Rankin's Airport services under review

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Jan 28/98) - An official from the company that administers the country's weather and air navigation services at airports NAV Canada's national round of budget cuts won't have a large impact on the North.

"It's an essential service here in the North -- the dollars don't matter," said Don Henderson, acting manager for NAV Canada, during a visit to Rankin Inlet last week. "We have no cost-saving targets -- it's too early to tell," he added. Henderson admitted that NAV Canada, a private not-for-profit company that took over air traffic control services from the federal government in 1996, will reduce management costs across Canada by 30 per cent over the next two years. But he stressed it will have little impact on the NWT.

Company officials, including Henderson, will be travelling around the Arctic over the next couple of months to study how the air navigation system can be made more efficient in the region.

"It (the study) will improve service -- we are not for profit -- the profit supports the growth of the system or we reduce our rates (to airlines)," he said.

Henderson, who also visited Baker Lake last week, admitted, however, that it's too early to tell how any change in the air navigation system will effect the region, but said there will be no reduction in service for pilots who rely on the weather information NAV Canada provides.

One proposed change that has a good chance of becoming a reality is the replacement of flight service specialists with community aerodome radio station (CARS) operators, who are now in the smaller communities and contracted out by the GNWT.

Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake are the only two Keewatin communities with flight service specialists employed by NAV Canada.

Henderson said the specialists and CARS operators receive the same training to report weather conditions by NAV Canada. CARS operators, however, work in the less-active stations because they don't receive the same amount of training in other areas as do the specialists.

While he said it's too early to comment on proposed change, he did say there would be some differences.

"The majority of cases, I don't think there's going to be any change, but there will be some change," said Henderson.

A preliminary report will be made available in February that will outline the proposed changes to the system in the Keewatin. Communities will be given an opportunity to respond