North of Sixty

Kate Fletcher

Every region in Civil Aviation has its own distinctive aviation industry and culture. Prairie and Northern Region(PNR) is no different. Formed by amalgamating the former Western Region and Central Region barely 12years ago, PNR was primarily created to provide a single point of contact for departmental oversight of transportation in Canada's Prairies and Northern Territories. Since PNR is the only region in Canada to have routine interface with one of the remotest areas of the country, I thought I would take this opportunity to acquaint you with some facts and challenges facing the aviation industry and regulators as we cope with day-to-day activities in a very vast and unique environment.

The Canadian Arctic goes by many names. In Inuktitut, arctic means "the place where people find things," and Nunavut means "our land." In PNR, we prefer to say "North of Sixty"(Nof60), which refers to the border of the Northern Territories(60th parallel of latitude).

Interest in Canada's Arctic has reached unprecedented levels in recent years. Although the Arctic covers almost 40percent of Canada's geographic area (3.8Mkm2), it is home to a resident population of only 100000-less than the population of many Canadian cities. Interest in the Arctic stems from economic, cultural, and geopolitical perspectives. It has pristine wilderness, unique archipelagos, a large ecotourism industry, and an enormous burgeoning resource industry. It is hard to imagine that there are four operating diamond mines in the Arctic producing one-third of the world's top gem-quality diamonds and an additional five new mines under construction. Recent estimated oil and gas reserves in the Arctic rival those of the entire Middle East. It is no wonder that Arctic sovereignty, natural-resource exploration and development(gold, diamonds, oil, and gas), and construction of the Mackenzie Oil and Gas Pipeline have dominated our economic and media landscapes in recent years. But how does all of this relate to civil aviation?

Obviously, the economic growth has created a profound dependency on transportation, and aviation is front and centre in the "new" N-of-60 activities. Aviation has always been a way of life for Northerners because even today there are few roads linking communities N of 60; aviation still provides the only source of year-round access for the majority of communities and mine sites. Northerners today travel ten times more by air than the average Canadian. It is no wonder that PNR has seen corresponding explosion in the growth of aviation activity serving the North. There has always been a rich aviation history Nof60, and sagas of legendary bush pilots and aircraft are part of our aviation heritage. However, no longer are the Arctic skies quiet or just home to aircraft like the Beavers, Otters, and DC-3s. Today's northern aviation environment is vibrant, modern, and dynamic. The North has its own air transport association(Northern Air Transport Association-or NATA), 48 certified airports, and 73 aerodromes, 20 of which receive 737 operations. Did you know that there are two international airports Nof60 that receive regular passenger(non-stop direct) flights from Europe? With the new polar routings and the international cold-weather testing facilities in Iqaluit, it is not unusual to see an A380, B777, B767, or B747 gracing the aprons of some northern airports or a Mi-26 Russian helicopter(the world's largest helicopter) transporting or constructing drilling rigs in support of the Mackenzie Pipeline.

The North has 48 certified airports and 73 aerodromes, 20 of which receive 737 operations.

The North has 48 certified airports and 73 aerodromes,
20 of which receive 737 operations.

In six short years, PNR Civil Aviation has grown from six to seventeen 705 operators. All these operators provide north/south services; additionally, three operators provide 100+ passenger-aircraft service to the North(737-200, 300, 700). We have seen significant modernizations of aircraft fleets. Today's Northerner can now receive Learjet medivac services by a local operator based in Cambridge Bay, N.W.T.

Cold weather testing by airlines and aircraft manufacturers is a traditional aviation activity North of 60.

Cold weather testing by airlines and aircraft manufacturers
is a traditional aviation activity North of 60.

The Arctic environment is not a benign environment for aviation: weather, gravel operations, facilities, distances, alternates, etc, etc. It captures all of the future challenges identified in our strategic plan, Flight 2010(government agenda, growth, globalization, demographics, and risk management).

N of 60 is Civil Aviation PNR's most unique and exciting frontier, and we are proud to participate in its future and in its aviation systems.

Kate Fletcher
Regional Director, Civil Aviation
Prairie and Northern Region

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