VHF radio replacement program to cost $50M-plus


Recently Nav Canada announced the start of a program to replace early 1980s-era VHF radios that are nearing the end of their service life. The radios on order will be configured for 25Khz frequency spacing, matching current frequency assignments in Canada and the USA. While it will be possible to reconfigure for 8.33Khz spacing with a software change, the company has no such plans so there is no need for you to replace your VHF radio in your aircraft.

The radios being replaced are used every day by air traffic controllers and flight service specialists to provide information, advice and instruction to pilots who fly in Canada’s skies.

They will be replaced in an eight-year, more than $50 million upgrade being conducted by Nav Canada, the owner and operator of the ANS, in conjunction with Park Air Systems Limited and SolaCom Technologies Inc.

The project will begin with the replacement of 115 pairs of radios at Calgary Airport, the Toronto Area Control Centre and the Toronto Air Traffic Control Tower at Lester B. Pearson International Airport.

In total, the project will see more than 2,000 aging Garrett VHF radios replaced with modern technology at some 320 sites across the country.

The new radios will be more reliable and easier to maintain than the ones they replace, and will transmit at higher power, meaning clearer reception for pilots. The radios will be configured for 25Khz frequency spacing, matching current frequency assignments in Canada and the USA.

The only reason to reduce frequency spacing in Canada would be if demand for frequencies exceeded supply, which might happen at some point in the future near the border with the USA, where Nav Canada and the FAA coordinate all frequency assignments to eliminate interference.

Nav Canada recognizes that any reduction in VHF spacing would require most light aircraft owners to go to the considerable expense of replacing aircraft radios. If we get to the point where 8.33 Khz spacing is needed to maintain viable VHF communications, the cost and inconvenience to customers would be a key consideration in determining how new frequencies would be allocated.

Any change would be done in consultation with COPA and other customers, and there would be ample advance notice provided said Rudy Kellar of Nav Canada.

Therefore, there is no need to invest in new aircraft radios for the foreseeable future and Nav Canada will consult and provide adequate time should the need arise.

In the meantime, Nav Canada plans to start developing a roadmap for aviation communications within the next few months, and this will be done in full consultation with all segments of the aviation community. This will consider how to take full advantage of the satellite voice and datalink communications now used by airlines over the north and the North Atlantic, as well as the VHF communications used throughout Canada. Visit www.navcanada.ca for further information.