Passenger travel is down to a trickle at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) but cargo flights are looking up following a $36-million expansion.
The federal government last week announced it’s pitching in $18 million towards the expansion of the airport’s apron area by 47,000 square metres. At roughly five-and-a-half CFL football fields, that’s enough room to house five cargo planes at the same time. A runway to the apron will also be constructed.
The expansion follows a significant decrease in passenger travel at the airport, which reported nearly a 70 per cent drop in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Myron Keehn, vice-president of air service and business development, said while fewer people are travelling, the airport has one of the busiest years on record for cargo flights.
“We had a phenomenal year, the best year in cargo charters,” he said.
“What cargo is really about is driving regional economic prosperity within the Canadian landscape. This investment in cargo infrastructure really established both Canada and Edmonton’s leadership in global logistics and promoting trade and clean exports and really helps position the region for the post-COVID-19 recovery.
“This is about the federal government’s commitment and understanding of how important national trade is and allowing our businesses to both import and manufacture … (and) also to export goods that are made here.”
Last year, the airport handled 46,000 metric tons of cargo, a 7.5 per cent increase from 2019. Keehn said 2020 was an outstanding year for cargo charter flights with planes arriving from all over the world including Colombia, Turkey, Europe and Asia. He said Edmonton’s northern location is advantageous because of its accessibility.
In contrast, there were a total of 2.6 million passengers in 2020, 5.5 million fewer people when compared to 2019, according to the EIA. The biggest year-over-year decrease was from April to June where activity dropped by 92.1 per cent. Airports across the county have been struggling financially since the pandemic started in March last year.
And though the boom in cargo operations is uplifting, Keehn said it contributes a small percentage to the airport’s finances.
“Cargo doesn’t park a car or purchase duty-free in the airport or eat a meal or shop,” he said.
Keehn said the airport is currently assessing the impacts of new travel restrictions mandated by the federal government earlier in February.
The cargo expansion project also includes a new hydrant system to provide faster and more efficient fuelling, fewer trucks on the apron and an increase in capacity for cold storage cargo by 1,400 square metres, bringing the total to nearly 2,000 square metres.
Construction is anticipated to start in the spring, weather permitting, and wrap up sometime in 2022.
CALGARY, AB, Feb. 28, 2021 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced that a tentative agreement had been reached with CUPE Local 4070, representation for the WestJet Inflight (Cabin Crew) group. Both parties now await the ratification vote to be put forward to membership.
“I am pleased that we’ve tentatively come to terms on the first collective agreement with CUPE Local 4070,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “Our Cabin Crew Members are a valued and integral part of the WestJet team and it is our goal to continue supporting them as they continue the safe, caring service our guests expect of WestJet.”
About WestJet In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. Starting with 250 employees, five destinations and three aircraft, by 2019 the airline had grown to 14,000 employees, 180 aircraft and served more than 100 destinations in 23 countries.
Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All hygiene program. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium.
For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com.
Students will get the required groundwork needed for a pilot’s licence
Gary Moore · CBC News · Feb 28, 2021
Grade 12 student Jonathyn Simon has known for a few years that he wants to become a pilot when he graduates from high school.
In his free time, he watches YouTube videos to learn as much as possible about aviation and mechanics.
But thanks to a new program offered at Woodstock High School this semester, he is starting his post-high school career path earlier than expected.
“This aviation course kinda came out of left field, and is really a very unique opportunity,” Simon said.
Simon along with his 17 classmates are learning the necessary groundwork to obtain a pilot’s licence, and earning a credit toward graduation at the same time.
Simon attends a different school about an hour away in Harvey, so he wasn’t sure if he would be able to enrol in the program.
But since virtual learning is part of the education system this year because of the pandemic, he was given permission to attend virtually from his high school in Harvey.
“So to be able to take this for free as a high school student and also get a high school credit from it is really amazing,” he said.
Students taking the course won’t actually fly an aircraft during the program, but Simon has taken private helicopter flight lessons on his own time.
That’s the enthusiasm Eric Cummings, 62, and the aviation club in Woodstock was looking to attract with the high school course.
Cummings, a contractor in Woodstock, got his pilot’s licence about five years ago as a hobby.
He quickly became passionate about the aviation industry, and noticed there weren’t a lot of young people at the club.
“There’s a lot of grey hair over there as far as people flying, and there’s no younger people taking it up,” he chuckled.
That’s when the group approached the high school with the idea to offer the aviation course to students.
Cummings said the groundwork program would typically cost someone around $2,500 out of their own pocket to complete.
