Author Archives: Jon Robinson

Alberta Air Tours 2022 year in review

— Provided by the Alberta Air Tours Committee

The year 2022 brought tremendous change and learning for the Alberta Air Tours. With the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic fading, we saw more pilots and members of the public than ever coming to the tour stops.

We kicked off our 2022 event schedule with our North Tour, starting in Lloydminster, where we were treated to a pancake breakfast thanks to the 186 RCAC Squadron. We estimated that more than 300 locals attended, with our registration filled with 40 aircraft (including a handful of light twins and homebuilt aircraft). From Lloydminster, Alberta Air Tours (AAT) visited St. Paul, with a huge community celebration including food kiosks, a jumpy tent and a Farmer’s Market. After basking in the afternoon sun (many of us leaving with sunburns), we left for Cold Lake. It was undoubtedly a unique opportunity to fly over CFB Cold Lake as we descended for Cold Lake Regional.

Due to weather concerns, the format of the South Tour had to change. While we did not have the coordinated cross-country that our tours usually do, we had two exceptional stops in Medicine Hat and Claresholm. COPA Flight 171 in Medicine Hat organized a pancake breakfast making for a fantastic morning of aviation. Claresholm hosted a barbecue-style lunch with displays from the local burnout club, Claresholm Fire, M.D. of Willow Creek Bylaw Enforcement, and the Claresholm RCMP. Due to incoming weather, the stop at Claresholm was cut short. Even with the adversities of Southern Alberta weather, the locals came out to see what the AAT is all about.

This year, the AAT Committee has experienced much growth, with the introduction of three new committee members, being granted approval as COPA Flight 220, and seeking societal status through the Government of Alberta.

Looking forward to 2023, we have three tours in the works, including an overnight trip to Grande Prairie to kick off Canada Day with plans to fly by several towns culminating in Slave Lake where many events are being planned.

We cannot thank you enough for your continued support as we learn and develop as an organization, and we hope to see you in 2023.

Traffic up at Thunder Bay Airport amid renovations

Work on Thunder Bay International Airport’s main runway continued into the evenings as crews tried to make the most of each day. (Photo: The Chronicle-Journal, Thunder Bay International Airport)

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

Thunder Bay International Airport has emerged after enduring the COVID pandemic, major infrastructure undertakings and this year’s summer passenger crisis at Pearson International Airport.

Work on the $20.4 million rehabilitation project for the main runway 725 was completed on budget two weeks ahead of schedule. Construction began May 16 for the remediation of all surfaces, storm sewers and lighting. The work was done by four local and two out-of-city contractors throughout the summer.

Airport president and chief executive officer Ed Schmidtke says the runway project was the largest scaled construction project the Airport Authority has ever undertaken and is a feat in itself, and by far their most significant achievement of 2022.

“There were many, many aspects to that job that were beyond the runway itself,” said Schmidtke. “It included replacement approach lighting, replacement of subsurface drainage and safety areas to provide a fortified ground for an aircraft should it run off the end of the runway.”

To date, Schmidtke says the airport has not “ramped up” to pre-pandemic passenger volumes and suggested they will finish 2022 at somewhere between 70 to 75 per cent volume.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We expect about the same for quarter one of 2023. But in talking with our air carrier clients, we’re very optimistic about what the summer of 2023 is going to look like for service and options for Thunder Bay.

Schmidtke added that they entered 2022 with a wave of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 that reduced travel for much of the first quarter of the year.

“We didn’t lose any services, but all the carriers are still determining the best way for their own businesses to recover from COVID,” he said.

“The services don’t look exactly the same as they did prior (to the pandemic) and we’ll see some volatility in the amount of service and timing of services through most of 2023 as they get their plans right going forward. . . . We’re looking forward to 2023 because we’re not entering the new year with Omicron or any other variants dominating our public health concerns.”

Schmidtke acknowledged that travellers at the Thunder Bay International Airport weren’t immune to the delays and cancellations caused by labour shortages and a huge influx of post-pandemic travellers at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport this year.

Looking to 2023, Thunder Bay International Airport benefits from the regularly scheduled service of seven different carriers. With the return of the Sunwing seasonal airline in the new year, there will be a collective of eight airlines flying into Thunder Bay. Due to the pandemic, there was no local Sunwing carrier service throughout the year.

