Bishop explains RCO system, airspace changes

By Michael Shaw


Rob Bishop, Service Analyst, Level of Service and Aeronautical Studies, Nav Canada, responded to a request from Flight 8’s captain Michael Shaw to come to Flight 8’s meeting on June 23, to further explain his Aviation Safety Letter article, Accessing Flight Information Services via the RCO System, ASL 2/2010. Bishop also briefed members about changes to Ottawa’s airspace.

Bishop started his presentation by quickly outlining who Nav Canada is, how they are managed and financed. This article will not repeat this information in the interests of brevity

Bishop explained that as most pilots likely have noticed that the en route frequency 126.7 Mhz was getting more and more congested over the years, hence Nav Canada devised a plan to give pilots an easier way to access Nav Canada’s en route services.

The plan essentially leaves 126. 7 for en route location broadcasts by any and all aircraft, especially instrument flights in uncontrolled airspace. This will allow pilots in the en route phase of their flights to coordinate their activities with other pilots in the same area to avoid collisions.

To achieve this it is necessary to give pilots other frequencies on which to contact Flight Information Centres (FIC) for en route information services such as filing position reports, pilot reports (pireps), not to mention getting up to date weather information and NOTAMs, pertinent to a pilot’s route. This is achieved by dedicated Remote Communication Outlets (RCO) frequencies at specific locations so the pilots can contact the appropriate FIC.

Because 126.7 is to remain the primary frequency for pilots to make en route location broadcasts, FICs will no longer monitor 126. 7. In other words don’t try to call an FIC using 126.7, they will not be listening on that frequency in the future, rather use the closest RCO. FICs will however continue to broadcast significant weather and flight safety information to pilots on 126. 7 as needed.

Bishop noted that pilots can find the RCO locations and frequencies for each FIC online by Googling “RCO Nav Canada.” In flight, RCO locations and frequencies are shown on current charts and in the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS) under each FIC‘s entry. Wouldn’t it be nice if the appropriate RCO frequency were listed under each aerodrome entry in the CFS? Are you listening Nav Canada?

The changes to RCO frequencies affecting this area include:

  • Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport add 126.7 for broadcast from Quebec FIC, 123. 15 remains the RCO on which to contact Quebec FIC (Quebec Radio) for flight information en route services (FISE)
  • Gatineau Airport RCO to contact Quebec FIC now 123. 37(5) for FISE.
  • Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau Int’l contact Quebec Radio (FIC) via RCO 123.55, 126. 7 remains for FIC broadcasts.
  • Kingston Airport contact London Radio (FIC) via RCO 123. 55, 126.7 remains for FIC broadcasts.

As you will recall, to contact any FIC call the FIC’s “name” plus “radio”, e.g. London Radio. I’m tired of hearing “FSS this...” and “FIC that...” in my head phones Bishop said.

Finally Bishop discussed the changes taking place in the Ottawa area’s airspace. He discussed the following items:

Deletion of the Rockcliffe/ Cumberland Visual Flight Rules (VFR) corridor. This was achieved by extending the Gatineau’s (CYND) southern control zone boundary further south into Orleans, excluding airspace below 700 feet above ground over the Ottawa River.

It is not clear why the exclusion over the river? Surely Nav Canada is not trying to encourage NORDO traffic in this limited and busy airspace? This could be implemented immediately by Nav Canada without Ministerial approval because it is seen as an increased level of service. It is now in place.

Adding new Visual Flight Rules (VFR) checkpoints to the Ottawa VFR Terminal Procedures Chart in the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS) and upcoming Visual Terminal Area Chart (VTA), expected in spring 2011. Note a monotone version of the VTA is located on the back of Montreal’s current VTA Air 1903.

The new checkpoints include Bells Corners and Highway 16 at Century Rd and the town of Russell. These have been unofficial but frequently used checkpoints for years.

Lowered top of the Ottawa Control Zone from 4,000 feet above ground to 3,000 feet. Essentially the top 1,000 feet of the control zone was moved to the responsibility of the terminal control unit. It’s now class D and not Class C airspace. This is seen as a lower level of service and requires Ministerial approval. It will be implemented when that approval is issued.

Increase the size of the training area by increasing the 4,000 foot above sea level cut out to the western and north-eastern portions of the Terminal Control Area. This too is seen as a reduction in the level of service and requires Ministerial approval. Again it will be implemented when that approval is given.

Finally Bishop outlined temporary changes in the eastern edge of Montreal’s airspace to accommodate changed traffic patterns at Mirabel during runway reconstruction.

Next year a new RCO will be located at Foymount, Ontario to provide coverage to contact London FIC between Ottawa and North Bay, and over Algonquin area. For those who are wondering, Foymount is the highest populated point in Ontario at an elevation 1,640 feet above sea level.

Flight 8 members questioned with whom Nav Canada consulted on changes made to airspace in the Ottawa Area? Several Fight 8 members who had been involved in previous consultations on Ottawa airspace wondered why they were not asked again for input.

It seemed that Rockcliffe Flying Club was the primary non-Nav Can - ada stakeholder in the discussions about the enlargement of Gatineau’s MF area to south of the Ottawa River. Bishop noted that stakeholders are welcome to input on any aviation studies, but the onus is on stakeholders to discover what studies are going on and get involved.

Flight 8 members complained that Nav Canada could make a better effort to contact all stakeholders for such consultations. For example, COPA Flight 8 has been in continuous operation since the 1990s but has never been contacted by Nav Canada.

Flight 8 thanks Mr. Bishop for his thorough presentation, and for kindly and patiently answering the million questions from Flight 8 members.