Offering the course in high school is a savings for the student, and a way to introduce them to the industry, Cummings said.
Vanessa Harris is taking the course in her final year of high school.
She was looking at taking a calculus course, but decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do the groundwork for a pilot’s licence instead.
Harris said there’s a lot of information in the course so far, but is enjoying learning about something that’s completely new to her.
“I’m taking physics right now as well, so how the physics actually applies to real life, that’s kind of been eye-opening,” she said.
Harris isn’t sure if she’ll pursue aviation after high school, but is happy to know she will have a portion of her pilot’s licence complete if she’s interested in the future.
Pierre Ouellette is a pilot instructor and teaches the course at the high school. He said he’s been teaching the course for 19 years, and has taught people of all ages — from teenagers to seniors. But he hasn’t had a class like this yet.
“It’s the first time that I had a group of all people from high school, so that’s fun — they’re learning new stuff,” he said.
Ouellette said the course covers a wide range of courses that the students likely haven’t been exposed to before.
“Theory of flight, navigation, meteorology, air law, engines and flight systems — so there’s a lot of fun stuff to learn,” he said.
Cummings is glad the school was receptive to offer the program. He is hoping to see it available at schools across the province in the future.
Patient was being transported from Stony Rapids to Saskatoon when the plane had to land at Prince Albert
CBC News · Feb 27, 2021
Abnormal engine readings led to a medevac flight transporting a patient making an unscheduled landing on Saturday, according to the airline operating the flight.
Transwest Air said in a news release that at about 12:24 p.m. CST, flight dispatch received a radio call from the crew on a flight from Stony Rapids, near the border with the Northwest Territories, to Saskatoon, about 800 kilometres to the south.
Transwest president and CEO Derek Nice said the crew noticed strange readings coming from one of the two engines. There were two crew members, the patient and two EMS workers aboard, he said.
“The crew decided to initiate the shutdown as a result of the readings that we were getting from the engine. So the engine is now being investigated by our maintenance,” Nice said in an interview.
“We’ll understand a little bit better about what the cause of the of the readings was shortly.”
The crew landed the plane without incident at 12:35 p.m. CST in Prince Albert. No one was injured, and the patient was taken the remaining way to Saskatoon by ambulance.
The Transportation Safety Board and Transport Canada were both informed of the incident. Nice said Transwest has also initiated a “safety management system” investigation.
“We use that to identify what the root causes of the problem are and if it is appropriate, we will inspect all other engines as well,” Nice said. “We’ll take whatever action we need to as a result of that investigation.”
Nice said he isn’t sure how common precautionary engine shutdowns like this are in the industry but said they take an abundance of caution while in flight.
Katherine DeClerq, Multi-Platform Writer, CTV News Toronto | Friday, February 26, 2021
Officials are warning of a scam in which people are being offered fake employment at Canada’s largest airport.
On Friday, officials at Toronto Pearson International Airport said they have been made aware of an employment scam offering fraudulent positions such as those of an electrical engineer and security officer.
In some cases, the scammers demanded payment in exchange for the position.
The hiring company used in the scam has been referred to as Toronto Pearson Airport & Hotels or Toronto Pearson International Airport Inc. The airport says that these names do not match known legitimate companies.
“The GTAA or companies operating at Toronto Pearson will never ask for payment in exchange for employment,” airport authorities said in a news release.
“If you’re asked for money as part of a job offer, do not make a payment and report the scam to either Peel Regional Police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.”
To spot a scam, officials say that job seekers should look for spelling errors in the employment offer.
By Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio | Fri., Feb. 26, 2021
Fort Smith residents are not happy about the state of their local airport, Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos told the legislature on Thursday, continuing a years-long campaign.
Martselos said constituents had expressed “discontent and disappointment” at the narrowing of the airport’s runway in 2019, an issue she has raised a number of times in the past.
“Oftentimes it seems my words fall upon deaf ears when it comes to this topic,” she said.
“This government, primarily the Department of Infrastructure, refuses to acknowledge that any errors or missteps had occurred regarding the changes done to the Fort Smith airport runway.”
Those changes involved narrowing the runway from 200 ft to 100 ft, which the territorial government said would reduce operational and maintenance costs – related to activities like snow removal and repaving – while still offering a serviceable runway that met federal standards.
However, the work prompted concern from local governments, Indigenous groups, businesses and residents that the change could affect the town’s ability to evacuate in an emergency and would negatively impact the economy.
