Category: Canadian Aviation News

Big blow for Stephenville Airport after PAL Airlines gives notice of departure

News provided by CBC News – link to full story and updates

Airline says Stephenville service no longer viable, with last flight on Jan. 16

Terry Roberts · CBC News · Sep 18, 2019 6:02 PM NT

PAL Airlines has announced it will discontinue scheduled flights into Stephenville Airport, effective Jan. 16, 2020. (PAL Airlines)

The Stephenville Airport, already struggling to survive, will lose its last remaining year-round commercial air service in January, after PAL Airlines announced Wednesday it is leaving. 

Airline officials were in the town on Newfoundland’s west coast Wednesday morning to meet with representatives of the airport authority, the chamber of commerce and Mayor Tom Rose.

The message?

The service to Stephenville is no longer viable, and PAL Airlines had given its mandatory 120-day notice to the Canadian Transportation Agency that it was pulling out.

That means the final regularly scheduled flight will take place Jan. 16.

Less than 150 passengers this year

Steve Dinn, vice-president of business development with PAL, said business has declined dramatically over the past decade, and practically dried up in more recent years.

Fewer than 150 passengers had boarded PAL flights at Stephenville so far this year, he said.

“Our experience is telling us that most travellers (from the southwest coast) are using Deer Lake (Airport) as the preferred hub,” Dinn said.

Dinn said PAL could have pulled out years ago because the business case for Stephenville had long since evaporated, but he said the company “stubbornly” held on, trying to turn things around.

The company was losing money by continuing to fly into Stephenville, he said.

Dinn said PAL is growing throughout Atlantic Canada, including at Deer Lake. The exception was Stephenville, he said.

“It was not an easy decision,” he said.

Government has to wake up and realize the economic and tourism impact of both interprovincial and intraprovincial air travel.- Tony Wakeham

This latest blow will leave Stephenville without any year-round intraprovincial air services, and the news came as a shock Wednesday to Stephenville-Port au Port MHA Tony Wakeham.

“Stephenville Airport is a significant employer and access point for other destinations,” said Wakeham.

“PAL is currently the anchor tenant at Stephenville Airport, although its scheduled service has continued to erode over the years.”

Wakeham criticized the governing Liberals for being “totally absent” with respect to any air access strategy.

“Government has to wake up and realize the economic and tourism impact of both interprovincial and intraprovincial air travel,” said Wakeham, adding he is “deeply concerned about the very viability of the airport.”

Descartes Delivers Industry-leading Real-time Air Freight Tracking Enhancements

Provided by Descartes Systems Group/Globe Newswire

MONTREAL, Sept. 17, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Descartes Systems Group (Nasdaq:DSGX) (TSX:DSG), the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, announced that the Descartes Core™ Unit Load Device (ULD) Tracking solution now offers enhanced network performance capabilities and new support for mobile phone applications. The developments provide air carriers with an industry-leading, Bluetooth-enabled solution to automatically monitor the real-time location of international mail, parcel and cargo shipments, whether they are on the ground or in the air.

Descartes Core ULD Tracking helps air carriers automate freight tracking, increase operating efficiencies and improve asset management by providing up-to-the-minute insights into the status of air shipments bundled into a single ULD container. Carriers affix Bluetooth tags, or sensors, to their ULD fleet and connect in real-time connectivity to the ULDs via the Descartes Core Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) network, part of the Descartes Global Logistics Network™ (Descartes GLN™). This gives carriers and their partners on-demand access to accurate location information and other ULD data via online dashboards.

