Prince George Airport lobbies Nav Canada to keep air traffic control tower

Airport fights to keep tower

Prince George’s airport continues to face challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – and now has to lobby for the survival of its air traffic control tower.

“As we stated before, the pandemic has had a brutal impact on the aviation industry and Prince George Airport is no different we have really been hurt,” Prince George Airport Authority CEO Gordon Duke told city council this week.

“When we look at this long road to recovery a big concern is the amount of debts airports are going to have to take on for 2020 revenues,” said Duke, adding that the recovery period is going to be at least four to five years.

“When we look at our tasking, it is to be ready for that recovery – and for that we are going to need some help.”

Nav Canada, which is the organization that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system, has also been impacted by the downturn in air traffic.

Duke says early in the pandemic, Nav Canada accessed available government support and also announced a 29.5 per cent service charge increase for 2021.

As well, Nav Canada has added YXS to a list of airports listed for assessment with an eye to reducing services, says Duke.  

“There’s some fairly large airports involved in this and they are looking straight at the number of aircraft movements, and we have remained consistent around the 40 to 45,000 movements. In their mind, that isn’t big enough to support a control tower.”

Duke says YXS was designated as a National Service Airport based on a business plan that was submitted to Transport Canada with the vision it would be a global logistics hub.

“That’s why the runway was extended and various levels of government and PGAA contributed $66 million to get that runway extended,” says Duke.

“The large aircraft operators are not going to schedule an airplane into an airport that doesn’t have a control tower.”

He says if Nav Canada decides to reduce service to YXS, the control tower would become a flight service station.

“In that case the tower is active but it just provides advice and does not control the airspace in any way,” says Duke. “It would be a shame after all the effort that has gone into building this airport to have it become stagnant because of this initiative.”

More BC News