Nav Canada Considers Reducing Air Traffic Controller Numbers

ATC provider investigating more passive forms of airport communication services.

ATC facility
Nav Canada operates ATC facilities such as this flight service station in Nanaimo, British Columbia.Nav Canada

Based on the demands of the current marketplace—as in much reduced air traffic as a result of the worldwide pandemic—Nav Canada is considering reducing the number of air traffic controllers it employs at a handful of locations. In a news release, Nav Canada referred to the review as a method to “streamline the nation’s ATC services.”

Nav Canada wants to replace some of these controllers with the more-passive airport advisory services at low-traffic volume airports such as Fort McMurray, Alberta; Prince George, British Columbia; Regina, Saskatchewan; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; Whitehorse, Yukon Territories; and Windsor, Ontario. Nav Canada claims any changes to ATC services will only be made following “a rigorous, safety-focused review of air traffic.”

A CBC News story added the not-for-profit Nav Canada is also considering closing a control tower in St. Jean, Quebec. This news follows changes in September in when Nav Canada cut 14 percent of its workforce, as well as recent warnings of additional controller cuts in Newfoundland.

Companies that operate at some of the affected airports are understandably worried about the possible downgrade in services that pilots might experience. “It would degrade the level of safety at Whitehorse,” said Joe Sparling, president of Whitehorse-based airline Air North. “We would encourage Nav Canada to look for other cost-reduction measures.” Nav Canada operations are entirely funded by system user fees.

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