Schmidtke says they are also excited about the return of Flair Airlines.

“They’ve already published a schedule that will see daily trips to Toronto over the summer months and they will introduce service to Ottawa. So that’s already a really good start given that we’re not even in 2023 yet,” he said.

In the new year, Schmidtke says they will be spending a fair amount of time and effort on improving the energy efficiency inside their buildings.

“We’re still going to have a small amount of construction work that’s going to be completed in 2023,” he said. “On the runway work, we got about 97 per cent complete.”

Regular discussions with carriers will continue to maximize the options available to Thunder Bay by the summer of 2023.

As for the looming possibility of a recession, Schmidtke says recessions affect discretionary spending.

“And to that extent that people consider air travel discretionary, we are concerned about that.”

Diamond DA50 RG wins German Design Award

Diamond Aircraft’s all carbon fibre DA50 RG aircraft has been recognized in one of the world’s leading industrial design competitions in the category Excellent Product Design in Aviation, Maritime and Railway. Organized by the German Design Council, the German Design Awards were founded in 2012 to recognize trends in product design, communication design and architecture.

The German Design Award jury stated: “The single-engine DA50 RG light aircraft sets standards in this segment in terms of performance, functionality, efficiency and luxury comfort. At the same time, it impresses with a striking design language that makes it unmistakable.”

The five-seat DA50 RG, powered by the FADEC controlled 300hp Continental CD-300 jet-fuel engine, features Garmin G1000 NXi avionics, retractable gear and boasts one of the largest luxury cabins in its class.

“We are thrilled to have been granted the German Design Award Winner 2023 for our unparalleled DA50 RG and are overwhelmed by the number of accolades the DA50 RG has received. This is one great early Christmas present for the entire Diamond Aircraft Family,” said Liqun Zhang, CEO, Diamond Aircraft Industries. “Since introduction this aircraft has sparked so much interest all over the world and everyone who flies it is excited about the comfortable roomy cabin, the superb workmanship and the fantastic flight characteristics.”

The DA50 RG is currently produced in Austria, but the aircraft maker has tentative plans to gear up its Diamond North America facility in London, Ontario, for the final assembly of DA50 RG kits for customers in North America. There is currently a DA50 in London operating on an experimental type certificate for market research.

The DA50 RG in September 2020 earned its basic Type Certification from EASA and Diamond projects FAA validation will be received this spring, which is expected to be closely followed by Transport Canada approval.

(Photo: Diamond Aircraft)

Chesterfield Inlet in ‘urgent need’ of new airport terminal building

— By Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kivalliq News (Photo: Alexander Sammurtok)

Chesterfield Inlet is in urgent need of a new airport terminal building, reported Rankin Inlet North–Chesterfield Inlet MLA Alexander Sammurtok in the legislative assembly this past fall sitting on Nov. 2.

He tabled photographs showing the poor condition of the building.

“Although the legislative assembly has previously approved millions of dollars in funding towards this project, the government has cancelled a number of tenders because of high bids,” he said. “Can the minister confirm when a new tender for the Chesterfield Inlet airport terminal building project will be issued?”

Minister of Economic Development and Transportation David Akeeagok responded that his department would continue working on this project, but he wasn’t sure when there would be a third tender for it.

This past spring, Sammurtok tabled a letter from the mayor of Chesterfield Inlet, who was requesting that the government issue a standalone tender for the airport terminal building rather than bundling it with tenders for other projects. Sammurtok asked Akeeagok if he would agree to that request.

“When we get to that stage where we are tendering, that’s when the decision is going to be made,” replied Akeeagok. “If we’re in the Kivalliq, if we have those three projects doing the exact thing, it makes sense to try to tender them together. That is something that we tried; we tried it with all five, and then we tried with the three, and now we are left of what do we do. That portion and the discussions that we are having with Transport Canada are still there. So once we get to that stage then I’ll be able to know which way the tenders are going to go for these five air terminal projects.”

Aivilik MLA Solomon Malliki was on a similar track when he asked Akeeagok whether there would be a new tender for the Naujaat airport terminal project.

