Author Archives: Jon Robinson

Forestry expands use of drones

— By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

Resolute Forest Products has expanded its use of drone technology to include mapping and aerial seeding in its Ontario woodlands operations.

They are just scratching the surface of what the forestry industry can do with drones as each new project application generates more ideas on how to use the technology, said Seth Kursman, vice-president of corporate communications, sustainability and government affairs with Resolute Forest Products.

“This is a demonstration that the forest industry is certainly taking advantage of new equipment and technologies that are available to improve stewardship and the ongoing sustainability of the resources that we rely upon,” he said.

“It also is another way of being able to be that much more focused in our work, and in doing so, reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions, which of course, is a key element of Resolute’s overall sustainability strategy.”

The forestry industry has been using drones for years to provide quick aerial inspections or be flown further afield to determine accessibility to areas with no road access.

The developing technology has resulted in the latest drone versions, which are bigger, faster, and more sophisticated than any of the other 12 drones Resolute is using in Ontario.

Kursman said the latest Wingtra One, fixed-wing drone added to the Resolute fleet is a heavy-duty multicopter that flies like a helicopter and will be used for seeding. It was purchased from the Thunder Bay-based Four Rivers Group, which is the first Indigenous Wingtra dealer.

“Aerial seeding is critically important for us to assure 100 per cent regeneration of the forest that is harvested,” he said.

“We go into certain areas and plant millions of saplings each year, but aerial seeding also plays a very important role in the regeneration process.”

He added that the drone can immediately begin aerial seeding after an area has been harvested, enabling the seeds to germinate along with other species.

The drone, which flies like a plane but can take off and land vertically, is equipped with a high-resolution camera that provides a detailed picture of the area, which is necessary before seeding can begin, Kursman said.

The Wingtra One can fly in a series of parallel tracks that are then merged together to form a detailed photograph.

Kursman says the work is traditionally done with the use of aircraft and helicopters, which are costly and leave a larger carbon footprint. The drones help reduce carbon emissions and because this initiative brings technology into the forest products industry, Resolute was eligible for partial funding for the drone purchases through the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy.

“Certainly, these new technologies that we’re incorporating into our work can also benefit from dollars that are targeted to encourage that kind of innovation,” he said.

(Photo: Wingtra)

Town and Woodstock Flying Association finalize MOU

The Woodstock Flying Association and town sign MOU to operate the Woodstock airport. (Photo: Jim Dumville)

— By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

After a significant wait, council finally approved the Woodstock Airport MOU between the town and the Woodstock Flying Association.

Mayor Art Slipp welcomed council’s approval at the Nov. 8 council meeting, explaining the delays in finalizing the document did not involve a significant issue. Still, both sides wanted to clarify all details.

“We’ve been going back and forth with Matt McLatchy (Woodstock Flying Association president),” the mayor said.

McLatchy will serve as the flying association’s liaison with the town. Woodstock council will also appoint a liaison.

One of the final details included hangar fee rates collected by the town. Slipp said the town will collect 20 cents per square foot in 2022, with the fee increasing to 30 cents in 2023.

The town will review the hangar fees annually and use the funds for improvements as laid out in the development plan.

Under the agreement, the town will maintain the airport grounds as needed, including the runway, ramp area, parking lot and field areas.

The flying association will maintain and operate the clubhouse, ensuring it is available to the flying public.

The town will work with the flying association board to create development plans, including one for the airport.

The town will maintain liability insurance and pay taxes.

The Woodstock Flying Association’s responsibilities include hosting flying-related events and ensuring they comply with regulations.

The association must also ensure it follows town regulations and respond to public inquiries about the airport via email or social media.

The flying association, through its liaison, must provide accurate data to the Nav Canada publication and issue NOTAMS (alerts to pilots of potential hazards) as needed.


Aircraft dealer seeks to expand work

— By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

In its 25-year evolution, Levaero Aviation has seen business growth and ownership changes, pandemic challenges, and worker and supply shortages.

Steve Davey, executive vice-president and chief operating officer, says through it all, Levaero strives to maintain and improve the quality of their services.

“We’ve just done a significant expansion on our maintenance department with a new facility here in Thunder Bay as well as another facility in southern Ontario,” Davey said. “Now that we have the bricks and mortar, it’s time to bring the work in and also increase our workforce and attract more work from outside of Canada and North America.”

Like many other businesses, Levaero Aviation is feeling the ramifications left by the COVID-19 pandemic, and labour and supply shortages.

He says this is making Levaero become “a little more creative” by finding skilled employees from other industries, bringing them in and training them to their industry standard.

