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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications

Issue 11 - Evidence, October 17, 2012


OTTAWA, Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 6:45 p.m. to study emerging issues related to the Canadian airline industry. (topic: Focus on Northern and regional issues.)

Senator Dennis Dawson (Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, I call this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications to order.

[English]

This evening we are continuing our study on the Canadian airline industry. In the coming weeks, the committee will focus on northern and regional issues.

Appearing before us today is Mr. Stephen Nourse, Executive Director of the Northern Air Transportation Association.

Senators, we will have a short in camera meeting after the committee adjourns to talk about further proceedings.

Mr. Nourse, thank you for taking the time to talk to us; please proceed.

Stephen Nourse, Executive Director, Northern Air Transport Association: I thank the committee for the opportunity to address northern transportation issues. I would like to introduce the Northern Air Transport Association, or NATA for short, and tell you what it is and what it stands for.

NATA was formed 36 years ago by like-minded commercial air carriers operating north of the 60th parallel of latitude. Since then, we have grown to represent 37 commercial air carriers both above and below the 60th parallel, all of which have significant operations in the northern and more remote regions of Canada. We also have about 40 associate members who, although not air carriers, have interest in northern aviation.

Our carriers run the gamut from large scheduled jet carriers, such as First Air, Canadian North, Air North, Yukon's Airline, and Air Inuit, to small mom-and-pop operations and everything in-between. We have in our ranks a number of rotary wing operators as well. The common link between all of them is that they face similar challenges: operating either within or into the northern and remote regions of Canada; operating into remote airfields with limited weather, navigation aids, fuel and other infrastructure; having to deal with climatic extremes; and having to deal with processes and regulations designed for major international carriers and not necessarily appropriate for their operating environment.

Many of them are the sole lifeline into remote communities, a good number of which are Aboriginal. In many of these locations, our members provide the only year-round transportation. In some areas, they are the only transportation link, period. We are the local bus, the grocery truck and the ambulance. In these locations, aviation is not a luxury used for escaping to sunny climes or the purveyor of the high roller; it is quite simply a necessity.

As a note, the only provinces where we do not have representation are P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and that is for obvious reasons.

The North matters to Canada. It is becoming increasingly important in sovereignty, resource and other economic aspects. With limited roads, or in many cases no roads, these economic opportunities are highly dependent on a robust air transportation network.

What are the challenges facing northern air carriers? The obvious one that comes to mind is weather, but not necessarily for the reasons you are thinking of. Certainly, there is a lot of cold and blowing snow, but let us remember that this is Canada. We just have a bit more of it than most of you. Over the years, we have developed modifications, facilities and procedures to deal with it. The real problem is not enough of it or, rather, not enough information about it.

In some respects, there is almost less weather information available now than there used to be. Over the years, for budgetary reasons, Arctic weather stations have been shut down, upper air monitoring has been cut back, and many airports have only limited hours of CARS — Community Aerodrome Radio Station — operations. The situation is particularly noticeable at night and affects us in a number of ways. With limited data getting to the climatic modeling computers, especially at night, the overall forecast accuracy is degraded. There are problems getting weather information for emergency flights during the night. There are delays in morning scheduled departures and sometimes cancellations as we do not have enough information for them to produce a terminal forecast necessary for Instrument Flight Rules, IFR, departures. The situation is exasperated in the locations relying on manual observations by the CARS operators, most of which are very good but, in some locations, the level of service and reliability can be problematic.

What is the solution? We feel it is in the increased installations of Automated Weather Observation Systems, or AWOS, which provide 24-hour coverage. We are pleased that NAV CANADA in conjunction with the Government of Nunavut is expanding the AWOS coverage there, but there remains much of the Northwest Territories and Nunavik with poor coverage.

What is holding up the expansion of AWOS services? Simply put, money. Each installation can run somewhere between $500,000 to $1 million, depending on where it is physically going. The sad thing here is that when you talk to the various territorial health service providers, they say that they alone easily spend more than that in a year in increased costs due to missed and cancelled medical appointments, the problem, of course, being the age-old one of budgets coming out of different pots.

Another challenge is the lack of paved runways. In all three territories combined, there are only 10 paved runways: the three territorial capitals — Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit — plus another one in the Yukon, four in the Northwest Territories, and one in Nunavut. Similarly, in the Nunavik region of Quebec, only Kuujjuaq is paved.

Let us contrast that with the state of Alaska, which, despite having a far smaller geographical area, has 61 paved runways. The lack of paved runways means that northern operators are stuck with older aircraft. There has not been a new large commercial jet aircraft certified for landing on gravel for over 30 years. Older means a number of things: increased maintenance costs, lower customer appeal, higher fuel burn, and more greenhouse gas emissions.