In May 2020, then-infrastructure minister Katrina Nokleby acknowledged residents and businesses had not been given enough information ahead of time about the changes. (Nokleby was not the infrastructure minister when the work took place, in 2019.)
Martselos said she now has a petition of 550 signatures from people who believe the changes have had a negative impact on the community. The MLA said signatories included the “entire leadership of Fort Smith.”
The petition asks the territorial government to return the runway to its previous width for public safety and economic reasons.
Included in the petition is a statement from Brian Harrold, owner of Northwestern Air Lease, who states the change has impacted the airline’s flight training school and could affect the kinds of plane available to assist an evacuation.
“Both WestJet and Air Canada have procedures that will not allow their aircraft to land on any runway narrower than 149 feet. This is why Fort Smith is no longer usable as an alternate airport due to bad weather,“ Harrold is quoted as saying.
“This means that the only 737 aircraft that can take part in an evacuation would be the Canadian North 737-200. This will limit the aircraft that would take part in an evacuation and would leave the evacuation to the military and Canadian North for the large aircraft. The rest would have to be with ATR’s Dash 7s and Dash 8s.
“This could mean a large number of aircraft trying to depart or arrive in poor conditions.”
Current infrastructure minister Diane Archie, responding to Martselos, said the Fort Smith airport still carries the proper certification and is large enough to “accommodate aircrafts such as a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320 series.”
“People need to realize that the type of aircraft that the airport is certified for has not changed,” Archie said.
“These aircrafts do not currently land in Fort Smith.”
Tomal Sohorab, manager of cargo solutions and business development at Air Canada Cargo spoke to ACW about reuniting pets and owners separated by the pandemic and how the Airline is taking action against the illegal wildlife trade.
ACW: The pandemic has left many families separated by border closures- this includes pets as well. How has Air Canada Cargo (ACC) helped to reunite families and pets separated by the pandemic?
Tomal Sohorab: At the start of the pandemic when government travel restrictions and reduced passenger traffic caused a drastic reduction passenger flights, ACC pivoted to cargo-only flights to continue providing capacity on affected routes. These flights have proven to be ideal for reuniting families with their pets.
Since April of last year, ACC has moved over 1,500 dogs and cats on cargo-only flights, including a special flight from Vancouver to Melbourne that reunited 69 dogs and cats with their families.
We found that import regulations were constantly changing in this pandemic, and we opted to work with accredited animal shippers International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) and Animal Transport Association (ATA) for all pet bookings.
Dealing with an accredited animal shipper makes it easier for pet parents trying to navigate through the changing import regulations. These specialists also offer emergency overnight assistance when required.
ACW: ACC was awarded the Illegal Wildlife Trade certification last year, what does this mean for the Airline?
Sohorab: Obtaining IWT certification was a team effort lead by Air Canada’s Environmental Affairs department and executed at the cargo level through collaboration between operational and commercial teams. We updated our cargo training manuals and procedures to include how to detect Illegal Wildlife Trade.
We also created a reporting process that includes referencing the IUCN Red List and confirming the CITES certificate, and if there is an issue to report to local authorities with Air Canada support.
Communication and trust is an important component in prevention. Our agents are empowered to reject and report suspicious shipments. We also engage with our suppliers and customers encouraging to adopt the IWT into their practices.
We do not permit the movement of lions, leopard, elephant, rhino, water buffalo trophies, narwhal tusks, and shark fins.
ACW: ACC has transported many live animals but bees seem as if they would be difficult cargo to fly. What is the process of transporting bees?
Sohorab: In 2019, we worked with our veterinarian consultant Dr. David Landers DVM on improving our handling process for bees. He provided valuable perspective on how bees behave in transport and how we could ensure their safe transportation.
We found that planning ahead for bee shipments was the key to safe transportation. By knowing in advance that an insect shipment is one that contains bees, our weight and balance planners can position the bees in the safest location of the cargo hold, pilots are informed and can set the correct temperature settings in flight, and ground handling partners or receiving facility is alerted in advance of the shipment so that resources can be planned to ensure the bees are handled as required by knowledgeable staff.
We only accept bees for transport when they are encased in an approved IATA Live Animal Regulation Container 61, which is a non-escapable container.
We transport an average of 700,000 kg of beneficial insects per year (this includes crickets, beetles, bees, etc.).
ACW: Whilst the animals are on board, how do staff ensure the wellbeing and safety of animals?
Sohorab: We have unique procedures for every variety of live animal we transport, from lobsters, live fish, zoo animals travelling as part of conservation efforts, etc.
