Air traffic control towers in Windsor, other cities to stay open, NAV Canada says

·3 min read
Air traffic control towers in Windsor, other cities to stay open, NAV Canada says
The fates of the air traffic control towers at Windsor International Airport and other Canadian airports were the subject of a review from operator NAV Canada. (Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)
The fates of the air traffic control towers at Windsor International Airport and other Canadian airports were the subject of a review from operator NAV Canada. (Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)

NAV Canada says it won't close air traffic control towers at several airports across Canada, including at Windsor International Airport.

The private, non-profit company, which provides air traffic control and other services to Canadian airspace, made the announcement Thursday.

Windsor Airport CEO Mark Galvin said the news brought a lot of relief.

"This has been a very difficult time for us," Galvin said. "That was something we were waiting on pins and needles [for] ... receiving that letter it's a big sigh of relief."

The Windsor control tower currently employs 10 people.

Last fall, NAV Canada launched 29 aeronautical studies due to the pandemic, with the goal of safely streamlining operations.

"After considerable consultation with airlines, airports, industry associations, local officials and internal stakeholders, NAV Canada has elected to limit changes to services across the country," it said in a release.

Air traffic control service will remain in communities including:

  • Fort McMuray, Alta.

  • Prince George, B.C.

  • Regina.

  • St-Jean, Que.

  • Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

  • Whitehorse.

NAV Canada's initial announcement it was reviewing operations was swiftly met with opposition from local politicians and leadership at the Windsor airport, with safety among the concerns raised.

"Our community rallied together, came together and with one voice basically said look we think you're on the wrong path, this is going to have a negative impact on our community, both from a public safety standpoint and economic standpoint nd I think they really just saw the light," said Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk.

The company said its aeronautical study is still ongoing, but it will consider other alternatives to streamlining operations, including changing hours of operation. Currently, Windsor's control tower operates from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

"However this study continues and will examine other items for efficiency," said Nav Canada spokesperson Rebecca Hickey.

This means that there could still be changes headed to the Windsor airport, she said.

"Basically the scope of the study has changed so we're no longer considering substituting the air traffic control with air advisory service," Hickey said.

Windsor International Airport CEO Mark Galvin says the news today was a 'sigh of relief' for the control tower.
Windsor International Airport CEO Mark Galvin says the news today was a 'sigh of relief' for the control tower. (CBC)

Earlier this year, Windsor West MP Brian Masse proposed a legislative fix to Bill C278, which would give the government power to save the air traffic controllers.

The current legislation prevented transport minister Omar Alghabra from intervening and taking Windsor off the Nav Canada study.

But Alghabra said the new legislation might politicize the process.

"I fear that with his proposal while it may seem in the short term that might be helpful to avoid any decisions that we want to avoid, I feel it's shortsighted and it might introduce partisan or political calculation into the operations of Nav Canada that is supposed to remain independent and has served Canadians well since its become independent," Alghabra told CBC News.

In 2019, YQG had its highest ever passenger volume year with more than 383,000 travellers. The airport has gone from losing money for the city to paying a dividend of $1 million in 2019.

Authorities were worried that the airport would decline without the controllers and Windsor's overall economy would suffer as well.