“The three communities – Naujaat, Chesterfield Inlet and Whale Cove – are bundled together and the tender is not currently open,” replied Akeeagok through interpretation. “We will reopen it.”

The tendering process has been dragging on for close to two years. In 2020, the GN earmarked $30 million for the five airports — Kugluktuk and Kimmirut being the other two — with the funding coming from the Government of Canada’s National Trade Corridors Fund. However, no successful bids emerged.

As of Dec. 14, the government issued a new tender for the airport terminal work, bundling Chesterfield Inlet, Whale Cove and Naujaat together.

MAAC issues No Fly to members

— By Phil Lightstone (Photos: Phil Lightstone)

On December 17, 2022, the Model Aeronautics Association (MAAC) sent an email to their members advising them that within the next few days, a letter will be sent to its members advising them that MAAC’s board of directors had made a difficult decision mandating the temporary suspend all outdoor model aircraft flying effective immediately.

MAAC has over 9,500 members, operating radio controlled, free flight and control line model aircraft, in most provinces and territories in Canada and operating from 420 approved model aircraft flying fields.  On May 17, 2019, MAAC working collaboratively with Transport Canada (TC) and Nav Canada (NC) were successful in obtaining a TC exemption (NCR-011-2019) from Part IX of the CARs governing the use of small remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).  This exemption applies to MAAC and its members who are in good standing who operate RPAS weighing between 250 grams and 35 kgs and are operating in accordance with MAAC’s safety guidelines.  Essentially, a MAAC member is not required to have an RPAS license nor register their RPAS with TC.  Any MAAC member who continues to fly their R/C models outdoors during the mandatory no fly period, does so outside of MAAC, acting as non-members and would be operating under the CARs Part IX.  In this case, that individual would be subject to any TC enforcement actions and associated penalties through breaching the CARs.  Operating as a non MAAC member may have insurance implications.  MAAC provides its members a CAD $7.5 Million liability insurance policy.

The exemption (available here) has 15 conditions attached, which are well thought out and are able to be practically implemented and monitored by MAAC.  Two of the conditions include: prior to sanctioning a flying field located in Class C, D, E, F or other type of restricted airspace, MAAC shall obtain a written authorization from the controlling agency (e.g. NC); and prior to sanctioning a field which is within three NM of an aerodrome, MAAC shall establish procedures to ensure that RPAS do not conflict or pose a hazard to other aircraft.

With the distractions of the Covid pandemic over the past three years in the rear-view mirror, MAAC’s board of directors in the spring of 2022, began a self-assessment process reviewing the compliance of club flying fields, and determined that 15 sites were not compliant to TC’s exemption.  Michael Anderson, President MAAC reports: “once we determined that 15 fields had not obtained the required approvals, we suspended their MAAC field approval and began a consultative information sharing process with Nav Canada, Transport Canada and COPA to ensure that MAAC had both the processes and procedures in place to meet the conditions of the TC exemption. We are expecting to have a re-write of MAACs safety code and field approval procedures in place by mid-April of 2023.  In the spirit of safety and compliance, we have advised our members to stop their flying activities until further notice, however, we hope to be back to flying as soon as possible.”

MAAC’s direction to its members to stop their flying activities comes at a time when Canadian weather dictates the amount of flying which the average R/C pilot can experience.  Hopefully their internal reviews and their proactive approach to TC exemption compliance will allow MAAC to self-regulate in an environment where NC and TC are trying to do more with less.


Raytheon, Pratty & Whitney complete first engine run for Dash 8 hybrid-electric demonstrator

Raytheon Technologies on December 20 completed the successful first engine run of its regional hybrid-electric flight demonstrator, marking a key milestone moving toward flight testing scheduled to begin in 2024. The propulsion system’s initial run took place at Pratt & Whitney’s facility in Longueuil, Quebec, and performed as expected.

The hybrid-electric engine system integrates a 1 MW electric motor developed by Collins Aerospace with a Pratt & Whitney fuel-burning engine that has been adapted for hybrid-electric operation. Both Collins and Pratt are operating companies of Raytheon. The engine will eventually be integrated on a De Havilland Canada Dash 8-100 demonstrator.

