Flight briefed on airspace changes in Southern Ontario

By Adam Hunt


COPA Flight 8 invited Rob Bishop, senior pilot specialist with Nav Canada to come and brief us on airspace and other recent and future changes affecting our area of the country, southern Ontario.

Bishop’s briefing was quite extensive and included Windsor- Toronto-Montreal (WTM) Review, Ottawa area airspace changes, nav aids, RCO Redesign, Weather Systems (AWOS/LWIS/Wx Cam), ADSB in Canada, E-Pubs and Internet Flight Plans. A lot to cover in about 90 minutes! The subject is obviously of interest to local pilots as

Flight 8 members almost filled the Ottawa Flying Club’s upper lounge to capacity.

After a quick general outline of what Nav Canada is, Bishop launched into the WTM Airspace Review. On a series of maps he showed the identified problems and the arrived-at solutions that were implemented on 9 Feb. 9, 2012.

The highly congested southern Ontario airspace suffered from a very complex collection of airspace classifications and altitudes. The company has now simplified these while attempting to accommodate VFR traffic in this busy IFR-traffic area, mostly with vertical separation.

The southern part of the area now has a controlled airspace floor at 2,500 feet ASL and 3,500 feet ASL in the northern area, eliminating all use of AGL based airspace.

The airspace around Toronto saw specific changes to allow more organized training areas under the controlled airspace in every direction from Toronto, except over Lake Ontario. Dedicated, but non-mandatory, frequencies were allocated for air-to-air communication for traffic separation.

Adjustments were also made to Toronto City Centre’s and Buttonville’s control zones so that they now butt up against each other. Brampton’s terminal area cut-out was enlarged.

These and other changes to both VFR and IFR traffic procedures will result in an annual reduction of 14,300 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, save $4.3 million in fuel costs and reduce cumulative flight time by over 10 hours a day.

Nav Canada determined that more than 98% of all IFR traffic operating in the corridor have RNAV capabilities, meaning equipped with IFR GPS or DME/DME/INS equipment.

This allowed a great deal of streamlining in IFR routing away from traditional nav aids, like VOR and NDBs.

The company was able to create new RNAV STAR procedures at CYOW, CYUL and CYYZ and new RNAV SID procedures at CYYZ, while also making changes to the Canadian Flight Supplement (CFS) preferential routes for both the Toronto and Montreal FIRs.

It also allowed doing away with the conventional STAR procedures at CYOW and CYUL, as well as some old VHF airways between Toronto and Quebec City. Aircraft without IFR RNAV can still be accommodated using traditional NDB and VOR nav aids.

These changes all resulted in some new aviation language. Introduced recently are Q-routes (high level, controlled, RNAV routes), T-routes (low-level, controlled, RNAV routes) and Lroutes (low-level, uncontrolled, fixed RNAV routes).

Nav Canada has also launched a new website called “On Board” http://onboard-abord.ca/ to keep pilots updated on airspace, procedures and nav aid changes.

In the Ottawa area Bishop covered changes to the downtown restricted areas, CYR537 Parliament Hill and CYR538 Rideau Hall. These have grown from a cap of 1,500 feet to 3,000 feet and from 0.25 nm to 0.35 nm in radius and belong to the RCMP.

Ottawa International will be getting a new ILS installation this summer, replacing an older unit on Runway 07. By the time this is done CYOW will have LPV approaches for all four IFR runways. Nav Canada still has a lot of aging NDB transmitters out in the countryside and wants to slowly take them out of service as their lifespans expire. These removals represent a reduction in service and as such require formal aeronautical studies.

The company currently has 333 NDBs, made up of 13 different models dating from 1971 to 2005 and originally built by Nautel Ltd. of Hackett’s Cove, Nova Scotia. Each one costs between $80,000 to $300,000 to replace - depending on the location. In many cases the towers are much older than the transmitters, some dating from the 1940s and some of the towers, being steel, are rusting out.

Bishop next talked about the RCO Redesign Project. This project aims to get Flight Service Station routine traffic off 126.7 MHz and onto discrete frequencies.

This has many advantages, including much less frequency congestion, but at a cost of needing 760 channel VHF radios.

The frequency 126.7 MHz will still be used, but for en route traffic to provide each other with position reports and also for broadcast safety messages.

Due to changing technology the project does away with most dial-up RCOs and even allows some new “gap-closer” RCOs to be added to give better coverage and fewer dead spaces at low altitude. Bishop presented a list of Weather Camera (Wx Cam) sites.

These continue to expand over time allowing pilots an extra simple visual look at the weather through internet webcams from many southern Ontario locations.

ADS-B has been a hot topic in the USA as the FAA there works on rolling out their ADS-B based NextGen ATC system. In this country Nav Canada has taken a “go slow” approach, waiting until the technology is more mature and better developed.

Right now ADS-B is used in the area around Hudson Bay and southern Greenland as a radar gap-filler. The company may expand its use in northwestern and off-shore eastern Canada over time, but has no plans to incorporate weather data and other advanced features for now.

On the publications front Nav Canada is moving forward on making a complete set of digital publications available, including a Canada Flight Supplement that will probably be divided into sections and sold separately.

Tied to this issue are new deals with ForeFlight and Flt- Plan.com to expand Canadian digital pubs. Currently the Canada Air Pilot and En route and terminal charts have been provided and VFR charts should follow this summer. Other vendors are interested and discussions are ongoing.

The company recently rolled out its new flight planning website https://plan.navcanada.ca/ .

This new service provides more flexibility for pilots to file and manage flight plans over the old system. It was written in the open source Python programming language and it runs all on Red Hat Linux!

Flight 8 members didn’t let Bishop off lightly and his presentation was punctuated by lots of pointed questions and discussion. Bishop took it all in stride and seemed to enjoy the lively environment. He described it as a “warm reception and enjoyable evening.”

Flight 8 would like to thank Bishop for coming out on a Wednesday evening and taking the time to brief us all on these technical subjects. By the turnout and the reception it is clear that we should plan to do a similar briefing again in the future.