ALPA Tackles Operational Challenges at Remote Airports

Several hundred Canadian and U.S. ALPA members, representatives of government agencies, airline and airport managements, international aviation safety organizations, and labor unions, as well as members of Parliament and representatives from Canada’s Department of National Defense and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, attended ALPA’s Operations at Remote Airports Conference yesterday in Ottawa and via live webcast. The conference focused on the challenges and opportunities related to operating at remote airports, especially in the Canadian arctic.

During the one-day conference, panelists and attendees discussed safety and related issues that arise when conducting air carrier operations at remote airport locations. “We are all privileged to be in the airline industry at a time when it is the safest form of transportation in history. This is an enviable standard, and one which we must be vigilant to continue as the operating environment continues to change and grow,” Capt. Peter Black (First Air), chairman of the ALPA President’s Committee for Remote Operations (PCRO), said in describing the charge of his committee.

Capt. Sean Cassidy (Alaska), ALPA first vice president and ALPA national safety coordinator; Capt. Dan Adamus (Jazz), president of the ALPA Canada Board; and Capt. Black welcomed attendees to the Operations at Remote Airports Conference.

“All of you present today are the critical stakeholders, and through collaboration and cooperation we gain strength, network important relationships, and understand the value of facing those unique challenges ahead, together,” said Capt. Cassidy.

Distinguished panelists included Sen. Dennis Dawson; Martin Eley, director general for Civil Aviation, Transport Canada; John Allen, FAA director of Flight Standards Service; and Daniel Auger, assistant deputy minister, Government of the Northwest Territories.

Four panels covered a broad sweep of issues, including the need for better infrastructure, communication services, weather information, and precision approaches at these airports. Economic issues affecting resource availability for these improvements were described and debated. Panelists also detailed the importance of these issues to international overflights, especially ETOPS flights, as well as to Canadian airlines serving these remote communities.

In closing the conference, Capt. Adamus said,

“Throughout the conference today our panelists have shown they have maintained a high level of safety with very limited resources. We have seen the need for improved and longer runways, better approaches, and better weather reporting, too. We have heard of many communities who rely exclusively on aviation for 100 percent of their access to the rest of their country. Part of our charge in moving forward is continuing to work together to improve the infrastructure that is required to safely meet the growth of flight operations and services to remote areas. To do so, we must find the necessary funding.”