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Observing and communicatingBlaine Dumkee teaches skills crucial to airports in the North
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Dumkee is senior instructor of the observer communicator program at Aurora College in Fort Smith.
In that program, he trains people to operate Community Aerodrome Radio Stations (CARS) scattered throughout the North.
Dumkee said he would be surprised if there are five people whom he didn't help train currently working at CARS stations in the NWT and the Yukon.
The observer part of the program involves teaching students how to take weather observations.
"Every hour on the hour you go outside and basically take a snapshot of the weather," Dumkee said.
Students learn how to collect the information – including visibility, temperature, wind speed and direction, and precipitation – and feed the data into the Environment Canada and NavCanada websites.
Dumkee said students are trained that reporting quickly and accurately is vital because the data is available to pilots within a minute or two of filing it.
"With aviation weather, what happened two hours ago doesn't really matter," he said.
The weather information also goes to meet Canada's obligations to provide data to the World Meteorological Organization.
The second aspect of the college program is learning to communicate by radio with pilots.
"What the students are taught to do is provide a radio information service to pilots arriving and departing," Dumkee said, noting information is passed along pertaining to wind, air pressure, air traffic and ground traffic (vehicles on the runway), runway conditions, and weather conditions.
Dumkee said half of the course is practical application in which students learn to operate weather equipment and practise in radio simulation rooms.
People come from all over the NWT and the Yukon for training in Fort Smith.
In a normal year, 20-24 students take the course, which is offered in the fall, winter and spring.
Dumkee said the nine-week program has trained all of the approximately 45-50 people working as observer communicators in the 17 CARS in the NWT –Yellowknife, Norman Wells and Inuvik have NavCanada flight service specialists, not CARS – and the eight in the Yukon.
Until several years ago, he also helped train people to operate the 22 CARS in Nunavut, before a separate program was opened in Rankin Inlet by Nunavut Arctic College.
The Aurora College training program, which has two instructors, has existed since 1977.
Dumkee, 41, started as an instructor and then became senior instructor.
From Alberta, he came to Fort Smith 15 years ago and worked as a flight services specialist with NavCanada for four years before moving to the college.
"I was looking to get into the education side of it," he recalled.
Dumkee said he has taught students from all over the North, adding it is satisfying to see them complete the course.
"It's great to see that development in students," he said.
Plus, he said it is good to train Northerners for jobs in their home communities.
This past summer, Dumkee earned his pilot's licence in Alberta and has done some flying in a rented plane in that province.
However, he has not yet flown in the NWT and has yet to speak to one of his former students on the radio.
"That must put the ultimate trust into it," he said, adding he is looking into buying a plane to fly in the NWT.