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Evidence of meeting #40 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was aircraft.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

John Crichton  President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Not in my riding, they're not.

9:40 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

As I indicated before the meeting, we'll certainly meet with you and look into that. But I can tell you that I'm familiar enough with what was done that this should not have any noise impacts on anybody. In fact, it should lessen the overall noise.

But we'll look at the individual situation in your riding, and let's see what's happened.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

The complaint seems to be that they're more frequent, not that they're in a different place. They were always there; they're just incredibly more frequent. They're all through the day now, as opposed to being on some kind of cycling around the runways. In order to avoid the use of the aircraft engine on the ground to get from the end of the farthest runway, they're putting them on runways nearer to the gates. That's what we think is happening, but it's very difficult to figure it out.

9:40 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

I don't believe that's much of a factor. I think it's more that the approaches into the Toronto area have changed, and that means aircraft will be seen in areas where they didn't used to be seen. It's not really the ground movements.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Is there a requirement by Nav Canada for a regulation dealing with wind turbines? We heard about that some time ago, that radar can't see through a wind turbine.

9:40 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

Wind turbines can cause primary radar to detect false targets or mask a target. We're quite concerned about it in those areas where it could impact our primary radars.

We have been trying to work with the wind farm proponents to mitigate that. As I understand it, there are not any federal regulations to prohibit these installations from interfering with aeronautics and, quite frankly, I wish there were.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

We got the same message earlier, so that's something we should be looking at.

In addition to noise over residences in Toronto, we also have parts of aircraft coming down over residences in Toronto. Last week, as you're probably aware, pieces of an Air Canada 777 fell down. Is that something Nav Canada worries about on a regular basis, or is this a...?

9:40 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

I think the incident involved an engine failure of an aircraft. Some of the internal parts of the engine got blown out the back.

Obviously Nav Canada played a role, when the pilot declared an emergency, to deal with it, but I think that's really more of an airline issue.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

That has to do with airline maintenance, I guess, in some ways, which they have now moved offshore.

You talked about horizontal separation. You didn't talk about vertical separation. My understanding is that with modern GPS-based height systems, it becomes extremely accurate. An aircraft at 5,000 feet off the ground is actually 5,000 feet, not 4,980 feet, as might it have been with an analog-based system.

Is that more dangerous, when it might be that two aircraft are together, particularly when the vertical separations are much, much smaller, as I understand it, than horizontal separations?

9:40 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

The vertical separation in en route airspace is 1,000 feet. That is not so much a GPS factor as it is advances in altimetry. The 1,000-foot separation has been in use now for probably a decade around the world, and I'm not aware of any incidents. When it comes to the safety standards that have to be met by the regulators that certify this, including Canada, the U.S., ICAO, and all the other countries, some pretty rigorous mathematics are applied to that. I'm not aware of any incidents involving it.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Richards.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate your being here today. It's always nice to have expertise like yours.

I'd like to get a better understanding of your operation, your fee structure and that type of thing. My understanding is that Nav Canada was created in 1995 or 1996, somewhere around there. The idea was to allow the air navigation system to operate in a more businesslike fashion and also to ensure the elimination of the dependency on taxpayer funding. That's basically the genesis of Nav Canada. Is that correct?

9:45 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

Yes, that's correct.

I would just add that the system was not performing very well at the time. It was falling behind in technology. There were a lot of delays. It was understaffed, and technology projects were failing. Not too many things were running right.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Just to help me understand this, there must have been a debate at the time about the model that was decided upon, the non-profit corporation type rather than an open competitive environment in how that might run—in other words, open competition for that service, opening it up to others to provide that service as well rather than just the single Nav Canada.

I'm just curious to know the debate around that, to know—if you can tell me—some of the pros and cons, the disadvantages and advantages, that were discussed around that time, and to know why it was decided to go with the model you are operating under at this time.

9:45 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

There were a number of different models looked at. There was broad consultation with all of the stakeholders in aviation.

