31 January 2013

Mascouche Airport - Background

Mascouche Airport is once again under threat of closure in 2013, as explained in the recent post about the petition to save it. I thought a history of the airport would be useful to understanding the larger issues.

Mascouche Airport was built on land that had been set aside for highway construction. The land was not required for the highway in the end and the provincial government agreed to deed it to the municipality on the provision that it be used for public purposes. This is why the airport is located at the junction of Autoroutes 25 and 640 today.

Both the provincial and municipal governments of that day were keen on the idea of building an airport to attract businesses and visitors to Mascouche, bring jobs and provide a general aviation reliever airport for the Montreal area.

The airport was built in 1983 using a total of $1,400,000 in Transport Canada funds under community airport assistance programs in place then. The deals included a 20 year stipulation that it remain an airport from the point of the final $400,000 TC investment in 1991.

Richard Marcotte, the mayor of Mascouche at that time announced in 2002 that he wanted to close the airport, even though it was home to many aircraft, flight training and aircraft maintenance businesses and provided 75 direct jobs to the community. The municipality indicated that it wished to sell the land to a private company, Automobiles Delac Inc, to turn it into a car dealership.

COPA at that time identified this as an indication of the failure of the National Airports Policy that allowed local communities to close airports that were part of a national transportation network, without any regard for users outside their municipality. The association wrote to then Transport Minister David Collenette at the time, but he took no action to protect small airports.

By 2008, with the 20 year clock still ticking, the airport had not been closed, but both COPA and the ABBQ noted that the municipality was spreading the rumour that it would soon close. The municipality was working hard not to promote it, too, even to the point of there being no mention of the municipal-owned facility on the municipal website. COPA also pointed out that the not-for-profit organization running the airport on behalf of the municipality had broken even or better every year.

In January 2010 COPA wrote to then Transport Minister John Baird reminding him of the 20 year commitment to keep the airport open and asking for his assistance to protect this important transportation infrastructure.

The minister responded six months later, saying:

In 1983 and 1991, Transport Canada provided funding to the City of Mascouche to assist with airport infrastructure upgrades. This funding, which totalled $1.4 million, was granted under a community airport assistance program. In accepting this funding, the City committed to operating, administering and maintaining the airport for a period of 20 years following the signing of both agreements, the latter of which will end on September 26, 2011. After that date, the City of Mascouche will have met its obligations, and Transport Canada will have no authority in the City’s decisions pertaining to the airport.

Appeals to the Quebec provincial Transport Ministry produced similar results.

By 2011 the municipality no longer wanted to turn the airport into a car dealership, but instead wanted to make it a housing development. The mayor indicated that it should be closed by July 2013, to avoid being an election issue in the fall 2013 municipal election.

As a result the municipality is currently engaged in a brief study of the value of the airport land for various uses and have indicated that they will consider retaining it as an airport if it can bring in as much revenue in taxes as other uses would. This criteria is a set-up to fail of course, because the airport is transportation infrastructure, like a highway or a sidewalk is. This narrow view fails to consider all the money that the airport brings into the community in terms of meals, hotel nights and other indirect revenue generated.

For its part the provincial government seems content with any use of the land as long as, if it is no longer public-use, that an equivalent parcel be set aside for public use, although not necessarily as an airport.

COPA wrote to Federal then Transport Minister Chuck Strahl, before the last federal election, asking him to review the National Airports Policy and he replied:

Local communities are the best placed to assess the importance of (airport) services and to seek support, starting locally, for their continuation.

Can Mascouche Airport be saved? It seems clear that the municipality wants it closed and has done so for ten years. Now that the financial and contractual obligations have been satisfied and the provincial and federal governments have walked away from protecting the airport there remains only public pressure to bring to bear on the municipality, which is why the APBQ has started a petition.

In the final assessment the municipality owns the airport and if they want to close it they can.

The story of Mascouche Airport is an example of the continuing failure of the National Airports Policy of 1994. The NAP continues to fail at preserving national transportation infrastructure, it continues to fail Canadians and it continues to be bad public policy, the embodiment of the complete opposite of "nation building".

Note: This article was written using COPA background documents from 2002-2013.

29 January 2013

Nav Canada Study of Ottawa TCA Airspace Consultation

Note: This post is a follow up to the earlier article: Nav Canada to Conduct Study of Ottawa TCA Airspace and Nav Canada Study of Ottawa TCA Airspace Underway.

COPA Flight 8 Captain Mike Shaw remains the contact person for Flight 8's input into this study, so please send your comments to him or post them here for discussion.

Review Of The Structure And Classification Of The Ottawa Terminal Control Area

Consultations - Aeronautical Study

by Yan Tremblay, Nav Canada

Nav Canada undertook an aeronautical study to review the structure and classification of the Ottawa terminal control area.