In 2018, as part of our commitment to excellence and to animal safety, ACC achieved IATA CEIV Live Animal certification to ensure our procedures, policies and training meet the highest industry standards.
Ultimately, it’s about having employees that are engaged and trained for animal handling. All our front-line employees who work in our facilities receive live animal training as part of the overall training. There are agents dedicated to animal bookings, so people calling to book a pet for travel have someone who is highly experienced to answer all their questions.
Additionally, we have specialists that are trained in animal husbandry at our Toronto facility, where we have the PetStop, a bonded kennel facility for animals in transit that require a comfort stop or a place to stay when they need to connect to a flight. These specialists are trained to care for and handle animals outside of their kennel for comfort stops, and in identifying forms issues that may require a vet (e.g. blood in stool, gastrointestinal inflammation, etc). And of course, we work very closely with Dr. Landers.
Otherwise, when booking animal transport, we opt for routings that provide the shortest travel time. Animals only travel on aircraft that can maintain comfortable temperatures.
Flight planning is also key: we make sure that animals are not booked for travel on flights where there may be compromised oxygen levels in the cargo hold from a substance like dry ice nor placed adjacent to another shipment that would somehow affect the animal’s safety and comfort.
While in our facilities, animals are kept in dedicated rooms before and after a flight to minimise noise and provide a comfortable temperature. To get to and from the aircraft, animals are transported as much as possible in temperature-controlled vehicles. Based on our procedures and the assigned high load priority of live animals, the animals wait in the dedicated vehicle until it is time to load or unload.
WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it is laying off an undisclosed number of pilots amid negotiations with the union that represents them.
Airline spokeswoman Morgan Bell says the layoff notices are going out ahead of the expiration of a memorandum of agreement on March 31.
Bell would not disclose the number of affected pilots.
The airline announced on Feb. 5 that it would lay off 120 cabin crew members as of March 2, blaming the measure on the lack of flights to Mexico and the Caribbean.
At the request of the federal government, WestJet and other Canadian carriers agreed to suspend all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30 in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Airlines have been in negotiations with the government for months about the terms of a sector-specific aid package, with Ottawa saying that any federal funding for airlines would be contingent on their issuing full refunds to passengers who had their flights cancelled during the pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.
HALIFAX – The Halifax Stanfield International Airport (HSIA) was decimated financially in 2020. Due to the pandemic, the airport lost $70,000,000 in revenue. That number represents two-thirds of the money HSIA earned in 2019.
There are currently only four places you can directly fly to out of HSIA: St. John’s, Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary. Last year, before Covid-19 ruined everything, the airport was supposed to have 46 destinations. It will take much time after the pandemic to build those routes back up again.
“At the terminal building, we’re still seeing very few flights coming and going and it’s very quiet here. Many of the businesses are not open,” said Leah Batstone, a spokesperson for HSIA. “Seventy percent of the businesses are still closed due to the lack of activity and demand. And we’re not sure when any of them will ever be able to reopen.”
The early numbers for 2021 haven’t been calculated yet, but so far, it’s easy to tell people still aren’t travelling much during these winter months during Covid-19.
“So far, we can see that passenger traffic in 2021 has been pretty abysmal, to be honest,” said Batstone. “Over the last number of weeks, we have seen record low numbers of passengers at the airport and departing the airport.”
Back in 2019, it would have been normal for the Halifax airport to receive 4,000-6,000 passengers a day. Right now, says Batstone, they get 100-200 “if we’re lucky.” Right now, because of the pandemic, they are not getting numbers they would usually get from winter travelers heading south for some sun.
“This year it’s going to be challenging because we don’t have any of that travel we would normally see. It’s quite a stark difference to what we had even in 2020, but especially 2019.”
Unlike many other businesses, the HSIA can’t cut down on hours to save costs. The airport must function 24/7 in order to serve essential flights- such as medical travel and cargo shipments of Covid-19 vaccines. Therefore, the airport authority has been borrowing money to cover basic operations costs.
“We’ve been borrowing and adding to our debt, basically, to keep the lights on at this point,” said Batstone. “We remain open 24/7 to facilitate essential travel,”
“We have no shareholders or other means to manage our way through the crisis. The more we’re borrowing, the harder it will be to recover.”
HSIA has already received support from the federal government. They successfully applied for the wage subsidy program and, last year, they got nine months of rent relief from government programming. That’s right, Halifax Airport is technically a tenant as they have a lease with Transport Canada. The rent is directly tied to how many passengers use the airport. So, while the rent relief is welcome, it isn’t as big of a cost as it used to be. HSIA has received confirmation of rent support for 2021.
