As of July 24, it will be up to the pilots of the North Coast to manage air traffic in and out of Prince Rupert.
Nav Canada will be shutting down its flight service station, which currently sees a staff of three provide pilots with information on everything from weather to air traffic and helps with safety landing or taking off from uncontrolled airports, effective July 24. According to Nav Canada spokesperson Ron Singer, the decision comes down to a matter of numbers.
“There are many, many airports that don’t have Nav Canada service, it’s related to traffic … we did an aviation study, including traffic patterns, and decided the appropriate level of service and there is not the justification for that station to remain open,” he said, noting pilots will now communicate with each other through mandatory frequency monitoring.
“A full safety analysis was done. This type of flight management, mandatory frequency, is something that is in place at hundreds of airports across the country, many with larger traffic volumes than Prince Rupert.”
While Singer said the three staff currently in place will be relocated within Nav Canada, Ken Cote of Ocean Pacific Air Services said the loss of the flight service station is a “big loss” for Prince Rupert.
“They filled a vital role … their main job was to give information on the location of other planes coming in because seaplanes all congregate at one point in Seal Cove. Now there won’t be any information coming to the pilots,” he said.
“This float plane base is busy with planes coming and going throughout the day, every day.”
While she said commercial planes landing at the airport have more advanced instrumentation for monitoring air traffic, Prince Rupert Airport Authority chair Maureen Macarenko agreed the shutdown is a loss for the community.
“This has been threatened for the past few years … along with the community, the chamber and with everyone we have tried to mitigate it,” she said, noting Nav Canada staff had previously gone from six to the current three.