As the provider of civil air navigation services, NAV CANADA regularly reviews its services to ensure that they match the requirements of aircraft operators. A comprehensive study is forthcoming and will involve consultation with customers and other stakeholders. A hazard and risk analysis will be conducted on any and all proposed changes.

Consultation on this proposal will be conducted on the 27th of February 9:30 am to 14:30 pm at the Local 1217, head office; 77 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa.

Persons wishing to participate as stakeholders, wanting to obtain further information, or that are interested in commenting on this study are invited to reserve their place before the 22nd of February, by contacting the undersigned:

Yan Tremblay
Shift Manager
Montréal Area Control Centre
Nav Canada
1750 Chemin St Francois
Dorval, QC
H9P 2P6
Phone: (514) 633-3365
Fax: (514) 633-3371

28 January 2013

Billy Bishop Goes to War

Flight 8 just heard from former Ottawa Aviation Services Manager and CBC weather presenter Teri Loretto, who is also the Co-Artistic Director at Plosive Productions about the upcoming production of Billy Bishop Goes to War.

Teri explains:

Greetings Flying folks!

Plosive Productions and Ottawa's beautiful Gladstone theatre are preparing to open one of Canada's iconic pieces of theatre, Billy Bishop Goes to War by John Gray.

This show is an award winning two-man musical and features one of Ottawa's finest piano players, James Caswell on his grand piano. Billy Bishop is played by accomplished actor Chris Ralph, hot off his numerous theatrical successes including Noises Off and Speed-the-Plow at The Gladstone, and the smash hit The Game of Love and Chance at Odyssey Theatre last summer. I have the honour of directing this dynamic duo in what's sure to be a highlight of Ottawa's theatrical season.

This story of one of Canada's heroes follows his path from student to flying ace and tells the story through 18 characters in Bishop's life, all played by one actor. The number of 'kills' attributed to Billy Bishop was questioned at the time and continues to be a subject of debate today. What is not a question though, is Billy's ability to fly to the top of his field in an age of adventure and bravery in The Great War. In this play we laugh at the stuffy folk who tried to tame this bad boy of Canadian aviation, glory in his first solo, thrill at the aerial battles that earned him his numerous medals and share his shock as he looks at the horrors of trench warfare.

I can't tell you how great a show this is going to be, and with the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War coming up in 2014, it is important that we continue to tell the stories of the brave men and women who served in that conflict.

Any persons with limited mobility will appreciate that The Gladstone is fully accessible. There are no steps between the entrance and the front row of seats; we have an accessible washroom; two seats in the front row are designated as wheelchair spots. Our Box Office and Front of House staff will be pleased to assist in any way needed to help patrons to have a comfortable, accessible and enjoyable visit! And as a special treat for this show, the theatre is also hosting a mini-art show in our wheelchair-accessible lobby, curated by The Canadian War Museum and featuring some beautiful works of art from the period.

The show runs Feb. 8th to 23rd, Tuesday to Saturday evenings at 8PM, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3PM, with a preview at 8PM on Feburary 7. For more information about the show or the theatre, or to buy tickets, contact our Box Office at 613-233-GLAD (4523) or see the production's website.

Webmaster's Note

Any Flight members interested in ticket discounts, please drop Adam Hunt, Flight 8 webmaster, a note.

Cheshire Cat Burns

Early on the morning of 28 January 2013 the Ottawa Fire Department were called to fight a fire at the Cheshire Cat Pub and Restaurant and the corner of Carp Road and Richardson Side Road. Ottawa Fire Chief John deHooge described the fire as "stubborn".

Fire crews were on the scene early, but the lack of any fire hydrants nearby the very rural location, slowed fighting the blaze. At least 20 trucks, including tankers, with 50 firefighters attend the scene. The blaze was too hot to fight inside the building, forcing crews to work from the outside.

No one was in the building when the fire broke out and no injuries were reported.

The building was reportedly totally destroyed by the fire. The bell tower on the former rural school building collapsed after the fire had been burning for five hours.

The Cheshire Cat has been a favourite gathering spot for Carp Airport pilots over the years due to its close proximity to the airport and its status as the nearest and best place to eat in the area. Hopefully the pub owners will be able to rebuild their business, but it looks like Carp pilots will have to find a new pub for now!

(Official Ottawa Fire Dept Photo)

Media stories:

26 January 2013

APBQ Starts Petition to Keep Mascouche Airport Open

The Aviateurs et Pilotes de Brousse de Quebec (APBQ) (English: Quebec Bush Pilots Association) has started a petition to keep the Mascouche Airport open.

Their request for help says:

We ask for your signature on a petition for Mascouche Airport.

On January 21, the City Council adopted a resolution Mascouche to unilaterally close Mascouche Airport, without real alternative for entrepreneurs and airmen who are based there.

