Reliability expected to improve at the Trail airport this winter

The announcement comes as cloudy and foggy winter weather gets ready to settle in.

Winter is expected to play a lesser role in takeoff and landing rates at the Trail Regional Airport (YZZ) come January.

The city announced on Monday that Canada’s air navigation service provider, Nav Canada, officially approved to lower the ceilings from the strip’s north and south approaches.

Effective Jan. 5, aircraft coming in from the north will be 1,300 feet lower than the current regulations, and the new approach limit coming from the south will be 400 feet lower.

Lesser approach limits are critical for this area during cloudy or foggy weather and will result in fewer cancelled landings and take-offs, states the city.

“We are very excited at the increased reliability this will provide Trail airport travelers,” says Chair of the Airport Committee, Councillor Kevin Jolly. “Providing reliable and affordable service will continue to open up new economic development and tourism opportunities for Trail and the entire region.”

Last winter’s YZZ statistics reflect weather-related interference, January’s Arctic outbreak brought mostly snow and a landing success rate of 57 per cent. However, a warm and mild February, increased the YZZ success rate to almost 95 per cent.

After working for two years with JetPro, an Alberta-based engineering firm that specializes in instrument flight procedures, YZZ has a new system that applies the latest in satellite-based navigational technology.

The city invested $12,600 for JetPro to undertake the work required to gain approvals from Nav Canada.

“JetPro has leveraged the design standards available with this technology to lower the approach limits to the Trail airport in some of the most challenging terrain in Canada,” said JetPro President Ed McDonald. “We are pleased the residents and visitors to the Kootenay valley will enjoy more reliable air service including scheduled flights, charter flights and medevacs as a result of our work at this important airport in the region.”

And the timing couldn’t be better, added Trail Mayor Mike Martin.

“Poor weather with extensive cloud cover is inevitable as we head into the winter months,” he said. “The new lower approach limits will further improve the airport’s contribution towards reliable air access into the region; therefore, we are absolutely delighted with the results of the work undertaken by JetPro. This news also aligns well with our Airport Terminal Building Project,” Martin continued. “By the end of 2017, Trail Regional Airport passengers can expect a new terminal building with improved facilities and amenities, ample parking and a convenient passenger drop off area.”

At the end of the day, lower limits are a great addition to the advantage smaller airlines already have.

“Very early in the day, larger airlines tends to make a decision to cancel flights for the day and put that plane somewhere else,” says Pacific Coastal Airlines’ Director of Business Development Kevin Boothroyd. “What we do, is that we sit and wait and hold for a potential opening and then we’ll go so it may be an hour or two late, but we will get you there.”

Lower approach limits, as approved by Nav Canada, should provide us with more opportunities to land at the Trail Regional Airport during the winter months, Boothroyd added.

“This announcement is good news for the Trail Regional Airport, and for all the residents of the West Kootenay Boundary Region.”

After a boost of $150,000 from Columbia Basin Trust, the City of Castlegar recently hired a firm to look into improving reliability at its airstrip, the West Kootenay Regional Airport.

International aviation consultant Jeppesen is studying the possibility of using Required Navigation Performance (RNP) during take offs. The satellite based navigation system, has until recently only been capable of improving landings.

A consultant’s report commissioned earlier this year by the City Castlegar showed that if the airport were more reliable, its use could increase by 60 to 100 per cent.

Nav Canada is a privately run, not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system (ANS).

The company employs approximately 1,900 air traffic controllers (ATCs), 650 flight service specialists and 700 technologists. It has been responsible for the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic in Canadian airspace since November 1, 1996 when the government transferred the ANS from Transport Canada to Nav Canada. As part of the transfer, or privatization, Nav Canada paid the government CA$1.5 billion.

Nav Canada manages 12 million aircraft movements a year for 40,000 customers in over 18 million square kilometres, making it the world’s second-largest air navigation service provider (ANSP) by traffic volume.

 

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