This powerplant technology, explains Pratt & Whitney, will enable more efficient engine performance during different phases of flight, such as take-off, climb and cruise. The engine maker notes its hybrid-electric approach will reduce fuel burn and CO2 emissions by up to 30 per cent when compared to today’s most advanced regional turboprop aircraft.

“Hybrid-electric propulsion technology offers significant potential to optimize efficiency across a range of different aircraft applications, helping our industry meet its ambitious goal for achieving net zero CO2 emissions,” said Jean Thomassin, executive director new products and services, Pratt & Whitney Canada.

The Flight Test Centre of Excellence (Cert Center Canada – 3C) based in Ottawa, ON, will modify and operate an De Havilland Canada Dash 8-100 aircraft, serving as the platform for future flight demonstrations.

“We are honoured that Raytheon Technologies has chosen our Design Approval Organization to lead the flight test program for this historic demonstrator project,” said John Maris, 3C president and chief test pilot for the project. “3C has assembled a trusted Quebec team that includes Chrono Aviation, WAAS Aerospace, and Elisen & associés to integrate the hybrid-electric powertrain, battery system, and high voltage electrical harness into 3C’s Dash 8 research aircraft.”

Since Raytheon Technologies launched the demonstrator project via its Pratt & Whitney Canada and Collins Aerospace businesses in July 2021, supported by the Governments of Canada and Quebec, a number of organizations in Canada and around the world have joined the initiative.

H55 S.A., recently the subject of a minority investment by Raytheon’s venture capital arm, RTX Ventures, will supply battery systems. The development of battery component designs and associated electrical control systems will also be supported by the National Research Council of Canada and the Innovative Vehicle Institute.

Ricardo PLC is also supporting the project with component design, system integration, and testing. De Havilland Canada is supporting integration of the propulsion system on the experimental aircraft.

(Photo: De Havilland Canada)

Canadian Forces Snowbirds unveil initial 2023 schedule

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds perform over 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, in April 2017. (Photo: Master Seaman Roxanne Wood)

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds on December 13 released its initial 2023 schedule, subject to change. The 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, with its modified CT-114 Tutor, next year aims to reach 10 Canadian provinces and the United States.

June 3-4, Thunder Bay, ON
June 8, RBC Canadian Open, North York, ON*
June 10-11, Barrie, ON
June 17-18, Dieppe-Moncton, NB
June 21, Gander, NL
June 24, Conception Bay South, NL

July 1, Canada Day, Location TBA
July 3, Peggy’s Cove, NS*
July 7-8, Cavendish, PEI*
July 9, Charlottetown, PEI
July 10 Cavendish, PEI*
July 15-16, Craven, SK
July 27, Saskatoon, SK*
July 29-30, Red Deer, AB

August 5-6, Edmonton, AN
August 11-13, Abbotsford, BC
August 19, Winnipeg, MB*
August 26-27, Leamington Beach, ON

September 1-4, Toronto, ON
September 8-10, London, ON
September 16-17, Gatineau, QC
September 30 – October 1, Huntington Beach, CA

October 7-8, Salinas, CA

*Denotes a non-aerobatic display

Hefty fine issued for drone operation during wildfire

— By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh (Photo: Parks Canada)

The penalty was steep for one person caught operating a drone during the Chetamon wildfire.

Rajwinder Singh must pay a fine of $10,000 before June 8, 2023. It is the largest fine ever issued for illegal drone operation in any place operated by Parks Canada.

During his court date on Dec. 8, Singh pleaded guilty to the charge of operating an aircraft without a permit under section 2(3) of the Aircraft Access Regulations of the Canada National Parks Act.

All national parks across Canada are no drone zones. Flying drones in any national park is a risk to visitors and staff, a disturbance to wildlife and can lead to negative experiences for others.

Flying a drone in this instance could have had much more dire consequences.

On Sept. 6, eight helicopters were fighting the then out-of-control Chetamon wildfire. They were forced to ground, putting their operations to a halt for more than one hour after themillegal drone was sighted in the area.

“This is a deadly serious matter,” said Dave Argument, resource conservation officer with Parks Canada.