“So, the rent relief is helpful, but we have so few passengers, if we were paying the rent it wouldn’t be that much to start with,” said Batstone.
Batstone says it will take four to five years until the airport sees passenger levels return to 2019 numbers, and they are hoping the federal government will keep rent support going for that period.
For now, the HSIA is in talks with the provincial government about setting up rapid testing at the airport. They are also part of a project where wastewater is monitored for covid-19 levels.
“We would welcome having (Covid) testing at the airport,” said Batstone. “We would be open to PCR tests or rapid tests, but we want to be part of the solution. Testing here would give an added layer of safety and security for the general public.”
‘That tower needs to stay right where it is,’ Sault College president says in face of possible closure
By: Darren Taylor | 25 February 2021
In spite of past and current challenges, Sault College’s aviation program is expanding and preparing for better days beginning in the 2021-22 academic year.
A new concern for the college is the possible closure of seven airport control towers across Canada – including the control tower at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport – by Ottawa-based Nav Canada (which owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system) as the company cuts jobs in the country’s COVID-ravaged aviation industry.
“We’ve presented twice to Nav Canada why this is not a good idea, given Sault College’s flight program, and we sent some more information to them today, so we’re trying to make a strong argument that that tower needs to stay right where it is,” said Ron Common, Sault College president, speaking to SooToday in a telephone interview after the college’s monthly board of governors meeting Thursday.
If the control tower at the Sault Airport is shut down, pilots would receive air traffic information from other sources but would still be mainly on their own during takeoff or landing.
Common said “our students, in order to get control zone experience, would have to fly over to other cities that have control zones, and that’s not optimal that they would do that.”
“In the last two years we’ve made massive investments to expand our aviation program, (including) hangar renovation, renovating classrooms, simulator labs, we’ve added four simulators, we’ve added two aircraft last year alone and now the board approved the purchase of a new aircraft, the Seneca. These things cost a million dollars. It’s going to arrive in the spring,” Common said.
“So, we’ve made major investments, and we’ve added staff, and we intend to increase our flying hours annually, all creating a stronger argument why the control tower needs to stay where it is,” Common said.
Nav Canada, Common said, has received the college’s concerns and that the post-secondary institution has made its case for the Sault Airport’s control tower clear.
Expansion and improvements to the college’s aviation program come after complaints from aviation students (and their parents) of having their education delayed due to the 2017 faculty strike, at least one flight instructor leaving the program for a job elsewhere in the then-booming aviation industry, and then, COVID-19 restrictions on flight.
Due to COVID flight restrictions, Sault College suspended enrolment of first year aviation students for the 2020-21 school year, but senior students in the program were able to take to the skies over the Sault.
“We didn’t do an intake for an entire year in order to focus on the students that we have in the program, and so as part of the expansion we’re certainly going to be taking (first year) students in this September,” Common said.
“We’ll try to harmonize this with the aviation industry (one of the hardest hit in the world due to COVID travel restrictions). Aviation was the hottest industry we had. Our graduates were being snapped up, people were desperate for commercial pilots and then COVID hit.”
“Aviation’s going to recover. I think our students will be well placed when it does,” Common said, looking forward to a post-COVID world.
“The Nav Canada manager of the review of CYAM (Sault airport) is a former flight instructor, commercial pilot and worked in aviation operations management. The manager and staff have demonstrated a keen and honest interest in Sault College’s flight training operation,” wrote Rick Webb, Sault College spokesperson in an email.
The college’s Flight Training Unit (FTU) has been expanding its daily operating hours, Webb stated.
“During the Fall of 2020 FTU movements were up 25 per cent versus 2019. Once we emerge from the pandemic and safety protocols are reduced, the FTU will see further increases in aircraft movements.”
The aviation program’s very existence and its plans for the future make a control tower at the Sault Airport a necessity, the college says.
Sault College states it will contribute approximately 70,000 movements at the Sault Airport in 2021, increasing throughout the year to 90,000 movements by 2022.
“The typical threshold requiring a tower at an airport is 60,000 movements but complexity of the airspace also has an impact on the Level of Use (LOS) decision (from Nav Canada),” Webb wrote.
“The proximity of the U.S. airspace and Lake Superior with the mix of commercial traffic, military aircraft, MNR, the growth of local maintenance facilities and Medevac with the FTU makes the task of managing our airspace too challenging to be left without the service of a tower and a Positive Control Zone.”