Sunwing pulls flights from Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie

From CTV News – link to source story – Thanks to RG

Brendan Connor, CTVNorthernOntario.ca Co-anchor (CTV News at 6) | November 22, 2021

SUDBURY – 

CTV News has learned that vacation airline Sunwing is bailing out of most of northern Ontario this winter.

The airline is cancelling its sun destination flights from North Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

Sunwing has cancelled its planned Friday departures from Sudbury to Varadero, Cuba, and its Saturday flights to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Similar flights planned out of North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie are also cancelled. Sunwing will still offer service out of Thunder Bay.

Greater Sudbury Airport CEO Todd Tripp says it’s “devastating news” for the northern aviation business, and forces people to drive to Toronto in winter weather to catch their flights.

“I can appreciate this was a difficult decision for Sunwing, but without more airports with approval by the Federal Transport Minister to offer CBSA service for international flights, this leaves the air carrier few options from which to operate,” Tripp said.

“Many people from our region look forward to the annual seasonal sun program to help break up the long winter. The ability to catch a flight near home instead of the long drive to Toronto was definitely a key factor.”

CTV News has sent messages to Sunwing seeking comment, but has not yet received a response. RELATED IMAGES

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Investigation report: Unintentional gear-up landing on runway at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, Ontario, in May 2021

Richmond Hill, Ontario, 4 November 2021 — Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (A21O0030) into the unintentional gear-up landing on runway that occurred on 2 May 2021 at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, Ontario.

The TSB conducted a limited-scope, fact-gathering investigation into this occurrence to advance transportation safety through greater awareness of potential safety issues.

See the investigation page for more information.

The occurrence

On May 2, 2021, a Canadair CL-215-6B11 (Series CL-415) aircraft operated by the Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, was conducting a local training flight at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, ON. While conducting the third circuit on Runway 12, the flight crew inadvertently landed the aircraft with the landing gear retracted while conducting a flapless approach and landing exercise. The aircraft came to a stop on the runway surface. There was significant damage to the belly of the aircraft. There were no injuries.

Investigation information


Investigator-in-charge

Photo of Jon Douma

Jon Douma is a Senior Regional Investigator – Operations with the Ontario Region of the Air Investigations Branch. He joined the TSB in 2019 following 12 years in the business aviation sector, where he flew multiple jet and turboprop types and operated throughout North America, the Caribbean, and Eastern and Western Europe.

Prior to business aviation, he spent several years as a flight instructor, and has maintained an interest in general aviation since then, building and flying multiple amateur-built aircraft with his grandfather.


Class of investigation

This is a class 4 investigation. These investigations are limited in scope, and while the final reports may contain limited analysis, they do not contain findings or recommendations. Class 4 investigations are generally completed within 220 days. For more information, see the Policy on Occurrence Classification.

TSB investigation process

There are 3 phases to a TSB investigation

  1. Field phase: a team of investigators examines the occurrence site and wreckage, interviews witnesses and collects pertinent information.
  2. Examination and analysis phase: the TSB reviews pertinent records, tests components of the wreckage in the lab, determines the sequence of events and identifies safety deficiencies. When safety deficiencies are suspected or confirmed, the TSB advises the appropriate authority without waiting until publication of the final report.
  3. Report phase: a confidential draft report is approved by the Board and sent to persons and corporations who are directly concerned by the report. They then have the opportunity to dispute or correct information they believe to be incorrect. The Board considers all representations before approving the final report, which is subsequently released to the public.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

Passenger totals up at Sault airport as charter air service returns

From CTV News – link to source story

Mike McDonald, CTV News Northern Ontario Videojournalist | Sunday, August 15, 2021

Sault Ste. Marie Airport

Terry Bos, CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, credits the addition of a second flight by Air Canada between the Sault and Toronto. He’s also optimistic about the return of charter air service to the airport, with private airline “Shaire” setting up shop there. Aug.15/21 (Mike McDonald/CTV News Northern Ontario)

SAULT STE. MARIE — Officials at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport are seeing a significant increase in passenger totals. And for the first time in decades, a charter air service is now operating out of the airport.

Terry Bos, CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, says passenger totals for July are the highest they’ve been in quite some time.

“(It) was a 16 month high for us with about 4,250 passengers,” says Bos. “It’s double what we did in August of last year but it’s still down about 78 per cent from where we were before the pandemic started. But certainly it’s a step in the right direction to see some growth.”

Bos credits the addition of a second flight by Air Canada between the Sault and Toronto. He’s also optimistic about the return of charter air service to the airport, with private airline “Shaire” setting up shop there.

“For aircraft charter, we haven’t had one based here at the airport for probably 20 years,” he says. “It’s something we’ve been sorely missing.”

Richard Biemann, co-founder of Shaire, says he and his business partners launched the charter airline to address a service gap.

“We’re well serviced here with Air Canada and Porter direct Sault Ste. Marie to Toronto – (but) there’s a big gap in the market going anywhere else,” says Biemann.

“That can be anywhere in the U.S. being a border town, there’s a gap in the market going north and that’s been a bit of a disadvantage for businesses in Sault Ste. Marie.”

Biemman says travellers flying with Shaire can expect a less hectic experience compared with a traditional commercial flight.

“It’s a really different experience in aviation, it’s a little more romantic,” he says. “We’re not necessarily competing in the market of the cheapest fare Sault to Toronto – that’s very well serviced. We’re competing basically with private charters that go everywhere else.”

Biemann says since launching in July, demand has been high among business travellers in and around the Sault. He says Shaire is looking to offer flights into the U.S. once the company receives regulatory approval.

Porter Airlines CEO excited to see flights return to northern Ontario

From CBC News – link to source story

Company grounded since March 2020 looking to make triumphant return to skies

CBC News · July 27, 2021

Despite shutting down during the pandemic, Porter Airlines made plans to purchase 80 new E195 Embraer planes. (Porter Airlines)

The head of Porter Airlines says the ongoing pandemic, despite delivering a financial hit to the company, has allowed them to focus on work behind the scenes.

Michael Deluce, Porter’s president and CEO, said although the airline has been grounded since March 2020, they’ve used the time to purchase new planes to expand operations. 

“Certainly the Canadian aviation space has had a very challenging 16 months, unlike no other time in history,” Deluce said. “Porter took steps early on to suspend operations and relative to other carriers, we have fared reasonably well.”

That includes the purchase of 80 E-195 Embraer planes, which will run primarily out of Toronto, Halifax, Montreal and Ottawa.

“They will allow Porter to extend its range from eastern Canada to all of North America, Canada, the U.S….Mexico and the Caribbean,” he said. 

Deluce says other existing aircraft were also refurbished, including the 29 dedicated to Northern Ontario routes, and he anticipates the full roster of flights will begin October 6.

“We have done a complete interior overhaul of those aircraft,” he said. “We have brand new seats and we have brand new carpet sidewalls, overhead bins. We’ve even restored the lavs.”

Michael Deluce is the CEO of Porter Airlines. (Linkedin- Michael Deluce)

Operations out of northern Ontario will begin a little sooner, September 8 on flights to Billy Bishop airport in Toronto.

“Since our inception, we’ve served all the major markets in the north, including Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay…and that will continue to be the case as we move forward,” he said. 

“I think by October 6, we’ll have all of our northern Ontario destinations up and running.”

Another incentive for returning passengers is the expansion of the airline’s payment options, as well as the introduction of ticket financing, Deluce said.

“When Porter returns to the air we’ll be seeing the Porter product at its absolute best,” he said. “And I think passengers are going to love returning to the skies on Porter.”

Air traffic ‘moving in the right direction’ at regional airports in northeast

From CBC News – link to source story

Airport experts in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie both say they’re seeing more passengers, additional flights

CBC News · Jul 14, 2021

The Sudbury airport recently saw an increase in Air Canada flights from one to two per day.

Air traffic in and out of the Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie airports is starting to pick up with more passengers on planes, but their Chief Executive Officers say they’re not out of the woods just yet.

The aviation industry took a big hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Non-essential travel was non-existent over the 16 months, and many airports struggled.

Now that restrictions are lifting, and more people are fully vaccinated, things are looking up for those who work in aviation.

“We’re starting to see some growth and some pickup of traffic.” said Todd Tripp, CEO for the Greater Sudbury Airport. “We hope to see better activity come the Stage three reopening on Friday.”

Todd Tripp is the CEO of the Greater Sudbury Airport. He says after the 16-month ordeal with the pandemic, flights are starting to increase and more passengers are on those planes. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

According to Tripp, Air Canada has increased its flights from the airport to twice a day. Porter has announced it will return its services in October, and Sunwing will begin operating from the airport in December.

Prior to the pandemic, Air Canada scheduled seven flights a day from the Sudbury Airport, Porter had three or four flights a day and Bearskin seven to eight flights a day.

Terry Bos, president and CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation says there have been noticeable improvements in recent weeks as the province gradually reopens. 

Encouraging in Sault Ste. Marie

In June, he says there were more than five times as many passengers travelling through the Sault airport compared with the same month last year. And while the number of flights and passengers are still well below pre-pandemic levels, Bos is feeling hopeful.

“Overall things are certainly looking encouraging, and it’s the first time in a long time that things have actually looked promising and encouraging, so it seems to be moving in the right direction finally,” he said.

Air Canada also increased its flights out of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport from once to twice a day. Porter is also set to return in October. Bos said Bearksin Airlines continued to offer flights from the Sault throughout the pandemic, just with a reduced flight schedule. Pre-pandemic those numbers were five flights a day for Air Canada, three for Porter and six from Bearskin.

Terry Bos is the president and CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation. (Sault Ste Marie Airport Development Corporation)

The Sault airport has been relying heavily on government wage subsidies to survive the pandemic. Bos said they qualified for the maximum amount. They also reduced the workforce down to just full-time staff.

“That’s certainly helped quite a bit.” 

Bos says when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the airport did have a rainy day fund it had built up.

“We just weren’t expecting a rainy day to last 15 to 16 months,” he said.

No government help for Sudbury

Because of how the Greater Sudbury Airport is set up it was not able to apply for the same type of government subsidy that the Sault Airport was able to draw on. Tripp said their finances and reserve funds have depleted over the past 16 months, and they were not able to acquire any federal or provincial relief.

“Sadly we don’t see anything coming from the government in the near future.” 

The airport does have a borrowing agreement with the City of Greater Sudbury.

Tripp compares the situation to relying on the city as it might a bank.

The Greater Sudbury Airport does have other funding requests before the government, but nothing has materialized, he said.

Over the past 16 months, Tripp said no employee was laid off from the airport, however vacant positions were not filled during that time.

Tripp attributes the staff at the Greater Sudbury Airport for the reason they’re still around despite the halt to non-essential travel.

“I think it’s their hard work and their solidarity behind us that have made us where we are today, in keeping this airport open,” he said.

Tripp would like to see a federal recovery plan for all regional airports across the country. He says major airports have had some support, but it’s the smaller airports that now need help.

“The federal government needs to step up and look at regional airports,” said Tripp.

And as for when the aviation industry could see a full recovery, both Tripp and Bos believe that will come sooner than many had been predicting.

“I think we’re going to see some growth happening faster than we thought and I think that will be very helpful for us, but we will soldier through this,” Tripp said.

“I think we’re going to see a strong steady build over the next 18 to 24 months, and I think probably within three to five years we’ll be back to where we were pre-pandemic,” Bos said.

With files from Jonathan Pinto

College aviation program appears ready for rebound

From SooToday – link to source story

New aircraft, airport developments a big help; college taking first year students for 2021-22 academic year2 days ago 

By: Darren Taylor | 31 May 2021

20210309-plane-DT-01A new Piper Seminole twin-engined aircraft purchased for the Sault College aviation program, March 9, 2021. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Having faced challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing Sault College to suspend first year admissions to its aviation program in the 2020-21 academic year, the school’s administrators now say the program appears ready to soar once again.

“The aviation program at Sault College continues to be one of our most popular and important programs. For this fall we have over 400 applications for 95 spots in the program,” said Colin Kirkwood, Sault College vice president academic and research, addressing the college’s board of governors at its most recent virtually-held meeting.

The board recently approved purchase of a new four seat Piper Seminole twin-engined aircraft to be used in training the college’s aviation program students. 

The Seminole, a $1.25 million aircraft, was purchased brand new from a U.S. factory and delivered to the college’s aviation site at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport in March.

It joins two other Zlin single-engined planes which were purchased and delivered to the program in the fall of 2020.

The addition of the Seminole plane to the Sault College aviation fleet, in particular, is of huge benefit in regard to multi-engined training, making aviation program students more marketable when they graduate.

There are now 15 aircraft (12 single engine and three twin-engined planes) in the aviation program fleet.

Sault College has experienced difficulties in getting its aviation students through the graduation door in recent times.

Apart from the suspension of first year admissions to its aviation program in the 2020-21 academic year due to COVID restrictions, the province-wide community college faculty strike of 2017 and the departure of at least one flight instructor for employment elsewhere in the once-booming aviation industry led to many students not being able to acquire enough flight hours necessary to complete the three-year Sault College aviation program, those students having to return for an unanticipated ‘fourth year.’ 

“We’ve made changes, improving the schedule to increase the consistency of flight training and we’re bringing in some new faculty recently with airline experience, trying to align with what we see as the objectives of the Ministry,” said Greg Farish, Aviation Technology – Flight program chair, speaking to the board.

“The shut down last year due to the pandemic had a very significant impact and we are very disappointed that we had to defer the 2020 student enrolment. It was however done in the best interest of the current students, the future of the program and the success of future students. For the Fall of 2021 we are returning to normal levels of student admission. We have first ensured that all the deferred students were able to retain their spot in the program,” said Farish in a subsequent email to SooToday.

“We have created some powerful tools that allow us to better forecast the student flight training demand and the number of instructor staff that will be required. No forecast is perfect but we have greatly improved our ability to provide the flight training hours to meet our targets for student progress toward graduation. With the metrics we are tracking we can measure progress against the plan and adjust to proactively navigate to our targets. Since we started recalling students for flight training in August 2020 we have been tracking well to our student completion goals,” Farish said.

The addition of the new Piper Seminole twin-engined aircraft is a key component of the college’s plan to meet its goal to achieve completion targets for students as they reach their multi-engine and IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) training phases in the future, Farish added.

Despite the devastating harm the pandemic has caused the aviation industry, Farish said the industry, including major players such as Boeing “sees over the next 20 years a demand for over 700,000 new pilots. They see, and we do as well, this will be a temporary situation and the demand is going to be coming back very robustly.”

Farish said NAV Canada’s decision, announced April 15, to maintain air traffic control service at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport and the federal government’s May 13 announcement of over $9 million in funding from Transport Canada’s Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) for infrastructure improvements at the airport will be of great benefit to the college’s flight training capacity. 

Ministry of Natural Resources Water Bomber Crash at Sault Ste Marie International Airport

From Sault Online – link to source story

By Dan Gray – May 2, 2021

Plane crashed on Runway 12, Sault Ste. Marie Airport, May 2, 2021 (Dan Gray/SaultOnline.com)

At approximately 12:30 p.m. May 2, 2021 emergency services attended a reported plane crash at Sault Airport.

Upon arrival a Ministry of Natural Resources water bomber number 274 could be seen sitting on the runway 12 at Sault Airport.

A security guard at the airport refused to give any details past they were in the process of cleaning it up.

After reviewing audio on LiveATC.net someone on board of the water bomber stated “There was a failure on the landing gear, we are going to need assistance to move the aircraft off the runway.”

The aircraft could be seen with landing gear up, and resting on its right wing.

A statement from the MNRF Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Isabelle Chenard says they are investigating.

“This afternoon, one of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s CL415 waterbombing aircraft made a hard landing at the Sault Ste Marie International Airport. The aircraft had been performing a routine test flight. There were no injuries to flight crew onboard, which included a pilot and co-pilot,” said Chenard.

“A team from Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services is currently on scene to remove the aircraft from the runway. Our Aviation Services Section will be working with the Transportation Safety Board on this investigation.”

Air traffic control services to continue for Canadian communities

OTTAWA,ON, April 15, 2021 /CNW/ – NAV CANADA confirmed today that it will maintain air traffic control service to Canadian communities, including Fort McMurray AB, Prince George BC, Regina SK, Saint-Jean QC, Sault Ste. Marie ON, Whitehorse YT and Windsor ON.

Last fall, NAV CANADA launched 29 aeronautical studies in an effort to safely streamline its operations, ensuring that air navigation services align with market demand. After considerable consultation with airlines, airports, industry associations, local officials and internal stakeholders, NAV CANADA has elected to limit changes to services across the country. 

NAV CANADA is committing that there will be no site closures at air traffic control towers or flight service stations across the country. In addition, the Company will suspend aeronautical studies currently underway related to remote or northern locations until further notice.

“Stakeholder engagement is at the heart of NAV CANADA’s aeronautical study process. The valuable input we have received indicates that a balanced approach is warranted as the industry navigates the ongoing pandemic. We are proactively taking these steps to maintain a consistent level of service as the aviation industry and our many partners shift their focus to recovery,” said Ray Bohn, President and CEO.

The aeronautical studies, which are still in progress, will consider other alternatives to safely streamline operations, including changes to hours of operation. Aeronautical studies that were related to hours of operation from the outset or that are related to Remote Aerodrome Advisory Services will also continue, except for those pertaining to remote or northern locations.

To enhance stakeholder awareness and input, NAV CANADA will be undertaking a Notice of Proposal process that will afford stakeholders an additional opportunity to provide feedback on NAV CANADA’s specific recommendations.  

NAV CANADA remains unwavering in its commitment to safety, and any changes to the delivery of our services will be first and foremost evaluated in this context. The Company will continue to provide the air navigation services required to support industry today and throughout recovery.

Quick Facts

  • A private, non-profit corporation, NAV CANADA provides air traffic control, airport advisory services, weather briefings and aeronautical information services for more than 18 million square kilometers of Canadian domestic and oceanic airspace.
  • Under the Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act, NAV CANADA recovers its operating expense through service charges from its customers on a breakeven basis. Its customers include airlines, air cargo operators, air charter operators, air taxis, helicopter operators, and business and general aviation.
  • Aeronautical Studies consider all relevant factors, including traffic volume, mix and distribution throughout the day; weather; airport and airspace configuration; surface activity; and the efficiency requirements of operators using the service. Formal consultation with stakeholders is central to all Aeronautical Studies.
  • NAV CANADA’s safety record is irrefutably one of the best in the world amongst air navigation service providers. We have achieved this record based on a regulated decision-making approach with safety at the very core of all that we do.

About NAV CANADA

NAV CANADA is a private, not-for-profit company, established in 1996, providing air traffic control, airport advisory services, weather briefings and aeronautical information services for more than 18 million square kilometres of Canadian domestic and international airspace.

The Company is internationally recognized for its safety record, and technology innovation. Air traffic management systems developed by NAV CANADA are used by air navigation service providers in countries worldwide.

Sault airport grounds planned multi-million-dollar expansion

$5.3-million project stalled for at least three more years

By: David Helwig | 29 March 2021

20200530-SSM Airport summer stock-DT-02Darren Taylor/SooToday

One of the brightest stars in Sault Ste. Marie’s pandemic-plagued economic firmament has dropped from the sky.

City councillors will be told Monday that Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corp. has decided to defer its planned $5.3-million expansion for at least three years.

“The aviation industry has been heavily impacted by COVID-19,” says Tom Vair, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for community development and enterprise services.

“The $5.3-million expansion project included enhancements to existing infrastructure, further expansion of current tenants, as well as attraction of new tenants (accommodation/housing development),” Vair says in a report to Mayor Provenzano and city council.

Including a hotel in front of the terminal, the project was expected to create 100 full-time jobs over the short- to medium term.

In October 2019, councillors agreed to give the airport $200,000 over two years to help get the construction project off the ground.

But COVID-19 swooped in last year and wreaked havoc on the air transportation sector.

Last November, city council agreed to defer the project, with its cash to be delivered instead in $100,000 instalments in 2022 and 2023.

“Due to the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corp. (SSMADC) has made the decision to defer the project for at least three years,” Vair says in his latest update.

The airport is now asking to withdraw its request for city economic development cash.

“The SSMADC is aware that a new application for any future project will be required,” Vair says.

Councillors will be asked Monday to release the airport’s $200,000, returning it to the community development fund for other purposes.

Monday’s city council meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.

– SooToday

Passenger Levels Continue To Concern Airport Development Corporation

From Sault Online – link to source story

By Content Team -March 8, 2021

Passenger traffic in February was down 93.0% with the fiscal year to date (April to February) drop coming in at 90.1%.  The past ten months of traffic levels are as follows:

MonthPassengersChange from Previous Year
April – June572-98.89%
July – September8,080-85.70%
October – December7,675-85.52%
January1,619-89.34%
February1,100-93.00%

The Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation is unique in the country being one of only two regional airports with no municipal or regional government affiliation; it is a private not for profit corporation that owns and operates the Sault Ste. Marie Airport.  As such the SSMADC must self-fund all operational and capital costs with user fees, leases, and customer pay items such as car park and AIF (Airport Improvement Fee).

Aircraft traffic movements were also greatly reduced during the pandemic. The latest available data covers April 2020 through to December 2020 with the month of December setting a record for aircraft movements for that month in the past 20 years. The table below outlines levels for the past nine months:

MonthAircraft MovementsChange from Previous Year
April575-91.0%
May875-89.6%
June954-87.7%
July1,245-81.0%
August2,703-57.1%
September4,922-12.3%
October4,819-23.2%
November3,684-18.7%
December3,09349.8%

Bearskin Airlines is operating up to 2 flights Sunday and up to 4 daily flights Monday to Friday.  Air Canada Express is offering up to one daily flight.  This continues to be a major decrease in flight options compared to March of 2020 when Air Canada was flying 4 daily flights, Porter had up to 2 daily flights, Bearskin was flying up to 7 daily flights, and Sunwing was providing once weekly service.

Terry Bos President and CEO of the SSMADC stated “As can be seen by the strong December aircraft movements, there is clear evidence that an Air Traffic Control Tower is needed in Sault Ste. Marie to support the major growth upcoming in the Sault College Flight Training Program.  Unfortunately, for a regional sized airport it is passenger traffic that pays the bills, and those numbers are regressing, amplifying the continued need for government support not only financially but to provide a safe return to passenger traffic in the country.”