Flying a drone near a wildfire not only endangers firefighters and everyone else working in the area, but it also worsens the threat that the fire already poses to nearby communities.

Drones are considered uncontrolled aircraft in the sky that prevent pilots and aircrews from being in flight. Helicopters are forced to ground, which also leaves frontline fire crews without an escape route.

It also gives the wildfire another chance to grow.

“It also runs the risk of losing control of the fire unnecessarily where we could be fighting it,” Argument said.

“Suddenly, we’re grounded and we lose our ability to action the fire while those machines are on the ground.”

Operating the illegal drone also breaches Transport Canada Canadian Aviation regulations that state no aircraft may fly within a five-nautical-mile radius of a wildfire for the safety of helicopters and aircraft involved in the fighting of forest fires.

Argument said that drones are still being seen more frequently despite this.

“It is really on the user to understand what the regulations are, what they can’t do and what they can do with these new tools that are becoming so widely available, and the consequences of their actions.”

He added that this case wasn’t even the most serious of the four instances of illegal drone users charged during the Chetamon wildfire. One individual decided to fly a drone right over the wildfire zone. The others were flying in proximity to the wildfire zone.

People charged with violating the Canada National Parks Act and its regulations are subject to a court appearance in Jasper and may be fined up to $25,000.

To learn more about drone regulations and flying in national parks, people should visit Parks Canada’s webpage on drones or unmanned air vehicles.

“Across the board, drone operation in national parks in Canada is illegal,” Argument said.

Permits are never issued for recreational drone use because of the disturbance they cause to wildlife. They also infringe on the reasonable expectation of privacy that other parks visitors enjoy.

Leggat Aviation delivers 5 Cessna 172S Skyhawks to Confederation College

Leggat Aviation on November 18, 2022, delivered five new Cessna 172S Skyhawks to Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The Skyhawks feature state-of-the-art G1000 avionics suites with ADSB, synthetic vision and autopilots. The new airplanes replace five older Cessna 172N Skyhawks within the college’s fleet of 13 aircraft.

“Anna Pangrazzi and Leggat Aviation Ltd. were wonderful to deal with from the start. They helped us define our needs at the front end, supported us through the contract process with the manufacturer, and were instrumental during inspection and importation,” said Colin Kelly, Dean of the Confederation College’s aviation school.

Confederation College offers an Aviation – Flight Management program under a consecutive 21-month advanced diploma. Training in the program takes place at its Aviation Centre of Excellence (ACE) located at the Thunder Bay International Airport. Flight training for the students begins in the first semester.

TSB report on fatal collision with terrain near Wawa

Map showing the planned route, the actual flight track, and the accident site, with an inset showing the aircraft’s heading changes and last known position. (Source of main image and inset: Google Earth, with TSB annotations)

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada on November 30 released its investigation report (A22O0046) into the April 14, 2022, fatal collision with terrain involving a Piper PA24-250 aircraft near Wawa, Ontario.

The privately registered Piper PA24-250 Comanche (registration C-GEWK) was conducting a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight in Ontario from Delhi Aerodrome (CDH6) to Marathon Aerodrome (CYSP), with the pilot and one passenger on board.

About one hour after take-off, when the aircraft was in the vicinity of Wiarton, Ontario, TSB explains a video of onboard instrumentation shows the aircraft was at an altitude of 4,900 feet and that there were dense clouds to the west of its track. The aircraft changed its heading slightly towards the west, explains TSB, in the direction of CYSP, just before flying over Manitoulin Island.

ADS-B data obtained after the occurrence, shows that the aircraft was flying toward CYSP was starting to show more frequent heading changes. ADS-B position information was lost at approximately 18:03 pm, reports the TSB, at which time the aircraft was approximately 14 nautical miles (NM) south of Wawa Aerodrome (CYXZ), Ontario, and the weather was deteriorating to instrument meteorological conditions.

On May 21, 2022, TSB explains a helicopter operator involved in a private search identified what looked like aircraft parts in an open swampy area. The parts were identified by the OPP as those belonging to the occurrence aircraft, reports the TSB, which established the crash site around six NM northwest of the aircraft’s last known position. The two occupants were fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed.