Keeping Canadian aviation alive and well


I am writing this just after returning from Oshkosh AirVenture 2010 and my brain is overloaded with aviation stuff.I never cease to be amazed at the incredible variety of aircraft and gismos that show up there.Many make a big splash and are never seen again but most hang around for a few years and a few excel and become household names.

What impresses me most is the breadth of the aircraft spectrum at Oshkosh. Every year it keeps expanding as limits are pushed and gaps in the spectrum are filled in.This year was no exception with the Belite, a new super light weight Ultralight, at one end for the around-the-patch fliers and at the other end was Lancair’s new PT6 turbine powered Evolution for the would-be jet setters.

Both are kit planes and if one of these doesn’t appeal to you the rest of the spectrum is filled in by countless other kit and plans built aircraft, both fixed and rotary wing.

Then there is the parallel spectrum of the certified aircraft.After many years of stagnation in the 90’s the last decade has see much pushing of the envelope going on at the high and fast end of the certified spectrum by Cirrus, Columbia (now Cessna’s Corvalis), Diamond and others.

And in another gap-filler category, the LSA crowd are busy fighting for attention with sleek glass aircraft and classic reproductions, with snazzy glass cockpits.

Taking into account the multitude of vendors with electronic chart devices and integrated GPS receivers I would have to say AirVenture 2010 demonstrated some significant stretching of the various envelopes in aviation.

In addition to making my head spin, all of this makes me think of where we Canadians might be headed.Many of these great advances in aviation that come out of the U.S. are simply not available to us in Canada.Take LSA aircraft for example.

In spite of talking about accommodating the LSA category in Canada for five years now, including forming a Transport-Canada sanctioned working group co-chaired by COPA and developing recommendations on how to proceed, Transport Canada seems to be no closer to figuring out a way to do it.

Electronic charts are another example.

In its great wisdom when Transport Canada privatized the air navigation system in Canada it gave Nav Canada exclusive ownership of our aviation chart data.

Nav Canada in turn has made it difficult, as they try to protect their intellectual property rights for companies wishing to make this data available electronically.

Compare this to the FAA which provides all the U.S. chart data free of charge. Although there is limited availability of Canadian data from some suppliers, many of the smaller companies cannot justify the cost due to their small size and the relatively small market for Canadian data.

Through COPA’s efforts to educate Nav Canada on this issue, I understand that they are now studying the matter with a higher priority and hopefully a resolution will be found soon that will permit use of the data at an affordable price for the end user.

I could go on, ELT vs. flight tracking for example, but suffice it to say for every advance in aviation technology there seems to be a push back from our regulators or we are squeezed in some other related area preventing us from moving forward.

Some of this happens because Transport Canada is continually decreasing in size and budget, and long ago forgot one of its original purposes, which was to promote aviation in Canada, and in particular general aviation.

What I’m getting at is something we all know. Aviation for most of us will not advance, or even remain as is, without a continuous effort by advocacy organizations like COPA watching over all aspects of aviation in Canada. It is no longer sufficient to watch developments in aviation alone since challenges come from all around us these days.

The threats are many and it takes a cooperative effort between all the aviation organizations in Canada to move forward and take advantage of all these great advances in aircraft and equipment that we see taking shape.

At COPA we are looking forward and trying to come to grips with how we can best steer a safe course through the minefields of our future.That’s a poetic way of saying we do spend time looking for ways to improve how we do things.

I, for one, do not believe that the challenges of the future are the same as the challenges of the past and continuous improvement is required to adapt to new challenges as they come along.I want to keep Canadian aviation alive and well, and current with technological developments as they occur.

Meanwhile, keep your prop spinning.