Nav Canada Marks 10th Anniversary

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Canadaís private-sector provider of air traffic control, information and weather service for civilian aviation is celebrating its 10th birthday and it says the system is in better shape and costs less than when it was in government hands. Nav Canada bought Canadaís airspace management system lock, stock and console for $1.5 billion in 1996 and since then it says it has thoroughly modernized equipment and facilities, developed airspace-management software thatís in demand in other countries, increased the number of air traffic controllers by 250 and improved safety (loss of separation incidents are down by 40 percent). According to its math, itís done all this while at the same time charging about 20 percent less on a per-passenger basis than the old ticket tax its direct-billing system replaced. However, the company-generated news release glosses over some significant controversies that have erupted over the past decade, most notably the introduction of general aviation user fees. Earlier this year, the company started charging a $10 daily fee for small aircraft using the countryís seven largest airports. Although the practical and financial impact will be minimal, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association and other aviation groups allege itís a foot in the door that will inevitably lead to fees for all the services Nav Canada now provides GA as part of the nominal yearly fee ($71 for most pilots) it now charges. Although itís a nonprofit company, it has to pay the bills and that means hiking fees when its customers are on the ropes financially, such as the downturn after 9/11. With the current boom in air travel, Nav Canada recently cut fees by an average of 1.8 percent.