COPA was at the relaunch of Air Traffic Control (ATC) services at Mirabel, Quebec’s control tower last week.  Mirabel airport (CYMX) has gone through several life cycles and it was refreshing to see the latest version last week.

Back in October 1975 when the airport was inaugurated, Air Traffic Controllers were there to guide the Concorde to the runway during the inaugural week of air traffic. Move the clock along a few years and things just kept declining to the point where there were no more passenger services by November 2004; all passenger flights had been transferred to Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport (CYUL), then named Montreal/Dorval.

By 2008 the control tower was no longer used for air traffic control and saw Flight Service Specialists move in and offer advisory services only. In the meantime, after the last passengers left Mirabel in 2004, flight training units and a few industrial tenants arrived, such as courier companies UPS and FedEx, Bell Helicopters and Bombardier. Military contractor L3 also moved in. Air traffic started growing again as YMX’s instrument approach systems, including ILS, attracted regional flight training units to use the facility for their instrument training. The military also found the facility for aviation training. Growth has now rebounded to over 70,000 movements a year and a lot of heavy metal in the last few years, steadily rising. It was time to put some controllers back in.

On January 30, 2020, at 06:00 EST, controllers were back in the tower to pull a 16-hour shift until 22:00, after which FSS would carry on through the night. Seven days a week. Nav Canada officials say they have 11 out of the 12 ATC positions filled with a mix of staff transferred temporarily from other regions as well as some local staff. More flight service specialists are being trained to become controllers, so the temporary staff can return to their home tower.

COPA noticed a jovial and friendly atmosphere of people wanting to serve their customers.

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Photo credit: Bernard Gervais