The City of Prince Rupert believes a flight service station is vital as the community prepares for growth.
Nav Canada, the country’s provider of civil air navigation services, recently decided to close Prince Rupert’s flight services station based on air traffic numbers, effective July 24. The station currently has three staff members who provide information on things like air traffic and weather to pilots, also helping to ensure safety during take off and landings at Digby Island and Seal Cove.
Many members of council expressed concern over the decision at the last council meeting on June 9.
“It comes about at a time when in six to eight months from now we are expecting a lot more aircraft traffic here,” said Mayor Jack Mussallem.
“When they take away a position like this that affects people’s safety it’s a concern, especially when we’re looking at potential growth in our area,” said Coun. Anna Ashley.
Coun. Barry Cunningham said the amount of helicopters alone leaving Helijet’s station at Seal Cove have “doubled or tripled”.
“I talked to one of the principals at Skeena Helicopters, and they’re talking about bringing in at least two or three more helicopters in the next few months,” he said.
“I would be very concerned not to know when I’m in the middle of fog going up and down or looking for a hole to get through … to land in Prince Rupert that there isn’t another plane that somebody hasn’t called in,” said Coun. Joy Thorkelson.
“There’s no coordination of flight. You don’t have very much visible when you’re flying in and out of here.”
The city is now calling for support from B.C. senator Nancy Green Raine, Ken Cote from Ocean Pacific Air Services, all federal and provincial bodies that could add value, the president of Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, Premier Christy Clark, B.C. Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman, B.C. Minister of Transportation Todd Stone, Skeena-Bulkey Valley MP Nathan Cullen, the Prince Rupert Port Authority, surrounding First Nations communities, as well as LNG companies looking to develop in Prince Rupert.