Davey is a member of the Confederation College Aircraft Maintenance advisory committee and says Levaero works closely with the college.

“We hire a number of graduates every year from Confederation College as well as first-year students who we bring in to work for us part time,” he said. “Even at the high school level, we’re working closely with the Lakehead Public School Board to get the Grade 10 students introduced to aviation and aircraft maintenance, so when they get into Grade 11 and start choosing co-op placement, hopefully, we find a group that is interested and they come our way.”

He added that “quite a few” of their employees have come through the high school aviation co-op programs.

It all began in 1997 when a new Swiss-made aircraft called Pilatus came onto the world market. Frank Kelner, an entrepreneur, knew the aircraft was just right for Canadian airspace. Relocating to Thunder Bay, he established the V. Kelner Pilatus Centre and employed Robert Arnone and Steve Davey.

In 2006, Kelner handed the reins over to Arnone and Davey, and by 2011 the purchase arrangement of the company was completed.

After several name changes, the company was rebranded as Levaero Aviation in 2015 and continues to provide Pilatus aircraft for customers from independent companies to the Ontario Provincial Police. Today the aircraft is claimed to be the most in-demand turboprop in its class worldwide and is sourced in Thunder Bay.

“There was a product available and a country that was right for this world product,” said Robert Arnone, president, CEO and co-owner of Levaero Aviation with Steve Davey and shareholders Stan Kuliavas and Shaun Appell.

“It was a good fit into Canada which did not have a dealership at the time. We sought out that opportunity and hence, here we are today celebrating a milestone of 25 years of business in Thunder Bay.”

Arnone says every year has had something spectacular about it.

“It was the evolution of the product (that stands out). Year in and year out the product changed and the different models were introduced and added to the constant improvement of the product,” he said, adding that the aircraft is manufactured in Switzerland.

Levaero Aviation sells, leases, repairs and maintains the Pilatus turboprop and PC 24 twin-engine jets for their aircraft owners across Canada. Many of the staff have been with the company for more than 20 years.

“And that’s our people,” Arnone said. “We have some of the best aircraft maintenance engineers in the world, and with the experience that we have with the product, we have really become an international destination for heavy aircraft maintenance.”

He noted how important it is that Thunder Bay is recognized for the ability to host such a company that he called “world class.”

Stan Kuliavas, a shareholder and vice-president of sales, says more people have come into the private aviation sector than ever before in the history of the industry and demand remains strong.

“Part of the challenge is that supply is also at the lowest it’s ever been in the history of our industry and it affects everything,” he said. “More than 60 per cent of the metal that is used in aircraft engine manufacturing used to come from Russia. With Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, manufacturers not doing business with a “terror state” and they’ve had to resource those materials, which hasn’t come without challenges.”

Levaero Aviation celebrated the quarter-century milestone with employees and customers who joined them from across the country earlier this month.

“Our people are the best part of this business,” Kuliavas said. “Without our employees that are so integral, we don’t have customers . . . and without customers, we have no business.”

(Photo: Pilatus Aircraft)

A unique drone technology from Quebec

DroneXperts’ new AirDX-SM drone. (Photo : DroneExperts)

By Luc Boily

On November 24, 2022, the newspaper La Presse published an article on the AirDX-SM drone from the DroneXperts firm of Quebec, highlighting that it has developed a technology allowing the simultaneous use of three sampling methods aimed at determining the quality of the air.

According to the company, this is a world first. Aimed at large industries that want to measure emissions from their facilities, including pulp and paper mills, sanitary landfills and oil companies, the AirDX-SM drone is “able to go and sample in places where a human cannot,” said Patrick Chatelle, Environment and Research Director at DroneXperts, to La Presse. Weighing 4.5 kg and having a range of 15 minutes, this drone could geolocate and detect in real time up to seven different gases, including greenhouse gases (GHGs).

According to the article, the design of the AirDX-SM mobilized around 15 experts from 2015, notably from the Centre for Industrial Research of Quebec (CRIQ) and the Centre of Expertise in Environmental Analysis of Quebec (CEAEQ ). Since March 2022, the team has focused on obtaining certifications and demonstrating regulatory compliance for the AirDX-SM.

DroneXperts estimates that the first AirDX-SM units should be delivered in January 2023. They will be entirely manufactured in by DroneXperts in Quebec, which has around 30 employees. Initially, the company is targeting the North American and European markets, but no door is closed.

Toronto Pearson celebrates reopening of second busiest runway following eight-month rehabilitation

Deborah Flint (left to right), President and CEO, GTAA; Pat Neville, Vice President, Airport Development and Technical Services, GTAA; and Craig Bradbrook, Chief Operations Officer, GTAA stand on the newly re-opened Runway 06L/24R, Toronto Pearson’s second-busiest runway. (Photo: GTAA, Kevin Prentice)

Greater Toronto Airports Authority, operator of Toronto Pearson International Airport, reopened Runway 06L/24R, the airport’s second-busiest runway, after an eight-month rehabilitation. The project is one of the largest in Pearson’s history with planning for the project beginning more than a year-and-a-half ago.

“This runway is more than a marvel of modern engineering, as amazing as it is,” said Deborah Flint, Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) President and CEO. “It paves the way for the next 30 years of YYZ stimulating Canada’s economy by facilitating trade, foreign direct investment, tourism and business.

(Photo: GTAA, Kevin Prentice)

Omar Alghabra, Federal Transport Minister, joined Flint for the runway’s reopening ribbon-cutting celebration with GTAA teams responsible for the rehabilitation, and representatives from Dufferin Construction and Avia NG.

“As the busiest airport in Canada and one of the busiest in North America, the return of this runway at Pearson Airport will keep air passengers moving safely and smoothly in and out of the GTA,” said Alghabra. The federal government’s Airport Critical Infrastructure Program funding awarded to Pearson earlier this year helped to partially funded the project.

First built in the 1960s, the 3-km 06L/24R runway needed to be fully reconstructed due to the wearing down of its concrete sub-structure, as a result of weather, use and time. GTAA notes this project extends the life of the runway by 30 years and enhances the safety of Pearson’s operations.

Pointing to some of its environmentally progressive efforts the project, GTAA explains concrete from the original runway was crushed and re-used for the new runway, while an on-site batch plant reduced the need to truck concrete to the rehabilitation site. Also, 1,800 incandescent lights are being upgraded to LED lights. Two of only three 12-foot pavers in existence in Canada were used for the rehabilitation.

GAMA releases third quarter aircraft shipment report

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association published its Third Quarter 2022 General Aviation Aircraft Shipment and Billing Report. The aircraft manufacturing industry’s results for the first nine months of 2022, when compared to the same period in 2021, point to increasing aircraft deliveries across all segments along with an increase in the overall value of the aircraft shipments.

“Demand for general aviation aircraft remains hardy as our industry continues to strategically navigate ongoing challenges, which include issues with supply chain and workforce shortages within our industry and within global regulatory authorities,” said Pete Bunce, President and CEO, General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). “Deliveries are converging on, and in some cases surpassing, the levels we were experiencing prior to the pandemic, which is a testament to the strength of our industry and the importance and utility of general and business aviation.

“As we look to the future, we must focus attention on the need for training of the regulator workforce and leveraging of bi-lateral safety agreements between regulatory bodies to improve both certification and validation processes,” continued Bunce. “At the same time our industry will continue to foster the momentum we have created on addressing environmental issues, which includes advancing technology that improves efficiencies of aircraft and operations; supporting the production, distribution and uptake of SAF.”

Aircraft shipments through the third quarter of 2022, when compared to the same period in 2021, saw piston airplane increase 8.8 per cent with 1,012 units, turboprops increase 7.3 per cent with 383 units, and business jet shipments increase 1.8 per cent with 446 units. The value of airplane deliveries through the third quarter of 2022 was US$14.1 billion, an increase of approximately 4.8 per cent.

Helicopter shipments through the third quarter of 2022 were up when compared to the same period in 2021; piston helicopter deliveries increased 3.8 per cent with 137 units, and turbine helicopter deliveries increased 7.1 per cent with 439 units.

Looking at helicopter manufacturers, GAMA reports the following year to date aircraft deliveries (listed alphabetically): Airbus 177, including 71 in the most recent third quarter; Bell 108, 49 in third quarter; Enstrom 0; Guimbal 18, 9 in third quarter; KAMAN 1, 0 in third quarter; Leonardo 77, 34 in third quarter; Robinson 188, 66 in third quarter; Schweizer RSG 5, 2 in third quarter; Sikorsky 2 civil aircraft, 0 in third quarter. Sikorsky had 62 year to date military deliveries, all Black Hawks, with 20 in third quarter. Bell also had 19 total military aircraft – H-1 and V-22 – deliveries year to date.

(Image: GAMA)

Super Petrel to release new XP Series

Super Petrel USA Inc., which is the largest distributor of the Scoda Aeronautica produced Super Petrel LS Aircraft worldwide, announced it will soon make available a new Super Petrel XP model for 2023.