To this end, an online petition has been launched to support Mascouche Airport.

We kindly ask you to sign to bring your media to an airport that is in great need.

It is a small gesture that can free make a big difference in this fight that leads the APPAM since 2009 and which provides support APBQ.

Thank you in advance for your support

See also

17 January 2013

Enstrom Helicopter Corporation Is Purchased

Enstrom Helicopter Corporation has recently been purchased by the Chongqing Helicopter Investment Co of the People's Republic of China, adding to the long list of US-based aerospace companies to be bought out.

In some ways Enstrom is a bit of a different case as it hasn't been US-owned in a decade. It was founded by Rudy Enstrom in 1959, but he sold a controlling interest to Purex Industries in 1968. After that it had a long list of owners, including F. Lee Bailey who bought control in January 1971, but he sold out in 1979 to a string of owners that included Remington shaver "I bought the company" entrepreneur Victor Kiam and later Segway designer Dean Kamen. In 2000 it was sold to anonymous Swiss interests, moving ownership out of the US. It was those same anonymous Swiss who this week sold it to the Chinese company.

Enstrom has had some lean years though the recession, cutting helicopter production and laying off staff. In 2010 they only shipped six helicopters. Things seem to be looking up lately, though, as the company has been selling helicopters in Asia and is expanding both its workforce and looking to build more plant space at its Menominee, Michigan location.

At this point in its history Chinese capital and expertise in Asian markets is probably a good thing for the company and will help it grow further. Of course, as usual, North American investment was not forthcoming, a story seen very often in the aerospace industry in recent years. As a result Enstrom Helicopter Corporation gets added to my growing list:

  • Cirrus Aircraft - Government of the Peoples Republic of China
  • Continental Engines - Government of the Peoples Republic of China
  • Diamond Aircraft - majority owned by Medrar Financial Group, Dubai
  • Enstrom Helicopter Corporation - Chongqing Helicopter Investment Co, China
  • Epic Aircraft - Engineering LLC, Russia
  • Flightstar Sportplanes - rights, tooling and parts inventory purchased by Yuneec International, China
  • Glasair Aircraft - Jilin Hanxing Group, China
  • International Lease Finance Corp - 90% New China Trust Co Ltd, New China Life Insurance Co Ltd, P3 Investments Ltd and China Aviation Industrial Fund
  • Liberty Aerospace - 75% owned by the Kuwait Finance House, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kuwait Finance House of Bahrain
  • Piper Aircraft - Government of Brunei
  • Superior Air Parts - Weifang Tianxiang Technology Group, China

So I wonder who will be next?

Further reading

01 January 2013

Canadian Private Fleet Growth Slows In 2012

The Canadian private civil aircraft fleet continued to grow in 2012, but at a rate that was the lowest seen since 2003 and worse than at any time during the recession of 2008-10.

In 2008 the fleet grew at 3.2%, in 2009 by 2.2% reflecting the recession, in 2010 increased to 2.3% and in 2011 up to 2.5%. In 2012 it was down to just 1.96%.

The numbers seem to indicate that recession is still with us, especially with regard to aircraft sales. As in recent years the fact that the fleet has continued to grow and not shrink is probably due to the persistently high asking prices for used aircraft in Canada, as the US economy and its dollar remained weak through all of 2012. Aircraft asking prices in Canada should be lower than they are, with the Canadian dollar near par against the US dollar, but Canadian asking prices remained consistently higher than US prices this past year, encouraging cross-border aircraft shopping and driving up the overall number of aircraft registered in Canada. As I have noted before, the main problem remains that many of those for-sale-but-over-priced-aircraft are also not being flown much, so while the Canadian civil fleet grows in size, the amount of flying probably isn't increasing and may in fact be decreasing.

In 2012 the total Canadian civil fleet increased in size by 593, compared to 772 in 2011, 642 aircraft in 2010, 600 in 2009 and 803 aircraft in 2008. In 2012 the private segment of the fleet accounted for 92% of the growth seen, increasing by 544, while the commercial aircraft fleet increased by 56 aircraft, a substantial drop over 2011's commercial fleet increase of 94 aircraft. Apparently the economy isn't booming in commercial aviation either.

The state fleet, those aircraft owned by the various levels of government in Canada, continued to shrink this past year by seven aircraft, with the decrease made up of five helicopters and two airplanes.

Basic Ultralights

For the last number of years BULAs have been the second quickest growing area of private aviation, after certified aircraft, but in 2012 they moved into the number one spot, probably reflecting their low purchase and operating costs. In 2012 the category increased by 191 aircraft and accounted for 35% of the private fleet growth. There were 5,627 BULAs registered at the end of 2012.

