Reflecting on highlights of 2006


January is a time when we stare out the window waiting for the snow to stop and the temperature to claw its way above our flying minimum, while remembering some of those great flights we had last summer.

It’s also a good time to reflect on how life changed for us last year. Let me review some of the aviation highlights of last year as you sit in your lazy chair watching the snow come down.

For the fifth year in a row the number of aircraft registered in Canada has increased. All types are increasing and the rate of increase is climbing. Although the number of licensed pilots is not increasing at the same rate, it continues to increase modestly.

COPA membership is following this trend and after several years of significant increases showed only a modest increase in 2006. This is probably an indication that pilots who have previously not been owners are now able to purchase or build their own aircraft, a reflection of the improved U.S. exchange rate.

COPA Flights continued to expand in 2006. We now have 116 active Flights across the country and judging by the news articles posted in the paper each month they appear to be thriving.

The “Places to Fly” section of our website has now reached over 600 postings and is being accessed and updated regularly by pilots everywhere.

Overall it is clear there is a strong demand for Personal Aviation in Canada, which continues to be the fastest growing segment of aviation.

Transport Canada’s new secure license format was finalized in 2006. It will take the form of a passport in which all ratings, endorsements, and medicals will be recorded. The good news is that through COPA’s insistence, there will be no cost to pilots to upgrade to the new format.

The only real downside is we will have to get a passport type photo taken and endorsed. Normal passport photo suppliers can do this or you will be able to get one taken at no charge at a Transport Canada office. Don’t rush out to get one yet, wait for Transport Canada to issue instructions later in 2007 on what to do.

Speaking of passports, don’t forget you will now need a passport to cross the U.S. border in your aircraft,t due to tighter border security measures in the U.S. As of press time the latest deadline for this is January 23, 2007.

Another change affecting all of us is the new ICAO required Language Proficiency Rating. The decision was made by Transport to go through all pilot license files and assign a Language Proficiency Rating based on file information.

Those that cannot be determined by that method will be contacted directly to make a determination. The new ratings will then be issued as the new format licenses are issued. Once again Transport Canada listened to COPA and there will be no charge to pilots.

Both Silver Wings and Gold Wings insurance went on-line in 2006. Since April 2006 you can apply for or renew, pay and receive your Silver Wings insurance coverage on the COPA Insurance website in one session.

In November the Gold Wings plan also went on-line. Now you can submit your application for Gold Wings on-line and within a few days you will receive an email with your quotation. You can then go back on-line to confirm and pay for the coverage.

Gold Wings requires two steps due to the fact that the underwriters must provide an individualized quotation for full, in-motion hull coverage.

For both Silver Wings and Gold Wings coverage you will be able to print a Certificate of Insurance card after paying by credit card so you can go flying immediately.

The year 2006 will be long remembered as the year NavCanada first introduced user fees to non-commercial general aviation users. This represented a major turning point in NavCanada’s treatment of general aviation.

Although COPA fought hard against this move, all the way to appealing to the Canadian Transportation Agency, we lost. On March 1, 2008 NavCanada will introduce what they call a Terminal Departure Fee at the seven largest airports in Canada. We believe this has opened the door to the random introduction of user fees by NavCanada. This is truly one of the low points in Canada’s aviation history.

One other 2006 milestone should be mentioned. After nine years the Comprehensive Environmental Assessment into the fate of the grass airstrips in the Banff and Jasper national parks finally concluded. COPA and many members put forth a tremendous effort to save these airstrips for emergency and diversionary use by mountain flyers. We feel we made some progress on the political level during 2006, but we still do not know the outcome.

The fate of these airstrips now rests with the Minister of the Environment, Rona Ambrose, where it has been since June. As of press time there is still no decision from the Minister’s office.

So good or bad, 2006 is over and I’m looking forward to a busy flying year in 2007, among the numerous challenges that are sure to develop. Don’t forget to keep an eye open for opportunities to bring in new COPA members.

Keep your prop spinning.