The Descartes Core BLE network has enhanced density, range, resiliency and data gathering capabilities on its mesh relay infrastructure. Combined with sensor improvements designed to increase precision and readability across a broader spectrum of assets, these recent enhancements to Descartes Core ULD Tracking present new visibility performance standards for the industry and offer air carriers the following benefits:

  • Extensive network coverage – With infrastructure in 130+ cities and 1,300+ facilities in the majority of the world’s airports across every continent except Antarctica, the solution provides broad and dense coverage of tracking points over a “smarter,” more informative global network. Customers can also achieve a faster return on investment as a larger network shortens implementation timeframes.
  • High network performance – With thousands of ULD assets to monitor, air carriers can track high volumes of ULDs extremely quickly and accurately using the solution. Each gateway, or reader, in the network can read up to 1,000 tags in one minute, without missing or duplicating tags, even in airport environments where metal objects can interfere with reliable connectivity.
  • Wide range of sensors – Given the wide variety of goods transported by air, the solution supports different types of sensors that provide insight into ULD location and other attributes such as temperature, motion/shock, humidity, smoke, ingress/egress (to an individual door and time), battery and occupancy for dollies and loaders.
  • Improved asset management – For greater control over asset inventories, carriers can affix tags not only to containers filled with freight, but also to other ground service equipment such as vehicles, forklifts and other supply chain and delivery machines so they can be tracked as required.
  • Mobile device integration – In addition to simplifying access to global ULD data via online dashboards, the solution now provides air carriers with the flexibility to use a phone or tablet application to automatically read Bluetooth tags affixed to their assets.

“The scale and reliability of the Descartes network is fundamental to efficiently tracking air cargo,” said Jonathon Dale, Manager Commercial, Cargo Cmcl and Ventures at Air New Zealand. “The latest capabilities allow us to take advantage of the broadest range of coverage available in the industry and capture more data on our pallets and containers, which translates into an even greater level of insight into the real-time movement of air freight for our customers.”

“With nearly one million ULDs currently in service, and traditional time-consuming, error-prone manual practices to manage them, the air industry faces significant impediments to providing better real-time visibility to improve both customer service and inventory management,” said Ian Craig, VP Product Management at Descartes Systems Group. “Our long-standing history of innovation and unequaled reach of the Descartes GLN are helping our customers and partners tackle these issues while further automating and modernizing air freight transportation.”

Descartes is showcasing the enhanced scale and performance of the Descartes Core ULD Tracking solution at the 32nd Annual ULD Care Conference taking place September 16 to 19, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Air New Zealand Automates Real-time Shipment Tracking with the Descartes Core™ ULD Solution

Provided by Descartes Systems Group/Globe Newswire

MONTREAL, Sept. 17, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Descartes Systems Group (Nasdaq:DSGX) (TSX:DSG), the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, announced that Air New Zealand, which operates a global network providing passenger and cargo services to, from and within New Zealand, is using the Descartes Core™ Unit Load Device (ULD) Tracking solution to automatically monitor the real-time location of international mail, parcel and cargo shipments while they are in the air and on the ground.

“With the dramatic rise in ecommerce, Air New Zealand is handling a growing volume of air cargo and the industry’s traditional manual practices for tracking freight are no longer sufficient,” said Jonathon Dale, Manager Commercial, Cargo Cmcl and Ventures at Air New Zealand. “With the Descartes system, we now have a digital solution to identify the exact location of an air freight container and the status of its load at any given moment. The ability to continuously and automatically track air freight is a powerful boost to customer service and helps to significantly reduce the costs of air cargo operations.”

A next-generation, Bluetooth-enabled solution, Descartes Core ULD Tracking helps air carriers automate freight tracking, increase operating efficiencies and improve asset management by providing real-time visibility into the location of international mail, parcel and cargo shipments bundled into a single ULD container. Using mobile technology, carriers scan Bluetooth tags affixed to ULDs prior to loading. Whether on the ground or in the air, real-time connectivity to ULDs via the Descartes Core Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) network, part of the Descartes Global Logistics Network™, enables carriers to easily access accurate ULD location information and other data, such as precise temperature, movement (e.g., shock, acceleration and orientation), humidity, light and fire. Tags can also be added to any ground service equipment for full control over a carrier’s equipment.

“We’re pleased to help Air New Zealand modernize its ULD fleet tracking practices,” said Ian Craig, VP, Product Management at Descartes Systems Group. “Descartes has a long-standing history of innovation in the air cargo industry with its air messaging and security filing technologies. Now, with the broadest reach and network coverage in the industry, and the ability to tag and track ULDs in real-time, air carriers have the means to provide customers with the accurate and real-time cargo updates they are demanding in an era where the ability to report on the movement of goods has never been more critical to supply chain operations.”

FLYHT Aerospace Solutions and Environment and Climate Change Canada partnership will deliver crucial weather data

Provided by FLYHT Aerospace Solutions Ltd

Calgary, Alberta – September 18, 2019 – FLYHT Aerospace Solutions Ltd. (TSX-V: FLY) (OTCQX: FLYLF) (the “Company” or “FLYHT”) is pleased to announce a new contract, following the issuance of an advanced contract notice for the acquisition and delivery of Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) data by FLYHT and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

FLYHT & the ECCC have entered into a contract whereby FLYHT collects and delivers upper air meteorological data from Canadian commercial aircraft to be used for data quality testing purposes.  This testing will be conducted by ECCC-Meteorological Service of Canada’s (MSC) Canadian Center for Meteorological and Environmental Prediction (CCMEP).

In the first phase of the contract, valued at CAD$63,000, specialized AMDAR software (which measures temperature and wind on commercial aircraft) will be installed and run on FLYHT’s Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRSTM) Satellite Communication System, accessing information from the aircraft data bus and preparing specially encoded messages for transmission to the Meteorological Service. The estimated total value of the contract, including options, is CAD$166,000.

The ECCC launches weather balloons equipped with a radiosonde, a package of electronics, sensors and batteries to capture weather data. This weather data is augmented by a variety of satellite and other data sources for use in weather forecasting. The AMDAR data collected by FLYHT’S AFIRS system provides additional key aircraft-based weather data which has been proven to greatly improve forecasting accuracy.

AMDAR data differs from Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Reporting (TAMDARTM) data. AMDAR data is collected strictly from sensors such as air speed indicators and temperature probes which are part of the aircraft when it is manufactured. TAMDAR is a sensor deployed by FLYHT that is purpose-built and installed on aircraft to capture additional environmental data such as relative humidity, icing and turbulence.

“We are excited to see this partnership come to fruition and keen to see how our different real-time collection systems can make a positive impact,” said FLYHT’s Chief Executive Officer Thomas R. Schmutz, “FLYHT’s unique ability to capture, process, and transmit weather data in real-time should be very useful for the CCMEP. We hope to ultimately augment our services with the TAMDAR reporting system. This could supplement the overall weather balloon program, increase forecast accuracy and reduce overall program costs in the long term.”

Depending on the level of AMDAR compatibility with the various airlines/aircraft of interest, the work required to obtain and deliver the data will be conducted in phases. Additional services options may be exercised to expand and continue data supply for the longer term, pending data quality testing results.

IAM Local Lodge 11 workers locked out by Avcorp Industries in Delta, B.C.

Provided by International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

DELTA, BC, Sept. 17, 2019 /CNW/ – Approximately 300 workers, members of IAM Local Lodge 11, were locked out by Avcorp Industries at 10:00 pm Monday evening. The company offered no rationale, but simply served the union notice and proceeded with the lockout.

The union and the company have been in bargaining since early January 2019, with about 25 full days of negotiations. Avcorp’s first offer was rejected by the worker by a margin of 100% – a rarity these days. They then conducted a strike vote, with the employees voting 100% in favour of a strike.

The parties went to three days of mediation, but there was no resolution, which prompted the company to apply for a Government-Supervised Final Offer Vote. It was conducted by the BC Labour Board over three days in July and August. The members rejected it by a 98% margin.

“The two main issues are contracting out and seniority retention,” said IAM District 250 Business Representative Paul Pelletreau, who also worked at Avcorp for many years. “Aerospace is cyclical work, and the workers want to know that if they are laid off, they maintain their seniority,” he said. “A laid-off worker can have worked for 5 years, be laid off and then return and have to apply as if they had never worked there – it’s just wrong,” he concluded.

Avcorp Industries has, over the years, purchased facilities in Burlington, ON and Gardena, CA. The union is not asking for substantive changes in the contracting-out language, but simply to account for the two newer facilities. Members want to be assured that their jobs are protected, when layoffs occur to have recall rights which provide them with some dignity. The IAM is committed to keeping good aerospace jobs in Canada.

In many cases, when IAM members at Avcorp are laid-off, their recall rights expire and they must start again as new employees, losing all wage levels and accrued benefits. The last recall forced workers to take a pay cut of almost $4 per hour. A layoff period can last anywhere from two to four years. Similar work of this high-skilled trade is unavailable in the Delta area.

Local Lodge 11 represents some 450 men and women who work in the aerospace trades at Avcorp Industries in Delta, British Columbia. They joined the IAM in April 1975.

The IAM in Canada represents more than 40,000 Canadian workers in air transport and a wide range of manufacturing including aircraft, auto parts, buses, aerospace, electronics, light and heavy machinery, tools and appliances.

SOURCE International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

Avcorp announces labour action at Delta, British Columbia manufacturing facility

Provided by Avcorp Industries Inc

VANCOUVER, Sept. 17, 2019 /CNW/ – Avcorp Industries Inc. (TSX: AVP) (the “Company” or “Avcorp”) today announces that it has initiated a lockout of unionized employees at its Delta, British Columbia facility following a lockout notice being provided on September 16, 2019.

The collective agreement between the Company and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (Lodge 250) (the “Union”) expired on March 31, 2019 and the Company has been bargaining in good faith since that time. The prolonged negotiations, the Union’s strike mandate and labour disruptions precipitated the Company’s actions. The lockout affects approximately 270 workers in Delta, British Columbia.

The Company’s operations will be substantially reduced during the lockout and is operating on a reduced basis at the present time. The Company continues to bargain in good faith.

Aurora Rewards Members Can Now Earn Points on First Air Flights

Provided by Canadian North

September 16, 2019 – Canadian North and First Air are pleased to announce that effective immediately, Aurora Rewards members can earn Aurora Rewards points on all scheduled flights operated by either airline, with the ability to double-dip to earn Aeroplan Miles for the same travel. Aurora Rewards points can be redeemed towards free flights operated by Canadian North as well as a great selection of gift cards. It’s free to join Aurora Rewards and it takes just moments to do so at

As part of the ongoing integration between Canadian North and First Air, they will continue to prepare for the upcoming launch of their unified, comprehensive rewards and recognition program that will enable members to redeem their points towards free flights operated by both airlines throughout their entire combined network, with their most frequent guests recognized with enhanced travel benefits.

“Canadian North’s Aurora Rewards program has proven to be incredibly popular since it launched over 5 years ago and will continue to be an important part of the new, unified Canadian North,” said Chris Avery, President and CEO of Canadian North. “There’s no better way for us to show appreciation to our customers than providing Aurora Rewards points that they can redeem towards future travel with us.”

In addition to earning points for bookings with Canadian North and First Air, Aurora Rewards members can also earn points through partnerships with northern retailers – Stanton’s, Northwind Petroleum, Bob’s Welding (Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk locations) and Northern Shopper.

The expansion of Aurora Rewards to First Air-operated flights is an important milestone within the ongoing journey to combine the operations of Canadian North and First Air into a stronger, more sustainable airline – the new Canadian North.

To receive ongoing integration updates, please visit or, or follow First Air and Canadian North on social media:

Missed your flight? Denied boarding? Be prepared to pay

News provided by CBC News – link to full story and updates

‘The language is totally unclear,’ says consumer advocate about airline rules

Yvonne Colbert · CBC News · Posted: Sep 17, 2019

Marina and Ron Corkery look over their confirmation of a WestJet booking from Halifax, to Toronto, to London, Ont. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Nova Scotia resident Ron Corkery couldn’t believe it when he and wife were told by WestJet they had missed their connecting flight and their return flight this summer was cancelled.

Corkery said the airline’s counter agent told him that because they had missed their basic economy connecting flight in Toronto, their return flight was automatically cancelled and there would be no refund.

“I thought she had to be wrong,” said Corkery, of Dartmouth.

“I didn’t think that legally that could happen to anyone in Canada.”

But it does.

Although what happened to the couple is legal, not everyone realizes it, and when they do, it comes as a shock — financial and otherwise.

Ron and Marina Corkery had booked basic economy flights for a June 26 trip from Halifax to London, Ont., via Toronto. They planned to attend their granddaughter’s graduation in Chatham, Ont., and visit with family for a week.

Changed gates meant missed flight

They didn’t worry about missing their connecting flight because they arrived in Toronto two hours before they were scheduled to head to London.

But then WestJet cancelled the flight to London.

However, the airline subsequently reinstated it. The couple said the airline changed the gate from 18 to 40, leaving them to rush to the new gate. Eventually, they found a motorized cart to take them there.

They arrived just as the plane door had closed. That’s when they were told they would need to purchase new tickets. They were also told their luggage was on the flight to London.

‘The anxiety was terrible’

“The anxiety was terrible,” Ron Corkery said. “We had to run around from bus stations to car places for over two hours trying to find a way to go get our luggage, and that wasn’t even our final destination.” 

In the end, it was a big expense for the couple, who eventually returned home on July 3 as planned.

They paid $313 to rent a car for one day to get to London. The cost was only a dollar less than they paid for the entire price of the rental they had booked in London for a week.

Return airfare for both was $1,176, more than the original $978 there and back. WestJet did credit them $200 for the new tickets they had to purchase.

The couple said they had never heard of the policy. Neither had their family and friends. 

“It is not being fair to your customers,” said Marina. “Why would you want to take advantage of people?”

In an email to CBC, WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said the airline understands the matter was disappointing for the couple, “and for that we apologize.”

She said gate changes are posted on all airport terminal screens and announced in the airport by WestJet staff “from the moment the gate is changed.” 

Bell also noted basic fares are provided by WestJet for guests looking to fly at the lowest price without added features or flexibility.

WestJet satisfied most travellers know about restrictions

She said WestJet tries to ensure that guests are aware of restrictions with multiple prompts throughout the booking process where guests are required to acknowledge the restrictions before purchase.

WestJet says this is visible to customers booking economy fares, designed to ensure they understand the rules. (WestJet)

Bell said if a customer misses a flight or connecting flight while travelling on basic fare, “subsequently all additional segments of this ticket are forfeited.”

She said WestJet believes the vast majority of its passengers are aware of what they are purchasing and the restrictions that come with it.

WestJet says this prompt appears as part of the booking process to ensure customers know the restrictions on basic economy fares. (WestJet)

The Corkerys said the language during booking is unclear about losing the return flight.

WestJet’s policy is also outlined in its tariffs, which the Canadian Transportation Agency describes as the contract between an air carrier and its passengers. The CTA says carriers must respect the tariffs at all times.

Air Canada has a similar position in its tariffs.

‘Absolutely outrageous’ policy

Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, said it’s “absolutely outrageous” that a missed flight results in the loss of the rest of the booking. 

“It’s totally unfair. The language is totally confusing, certainly far less than clear.”

Cran said his organization has heard from many people unaware of the policy, which he said can result in big expenses.

“I really don’t see any justification of it on the part of the airlines,” he said, adding he wants to see government step in and change it.

He urges people to book separate flights to and from their destination so they can avoid this kind of thing from happening.

Airlines have instituted the policy, in part, because of something they call point-beyond ticketing — when a traveller books a ticket at a lower fare with a connection to a destination and disembarks at the point of the connection. The traveller doesn’t proceed with the rest of the scheduled flight.

But that is not the case with the Corkerys.

Gabor Lukacs, an airline passenger rights advocate, said there is concern about fairness to the passenger when subsequent flights are cancelled. That’s because the airline is making money for the return flight even though the passenger is willing and available to take the flight. 

“That raises a concern of unjust enrichment,” he said.

Denied boarding rules weakened

But Lukacs sees an even bigger issue in the Corkerys’ case, one of “constructively denied boarding.” He said that is something that was weakened when the new air passenger rules came into effect on July 15. 

He said WestJet had an obligation to inform passengers about the new gate and give them enough time to get there.

“It is not enough to just announce it on a loudspeaker if it’s at the other end of the airport,” Lukacs said, especially if the passenger has a disability and may not be able to walk quickly. That is the case for Marina Corkery.

Lukacs said if the airline just announces a sudden gate change that is far away, then quickly loads the plane and departs, it is effectively leaving behind passengers.

“They were at the gate,” Lukacs said. “They were willing and available to fly. They were not allowed to board a flight in which they had tickets.”

He said passengers can sue for breach of contract and damages under the new rules, but seeking denied boarding compensation has become more difficult.

Lukacs points to the European rules, calling them the gold standard of passenger rights.

“This would undoubtedly be a denied boarding case regardless of whether the flight was overbooked or not,” he said. In that case, the rest of the flights would not have been cancelled.”

He said in Europe, the Corkerys would have been entitled to 250 euros ($364 Cdn) each for denied boarding, plus reimbursement for the car rental to get them to London and the cost of the return tickets they had to buy to get home.

Campaign for change

Lukacs’s Air Passenger Rights group has started a campaign to get the rules around denied boarding changed. 

“We think the definition of denied boarding has been unreasonably and excessively narrowed and that has to be fixed.”

He’s also urging Canadians to ask federal candidates for next month’s election whether they support expanding the definition. He said people can do that by going to his organization’s website and clicking on the appropriate form.

In an email to CBC, a spokesperson for WestJet said the airline understands the matter was disappointing for the couple, “and for that we apologize.” (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

As for their luggage being sent on a plane with the owners, WestJet said checked baggage can be transported to the final destination if a guest arrives at the gate past cutoff and there is insufficient time to offload the baggage for an on-time departure.

CBC asked Transport Canada whether that was acceptable. 

In an email, Transport Canada spokesperson Alexandre Desjardins said there are requirements for baggage to be transported aboard aircraft with the passenger, but exceptions are made in certain situations that may result in the checked baggage being transported separately. 

However, she said: “The details of these exceptions cannot be released for security reasons.”

Desjardins said the agency regularly inspects airlines to ensure they’re following the rules and maintain aviation security.

The Corkerys aren’t giving up their fight to get reimbursed for the additional car rental and their return flight. They plan to take WestJet to small claims court.

Supporters of Okotoks flight school fight back after noise complaints and plane crash

News provided by Global News – link to full story and updates

16 September 2019 by Carolyn Kury de Castillo Reporter  Global News

WATCH: Okotoks residents are pushing back against those who oppose a new flying school. Carolyn De Kury Castillo reports.

A group of Okotoks residents who live beside a runway are voicing their support for a recently opened flight school.

From the front yards, the community of Air Ranch in Okotoks looks like any other suburban neighbourhood. But many of the houses back onto an airport runway and some homes have private hangars.

The community is home to the Okotoks Air Ranch Airport, which has a runway that runs through it.

“We lived about a mile west on a golf course and we got tired of being pelted with golf balls. We thought it would be a lot safer to live on an airport,” said Tom Beale who has lived in Air Ranch for over three years.

