AOPA will back off on using Canada as a flawed example of privatized air traffic control after its Canadian counterpart protested AOPA’s “lack of understanding of the situation in Canada.” Bernard Gervais, president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, particularly chafed at a column written by AOPA President Mark Baker in the September edition of AOPA Pilot in which Baker wrote: “General Aviation in Canada no longer thrives, and it’s unfortunate to see pilots there don’t have the same options we enjoy here in the United States.” Gervais said in an email to Baker that GA is alive and well in Canada and his 17,000 members “are largely satisfied with the service we receive from Nav Canada and all of them take exception with the idea that Canadian GA is dead.” Gervais got an immediate response from AOPA Pilot Editor-in-Chief Tom Haines. He said the column by Baker was written before COPA had made its position clear during meetings at AirVenture and AOPA “will stop painting with such a broad brush when referring to the impact of privatization on other nations.”
Nav Canada, a not-for-profit corporation created 20 years ago to take over air traffic services in Canada, is often cited by privatization supporters in the U.S. as an example of how the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) could be managed. The proposal before Congress bears similarity to Nav Canada’s structure. GA groups in the U.S. have formed a united front against the notion of privatization for a variety of reasons, chief among them the worry that airlines will end up with control of the system through dominance on the proposed corporation’s board of directors. Gervais told Baker he has no quarrel with his and other groups’ opposition to privatization in the U.S. but the Canadian experience and the system that administers it is different. “We are not against your opposition to privatization, we are asking that you stop using Canada as your example,” Gervais said. COPA has had some issues with Nav Canada’s restriction of VFR access to some of Canada’s major airports in recent months. Nav Canada has blamed the periodic closure of some terminal airspace to VFR traffic on staffing shortages. Gervais, a member of Nav Canada’s Advisory Committee, said the corporation is responsive to these sorts of issues. “Where improvements can be done, the board of Nav Canada actually take them on,” he said.