30 January 2012

The modernization of Canada’s busiest airspace

by Patrick Gilligan, Vice President, Operations, Canadian Owners and Pilots Association

IFR pilots, get ready for major changes in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City corridor. On February 9th, the airway system in the corridor will change and several traditional airways will be removed from navigation charts.

Air navigation systems around the world are transitioning to a performance based navigation (PBN) system which allows for greater efficiencies for pilots and air traffic controllers. The new system is simpler to manage and allows for improved capacity and more efficient flight operations resulting in reduced fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution.

Nav Canada, in collaboration with customers and industry associations such as the NACC, COPA, ATAC and CBAA, has designed a brand new low level and high level RNAV (Area Navigation) route system, based on PBN, from Toronto to Quebec City. The introduction of the new route system necessitated revoking some of the conventional airways. To assess the impact of this change, Nav Canada conducted a sampling of flight plans to determine the impact on non-RNAV equipped aircraft in the area where airways are being revoked. A sample of 358,518 IFR flight plans from our 2011 traffic database, found only 536 filed by pilots of Canadian registered non-RNAV equipped aircraft. In other words, some 99.85% of the IFR flight sample was capable of RNAV navigation.

Pilots flying this corridor using non-RNAV equipped aircraft will still be able to use traditional ground based navigation aids. Some VOR airways have been retained in the corridor specifically for non-RNAV equipped aircraft. However, on any flight off airways, mileage, minimum altitude information and track will need to be calculated by pilots during the flight planning stage. Pilots can expect to receive traditional clearances via: VHF and LF airways, VOR to VOR, VOR radials and NDB bearings, or radar vectors.

Air traffic controllers are being trained for this major change and mitigation has been put in place to address issues related to non-RNAV capability. More detailed information on the changes can be found in the Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) 38/11 and 45/11.

Finally, a new website http://onboard-abord.ca/, provides an advance look at these changes. The website also contains other important information to help familiarize pilots with evolving air traffic management and flight planning procedures that are applicable to the air navigation system.

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