READ MORE: Flight instructor, student uninjured after small plane crash lands in Okotoks

Some Air Ranch residents have started a petition in support of the new flying school that opened in January. They hope to counter recent opposition to the Calgary-Okotoks Flying School.

Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said there has been increased noise since the school opened and a number of residents are upset about it.  Robertson said the town can’t do much because Transport Canada regulates the operations at the Okotoks airport.

He’s in the process of organizing a meeting with all stakeholders. Robertson said the flying school helps sustain the small airport.

“The revenues from the flight school add to the viability of the long-term sustainability of the Okotoks aerodrome.”

Air Ranch resident Chris Morgan moved to the neighbourhood just so he could live by the runway and he doesn’t want to lose it.

“We have no neighbours through here,” said Morgan of his home that backs onto the runway.

“We just have the runway and we get to watch the planes come and go and the helicopters. It’s just relaxing for me.

“The concern for me is that if this flight school is shut down and the other businesses operating out of this operation, then this property could potentially be rezoned for housing or for a strip mall.”

READ MORE: Okotoks residents raise concerns over flight school after nearby plane crash

In August, a plane made a crash landing at Okotoks Air Ranch Airport. Neither the instructor nor the student were injured, but the incident elevated safety concerns from some people living in nearby Drake Landing.

They’ve written letters to the town asking for regulations limiting the times the flight school can fly. Tim Ulmer, Calgary-Okotoks Flying School owner, said they have flights every hour from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. six days a week and the school has been “booked solid” since it opened.

Supporters of the flying school will bring their petition to Okotoks council on Sept. 23.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Unusable jet fuel sent to 3 N.W.T. communities on Arctic coast

News provided by CBC News – link to full story and updates

Flights continue into the communities, planes carrying enough fuel for return trip

Mackenzie Scott · CBC News · Posted: Sep 13, 2019

An Aklak Air plane refuels at the airport in Inuvik. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

There’s a shortage of aviation fuel in Paulatuk, Ulukhaktok and Sachs Harbour after the batch that was sent up on barges was not up to specifications. 

During a recent routine lab test, an “off-specification condition” was identified in the fuel, according to Greg Hanna, a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure.

This particular condition isn’t uncommon and “is a jet fuel quality measurement that is typically pertinent only at the refinery level and not at point of sale,” he wrote in an email. 

The off-spec fuel has not been distributed, and a third-party firm will be sent to each community to filter and treat it, he said. 

In the meantime, there are reserves in the community that can be used in case of emergencies.  

“We have ourselves enough good fuel that we’ve stored just for emergencies and medevacs,” said Paulatuk mayor Ray Ruben. “We have enough for approximately 12 fill-ups.”

This is the second year in a row there’s been a problem with fuel shipped north. Last year, barge service to three Arctic communities was cancelled and bad fuel was a big reason.

“These are red flags,” said Ruben. “That you’re having some incidents one year after the next.”

Although each community has an emergency supply of aviation fuel, there is not enough for regularly scheduled flights.

Aklak Air is the main airline that heads into these three communities.

It is storing enough fuel in the planes to return to Inuvik. That means the weight limits are lower and the airline is sending extra planes when it can. 

“We understand that everyone still needs to travel and receive their groceries so when we can, we’ve been adding an additional aircraft,” said Ken Dalton, general manager for Aklak Air.

Ken Dalton, Aklak Air’s general manager, says the airline is continuing to fly into the communities affected by the shortage. (Submitted by Ken Dalton )

“Instead of sending one airplane we’ve been sending two planes, just so we can carry the demand … so there’s the extra cost of having to send the extra airplanes.”

As well, Dalton said one airplane can’t store enough fuel to do its normal route from Inuvik to Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour and back without refuelling along the way. Instead, the airline has been sending separate flights from Inuvik to those two communities.

Dalton said although more flights bring an added cost, the airline has not been charging more or increasing rates because “we don’t think that would be fair to the customers.”

The territorial government expects the aviation fuel to be cleaned and ready to go in about two weeks.