Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Nav Canada to relocate Flight Services out of Prince Rupert

Can the last person out of the Flight Service Station please turn off the lights!
Yet more well paying jobs are about to leave Prince Rupert, as the hard working flight specialists of Prince Rupert will soon be on the move again. This time rather than just transferring across a harbour, they will soon be off to various other flight stations across the nation, as Nav Canada puts into place its operation plan of consolidation of flight service offerings across the nation.

Prince Rupert is among eight Nav Canada flight services offices that will be closed down, with the work taken on by distant offices, in Prince Rupert’s case most likely either Kamloops, or the Terrace Airport, which has long claimed Regional status and now seemingly will have that enshrined as far as Nav Canada is concerned.

In a bid to reduce costs and centralize operations, Rupert joins Smithers and Williams Lake as the BC contribution to the new fiscal reality for air services in the nation.

It will be of interest to hear if the local airport authority had any forewarning of the decision or if city council had been advised that yet another service is to be taken away from the North coast.

Rumours had been percolating in Williams Lake for a number of months now, and despite that community’s best attempts, the decision to close their station has been included in the eight announced last week to members of the Air Traffic Specialists Assoc. of Canada, the CAW member union that represents those workers for Nav Canada.

Nav Canada produced a discussion paper back in December of 2008 outlining the air movements and status of each airport involved in the study, the Prince Rupert airport was noted as follows:

Prince Rupert/ Seal Cove

Total Annual Movements
Data incomplete
About 18,000 float plane movements/yr and about 4,000 airport movements/yr

Prince Rupert FSS is located at Seal Cove and RAAS is provided overnight for both Seal Cove and Digby Island. The control zone related to the Digby Island airport has exclusion for Seal Cove to facilitate float operations. Float plane operators have complained about poor communication coverage within the MF area.

Should an alternative service option be considered for the water aerodrome?

Throughout the discussion paper the same phrase keeps popping up over and over,

Should an alternative means of service delivery be considered?

And in the case of Smithers, Williams Lake and Prince Rupert the answer would seem to be Yes…

From that brief description it seems that the process has evolved that Nav Canada is now to operate the FSS operation for Prince Rupert based on the RAAS model, which is a remote airstrip like process, found in such places as Buffalo Narrows, Chibougamau, Dauphin and Flin Flon to name a few.

It will be hard to sell Prince Rupert as a key economic engine or a gateway location, if even the air services provided to the city come from a distant radio operator off in another location.

The template for change locally was actually developed a few years ago when the Flight Services station relocated from the actual airport over to Seal Cove with office space on the Coast Guard base there.

With the use of technology, the flight specialists could keep an eye on things at the airport and provide their weather and service updates electronically from their remote viewing area at Seal Cove.

Nav Canada most likely believes that the process works so well that the services offered can be provided from even further destinations, whether it is Terrace, Kamloops or Vancouver or some other centralized office.

It might have been nice however, if those at the other end of the spectrum, the residents of the locations to be closed had been consulted properly and had their concerns acknowledged. Instead once again, a local service disappears without so much as a public review.

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