Having an ordinary for-profit business corporation was looked at. The aviation industry itself was not in favour of that. It was more in favour of the non-share capital model because of the fact that ultimately any profits that would accrue in that model would come back to them. But you have to remember that this is a monopoly business; it's not feasible to look at this as a competitive business. You can't have competing air traffic control agencies where one is telling a pilot to turn left and the other is saying turn right. This is a natural monopoly business.

How do you deal with that and yet make it perform as if it had competitive pressures? We think ultimately that the non-share capital model and our governance structure, which sees our customers as having a big role—on our board, for instance—is working.

That's really the genesis of how we came here.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

No, I appreciate that. I just wanted to clarify it. I'm sure it's a question that people would ask. Obviously what you're saying makes complete sense.

To move on to the fees, the money you operate with is generated by fees from the traveller, in the end, essentially, those who fly and use the airlines. Is that correct? Perhaps you can tell me a little bit about how your fee structure works and where your operating money does come from.

9:45 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

Our charges are made to the owners and operators of aircraft. In the case of airlines, our charges are to them. The charges to the airlines are weight- and distance-related. The larger the weight of the aircraft and the farther it flies in the airspace we're looking after, then the greater the charge.

With respect to privately owned aircraft, general aviation aircraft, it's generally just a flat annual fee, much like you pay for a licence on your car. But it's not a big factor.

So in terms of formula, it's weight- and distance-related charges to the airline itself. Probably over 90% of the countries in the world use that same formula.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Can you give me an idea of a typical fee? I'll use an example, but if you can't give me a fee for that exact example and you have something else you can provide in terms of an example, that's fine.

The flight I most often take, obviously, is Calgary to Ottawa and Ottawa to Calgary. What would it be for a typical flight like that?

9:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

I'll stand corrected, because I do recall a Toronto-Winnipeg one using, say, an A320. Calgary-Ottawa would probably be twice that. For the Calgary-Ottawa, our charge to the airline probably would be around $2,000 or $2,400.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

So it's based on the traffic and the weight of the aircraft, etc.

As well—

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you, Mr. Richards. Sorry.

Monsieur Aubin.

May 31st, 2012 / 9:50 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to thank you for being here this morning and for your presentation. However, I need to say that I had questions every 30 seconds or so, since I'm far from being an aeronautics expert.

You started your presentation by saying that significant savings in fuel costs been made thanks to the appearance of these new technologies. Feel free to get me back on track if you see I'm straying. First you spoke about performance-based navigation. You didn't provide more details about the technology itself, and I would like to know if this is a technology that, among other things, makes it possible to change landings so that they happen in a continuous line, rather than by steps.

9:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

Yes, that's a big part of it.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Would this new airplane descent trajectory not be the main cause of the increased noise that the population is hearing? In the past, if the descent was done in steps, the lowest step, which was closest to residents, was probably done in a much shorter range than during a gradual descent. Is that right?

9:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nav Canada

John Crichton

No. With of PBN, you have to get into three-dimensional geometry of sorts. PBN allows aircraft to fly precise curves and arcs and to keep absolutely precise distances from each other, and to do this totally independent of anything on the ground, with no ground-based aid. It doesn't have to fly over a certain beacon at a certain physical location. They can now work in this beautiful choreographed area. The navigation is so precise. They can do all these smooth arcs. They no longer have to fly way out down there for ten miles, turn left, turn left again, line up with this beacon, and then come in. It all smoothly works in that way.

That's what people are noticing. They didn't used to see airplanes going around that way before. The airplanes had to fly these inefficient patterns and add miles and miles to the approach. Now they don't have to.

The point I was trying to make about the noise is that the aircraft are higher and they aren't causing a noise issue, in our view. Certainly where we've done this in other cities, and Vancouver was one example, we have literally put out noise-monitoring machines and proven that there's no noise. In fact, the noise is below the ambient noise level of the community.

So we'll see, but people do get emotional about this noise issue.