Phraseology Guides, Aviation Weather Services Guide, our Local Area Weather Manuals, and, of course, the Collaborative Flight Planning Service (CFPS).

NAV CANADA is decommissioning its Aviation Weather Website (AWWS) and replacing it with CFPS. Can you tell us about the changes and new features?
The replacement for AWWS is Collaborative Flight Planning Service (CFPS). CFPS is an information platform, which includes AIC data, NAV CANADA notices, and more. The software follows the ICAO, NOTAM and RSC format requirements.

The CFPS platform is used internally within Flight Information Centre (FIC) operations. This provides the availability of an identical platform to customers to contact the FIC for weather briefing interpretation/support. The new platform allows [us] to apply improvements.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In an upcoming eFlight, COPA will share commonly asked questions from the recent NAV CANADA webinar on their NOTAM retrieval/weather tool, CFPS, and on their proposal to transition to an electronic CFS. Keep an eye out!]

With several proposed level of service changes at airports and aerodromes across the country, how will NAV CANADA maintain an open sky for GA pilots?
From coast to coast to coast, NAV CANADA offers different levels of service, which vary depending on the amount of air traffic, mix of aircraft and other factors. With the support of NAV CANADA’s highly trained staff and services, pilots will have all the information they need to safely operate. Changing a service level does not equate to the closure or inaccessibility of the airport or airspace. GA pilots will continue to enjoy open skies.

Once we return to busier skies, what restrictions will be put back in place?
NAV CANADA has been pleased to have the opportunity to further engage with GA pilots in airspace where they were not previously active. As we look to traffic recovery, access to certain areas of airspace for GA pilots will be limited, similar to pre-COVID times, to reflect airspace capacity and mix of air traffic.

What plans does NAV CANADA have as it relates to drone use in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace?
NAV CANADA is continuing to support activities to safely integrate drones into Canadian airspace. A multi-year strategy has been developed with highlights on each aspect of the strategy:

• NAVDrone: We are currently in a beta process of a new application that will provide the ability for drone users to request authorization to fly in Canadian controlled airspace. The application also provides information on all categories of airspace and applicable regulations to build up situational awareness and understanding amongst drone operators.

• Trials: Transport Canada has issued an NPA for BVLOS operations that is expected to be in Canada Gazette 2 by fall of 2022. We are working with TC and industry to be ready to support these new regulations. Some of the regulations will require new technologies and services.

• Safety: NAV CANADA has remained active in promoting safety awareness for drone operators flying in Canadian airspace. We have a regular communications campaign and have presented at various conferences to encourage reporting of flights and build awareness of regulations. We have also participated in three tabletop exercises amongst industry stakeholders to ensure coordination of responses in the event of drone incursion in and around major airports.

• Operations: NAV CANADA continues to support ongoing Special Flight Operating Certificates (SFOCs) for drone operators requesting flights that are not incorporated in existing regulations. Flights such as whale watching in major shipping corridors in the north and medical deliveries are examples of SFOCs we evaluate and support when possible.