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Coming Home from the USA – As the Phone Tolls

 

For several years, COPA has been asking Nav Canada to improve access to the Canadian FICs and flight-planning services from the USA. This effort lately came to fruition as a result of a COPA members’ letter in Pilots to Pilots in this newspaper, and the efforts of a new COPA staff member, John Quarterman.

Brian Kenney, a COPA member, had written detailing his frustration with obtaining access to the Nav Canada flight planning services using the universal numbers 1-866-WX-BRIEF and 1-866-GO-METEO. It is clear that these toll-free numbers are not universally available in all calling areas of the United States. His frustration with issue mirrored that of many COPA members for some time. Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Nav Canada replied (with copy to COPA) acknowledging Mr. Kenney’s letter. They acknowledged the problem of access Mr. Kenney experienced. Furthermore Nav Canada explained the routing of a single number toll-free code to the correct FIC closest to the call (and obtaining a briefer responsible for the aviation WX service area) is too difficult a technical problem for the company to solve (This argument is partly true because the roaming agreements and coverage are not in place for all Canadian cell-phones. The issue of call routing for the appropriate briefer is simply a question of Nav Canada budgeting for that system to be installed in the USA). Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Nav Canada’s prompt initial answer to Mr. Kenney,s letter included a commitment to list the toll-free numbers for the FICs in the CFS Aviation Weather Information /Flight Planning section. This was deemed by Nav Canada to be an effective and appropriate answer to the FIC routing problem. The pilot in the USA would manually decide which FIC is correct and would dial the toll-free number for that FIC to obtain flight planning and weather services. All the individual FIC Toll-Free numbers work from landlines in the USA, so problem solved. Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Unfortunately this initial attempt at a fix would not solve the issue of access for all users, including those pilots with Canadian cell-phones. Many airports in the USA and Canada, no longer have readily available landline pay-phones. COPA’s Manager of Member Assistance and Programs, John Quarterman, who has been working border issues for COPA for several years, contacted Nav Canada, and pointed out that the cell-phone issue could only be solved (currently) by Nav Canada supplying regular long-distance toll-numbers for use as a last resort, to contact the FICs directly, but with long-distance charges applying. This option of last resort would allow Canadian Pilots carrying Canadian cell-phones to make calls to cancel flight-plans, obtain vital weather and other services as necessary. Nav Canada agreed, and on November 29th 2007, Mr. Rudy Kellar, Vice President, Operations Nav Canada, wrote to COPA agreeing to provide the direct dial toll numbers for each FIC in addition to the existing toll-free numbers. They will be listed in the CFS after April of 2008, but are provided as follows: Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Aviation Weather Information /Flight Planning Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

General toll free telephone number (Canada only) 1-866-WXBRIEF Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

1-866-GOMETEO Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Unique toll-free and long distance telephone numbers (accessible from Canada and the United States) Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Kamloops FIC: 1-866-541-4101 or 250-376-8392 Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Edmonton FIC: 1-866-541-4102 or 780-890-8386 Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Winnipeg FIC: 1-866-541-4103 or 204-983-8407 Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

London FIC: 1-866-541-4104 or 519-452-4040 Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Quebec FIC (bilingual service): 1-866-541-4105 or 418-871-8678 Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Halifax FIC: 1-866-541-4106 or 902-873-1365 Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

Whitehorse FIC: 1-866-541-4107 or 867-667-8427 Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

North Bay FIC: 1-866-541-4109 or 705-476-0024 or 705-476-0037 Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.

This success illustrates the power of perseverance by COPA members, working through COPA to effect a change to the air navigation system. Hats off to Brian Kenney for exposing the issue, and thanks to Nav Canada in this case, for agreeing to fix a long-standing issue plaguing Canadian pilots trying to obtain safety information from the US.