Certified Aircraft

For the past few years, certified aircraft have been leading the growth in private aircraft numbers for Canada, but they lost that lead to basic ultralights in 2012. The comparatively low US dollar combined with high asking prices for aircraft in Canada makes US imports cheaper than buying domestically. The numbers increased in 2012 with 172 certified aircraft added, down from 2011's total of 228. In 2012 the new additions to the certified fleet were made up of 167 airplanes and 11 balloons, offset by the loss of five helicopters and one glider.

Certified aircraft accounted for 32% of the private fleet growth in 2012. There were 16,106 private certified aircraft at the end of 2012, out of a total of 28,271 private aircraft registered.


Amateur-built aircraft were in the number three slot again in 2012, increasing by 98, down from an increase of 137 in 2011. In 2012 the aircraft added were made up of 95 airplanes, six helicopters and two balloons, while the number of gyroplanes decreased by five. Amateur-builts made up 18% of the aircraft added to the private fleet in 2012.

Amateur builts now number 3,979 in Canada and include a wide variety of aircraft, from fixed wing airplanes, helicopters, gliders, gyroplanes to balloons, airships and even one ornithopter.

Owner Maintained

The O-M category added 37 aircraft in 2012, up from the 27 added in 2011 and moving it into fourth spot ahead of advanced ultralights. By the end of 2012, there were 583 O-M aircraft on the registry, made up of 571 airplanes and 12 gliders. O-M aircraft made up 7% of the aircraft added to the private fleet in 2012.

This category has suffered from low numbers of aircraft being moved from the certified category ever since the American FAA announced that O-M aircraft will never be allowed to fly in US airspace or sold in the USA. Overall this category seems to be sort of staggering along with minimal interest from owners.

Advanced Ultralights

Advanced Ultralights dropped to fifth place for growth in 2012, increasing their numbers by only 27 airplanes, compared to an increase of 28 in 2011, 39 in 2010 and 42 in 2009. Their growth in numbers in 2012 made up 5% of the private fleet increase and brought the total number of AULAs on the civil register to 1,176. By the category definition, all AULAs are powered fixed wing aircraft.

The AULA category was introduced in 1991 and therefore 2012 was its 21st year. The category has increased its numbers at an average of 56 aircraft per year and so can hardly be considered the success that was anticipated when it was started. As in the past four years, the number of AULAs added in 2012 was well below the average from its earlier years. This seems to indicate that the category is slowly dying out, a trend mostly likely linked to the high price of new AULAs and their American counter-parts, Light-Sport Aircraft.

Commercial Fleet

In 2012 the commercial aircraft fleet increased by 56 aircraft to bring it to 7,011. The numbers show an increase of 20 airplanes and 39 helicopters, offset by a decrease of three balloons. The biggest commercial fleet growth was in twin-engined aircraft, with 34 added, versus 23 singles and four four-engined aircraft. Two three-engined aircraft left the fleet, probably old Boeing 727s being retired.

In round numbers, at the end of 2012 the private fleet made up 80% of the aircraft in Canada, up from 79% last year, with the commercial fleet at 20% and the state fleet at 0.7%. As commercial aviation fails to grow over time private aviation is making up a greater proportion of the fleet.

Imports, Exports and Pilots

Aircraft imports into Canada in 2012 numbered 753, which was down from 861 in 2011 and compares to 774 in 2010 and 673 in 2009, but still well below the 968 imported during the pre-recession days of 2008. In 2012, 731 aircraft were exported, giving a difference of just 22 favouring imported aircraft over those exported.

Transport Canada seems to have stopped publishing pilot licencing statistics in 2011, so a new analysis of pilot population numbers will have to wait until TC makes those numbers available again. The most recent numbers available from 2008-11 show a loss of 2.2% of the pilot population over those three years, an average of 0.7% per year.

Looking at 2013

As 2013 commences, the usual large global economic factors are at play and that have the potential to negatively impact aviation in Canada. These include the risk of war in the Middle East with the likely disruption of world oil markets, as well as the ongoing US and European economic woes.

World oil prices ended 2012 at US$90.80 for North America (WTI) and US$110.62 for Europe (Brent). These were virtually unchanged from a year ago, showing the careful balance between poor economic conditions reducing oil demand and associated prices and economic recovery increasing demand and prices. Poor economic conditions result in less flying because people have less money, but with world oil production stagnant now for eight years economic growth increases demand for this limited resource and results in higher oil prices and the inevitable reduction in flying hours. Some aviation surveys done in 2012 point to high fuel prices being the largest factor in pilots flying less.

Note: Data for this report was taken from the Transport Canada Civil Aircraft Register and reflects the difference between the number of aircraft registered in Canada on 31 December 2011 and 31 December 2012. These statistics reflect the net number of aircraft built and imported, minus the number destroyed, scrapped and exported. Just because an aircraft is registered in Canada does not mean it is being flown and therefore the number of registered aircraft should not be confused with the amount of flying activity.