The light sport amphibian Super Petrel was born in Brazil in 2002 with close to 400 variations of the original model sold since. The Super Petrel XP will be available with either the 912is Rotax or the Turbo 915is Rotax engine.

Super Petrel USA explains the new XP series is the product of seven years of design and development.

(Photo: Super Petrel USA)

Ottawa adds $10 million in funding for Jean Lesage Airport

The government of Canada on November 18 announced new funding to help the Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and to support infrastructure projects at the airport.

The airport, CYQB, is receiving over $10 million from Transport Canada’s Airport Critical Infrastructure Program for the reconstruction of Runway 29 and the rehabilitation of taxiways, as well as modifications to the airport’s access and control zones for passenger movements.

“The Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport is a key transportation hub not just for Québec City but for much of northern and eastern Quebec,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Québec.

In addition to the funding for these infrastructure projects, the Government of Canada also provided the airport with over $4.2 million from Transport Canada’s Airport Relief Fund in 2021 to help continue airport operations.

“As Canadians are ready to travel again, and with an increasing number of them flying out of YQB, it is essential that we provide travellers with quality infrastructure and services that are efficient and safe,” said Stéphane Poirier, CEO of CYQB. “[The funding] will enable us to invest in key infrastructure projects to respond to the increase in air traffic and to effectively fulfill our role as a hub and driving force of socio-economic development for the greater Québec City area and all eastern Quebec.”

(Photo: Harfang)

Aviation pioneer Frank Robinson passes away

Frank Robinson, founder of the Robinson Helicopter Company, passed away on November 12, 2022, at his home in Rolling Hills, California. Recognized as one of the pioneers of the global helicopter industry, Robinson was described by the company bearing his name as “a man not driven by reward or accolades but by a vision that redefined the industry and forever changed general aviation.”

Robinson is best known for the design and manufacture of the R22, R44, and R66 model helicopters, which continue to be some of the world’s most popular helicopters based on their simplicity and reliability.

The company explains Frank Robinson’s fascination with helicopters began in 1939, at age nine, when he saw a picture in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of Igor Sikorsky hovering his VS-300 helicopter, an image that captivated Robinson and set the course for his life’s work.

He earned a BSME degree from the University of Washington, later attending Wichita State University’s graduate aeronautical engineering school. His aviation career began in the late 1950s with Cessna and continued through the 1960s working for many leading aerospace companies, including Bell and Hughes.

In 1973, at age 43, Robinson resigned from his job at Hughes and founded Robinson Helicopter Company in Palos Verdes, California, aiming to develop and build a simple, personal helicopter. Six years later, after overcoming enormous obstacles, Robinson was granted FAA certification for his two-seat, piston powered R22 helicopter. The helicopter company delivered its first production R22 in October 1979. By 1989, the R22 had gained a foothold in general aviation, with the company opening a previously untapped market for private helicopter ownership.

In the early 1990s, Robinson introduced the four-place, piston-powered R44 light mid-size helicopter. The company explains orders for the R44 quickly piled-up and Robinson Helicopter became a recognized player in the aviation industry. In 2010, Robinson once again expanded his line with the five-place, turbine powered R66.

Frank Robinson retired in 2010 at age 80. Today, the company continues under the leadership of Frank’s son, Kurt Robinson, and, to date, it has delivered over 13,000 helicopters worldwide.

(Photo: Robinson Helicopter)

Ottawa outlines investments at four Northwest Territories airports

Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra on November 15 announced that the Federal government is making a series of safety investments at local and regional airports in the Northwest Territories.

Through Transport Canada’s Airports Capital Assistance Program, four airports in the Northwest Territories will receive over $1.5 million for the purchase of safety equipment that will assist in the removal and control of ice and snow from airside surfaces such as runways, taxiways, and the apron.

The airports receiving funding include: Fort Simpson for the purchase of a 4×4 snowplow truck costing $420,000; Hay River to purchase a grader costing $410,000; Inuvik to purchase a loader for $381,425; and Yellowknife to purchase a sweeper ($314,500), 4×4 snowplow truck ($357,000) and a de-icing trailer ($89,250).

These investments are in addition to the more than $19.8 million in funding provided through the program in May 2021 for safety-related projects at the Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, and Yellowknife airports.

“The airports in Fort Simpson, Inuvik, Hay River, and Yellowknife are all critically important for residents and businesses in their regions,” said Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories. “These investments in safety equipment will help ensure continued safe and reliable airport operations for Northerners.”

(Photo: Gordon Leggett)