Without more pavement in the North, service will eventually degrade. It will be impossible to keep the older jet aircraft financially viable forever, and routes will have to be downgraded to turboprops. Given the stage lengths in the North and the volumes moved, not only will this degrade service, but it will increase the cost of service.

While northern airports can boast about being some of the most scenic in the world, a good number of the northern strips are also short, 1,200 metres or less. They were perfectly fine when they were initially built and the design aircraft was the DC-3. However, in today's world, this significantly limits the availability of newer aircraft types that can properly serve these airports, particularly post-December 21, 2010, when new performance regulations took effect regarding scheduled services. Most of the new-generation aircraft suitable for smaller markets need 1,520 metres as a minimum standard.

To further exacerbate this problem, we have proposed legislation that has the potential to limit or even reduce the available runway length in many northern airports as a means of accommodating Runway End Safety Area, or RESA, requirements. This is by no means just an issue in the three territories. Airports in northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Labrador are all in this very same situation. One has to keep in mind that many of these strips have physical barriers to extension, and the cost of construction in many instances is an order of magnitude higher than in the south, as equipment and resources must be brought in to do the work. You may remember my earlier statement about no year-round access other than air.

Other airport infrastructure-related challenges faced at many northern airports are restrictions due to unavailability of fuel in the communities; vandalism, not only to the airport infrastructure but to the aircraft parked overnight in the communities, which has both a cost and a safety concern; lack of adequate lighting; and lack of sufficient Internet bandwidth for proper communications.

A big part of the issue is that, if you add up the combined populations of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, you come up with just under 112,000 souls, or roughly the size of a mid-sized city such as Kingston, Ontario. The reality is that for this small a population, there simply is not the tax base for large infrastructure projects. Federal contribution is absolutely necessary. If the government is truly committed to the Arctic and its sovereignty, as they state, then they have to pony up to the bar.

The territories have done a commendable job in maintaining the airports transferred to them. They simply lack the access to capital under the existing programs to improve them.

The regulatory burden on all air carriers continues to increase. Mind you, not all of it comes from Transport Canada or other federal departments. The provinces, territories and local municipalities all contribute to the load. Sometimes you wonder how a small business can ever make it all work.

What is particularly vexing to northern operators is the one-size-fits-all approach to regulation. Well-intended regulations that make perfect sense in the southern situation can be unworkable or, even worse, disastrous financially in the North.

It is not that we are advocating a different level of safety in the North; not at all. What we are asking for is that any regulations make sense, given the specific challenges we have in regard to climate, geography, population and infrastructure. Proposed regulations need to make sense on a cost-benefit basis for the North, when appropriately analyzed for the North, separately from being lumped in as part of a cost benefit based on the national average, which, of course, is dominated by large southern airports and carriers.

Examples of this are RESA, which we previously touched on, and the current review on flight and duty times that seeks to impose stringent, large, international airline-style constraints on small operations, threatening the very viability of many medevac, firefighting, seasonal operations, business operations and other specialty operations.

Another concern is SMS, or Safety Management Systems; not about having them, as they do work, and northern carriers currently, subject to their requirements, have embraced them completely and are seeing the results in both safety and efficiency improvements. The issue is, rather, that Transport Canada, having mandated them, seems completely reluctant to accept the output from them and provide relief or change anything based on feedback resulting from them, despite the fact that it is coming from the carriers to them using Transport Canada's own defined and mandated processes.

Perhaps nothing has done so much to transform the North as space-based systems. Satellite systems have brought modern telephone, Internet, television and enhanced search and rescue locating, all of which have benefited air carriers, but perhaps none quite so much as GPS navigation. This has dramatically changed things, bringing precision navigation to an area that previously had only limited ground-based navigation aids and faced the further complication of being in the area of compass unreliability.

GPS navigation and WASS/RNAV navigation capability bring better, more cost-effective approaches to runways, but only once the course is designed and verified. Bureaucratic delays in approving both approved approach design criteria, and the actual approaches themselves, are costing industry thousands of dollars in fuel and have resulted in degraded customer service. Most GPS approaches in the North are still simply overlays of old circling approaches and bring none of the real improvements that the technology is capable of. The carriers have to a large extent upgraded their aircraft capability and are ready to use it but are still waiting for the approaches to be redone.

For some time, there have been various predictions of looming labour shortages in the pilot and aircraft maintenance professions. It always seems that just as they are about to become true, some event — such as an air carrier failure or a global recession — comes along and saves the day. However, we have real concerns that it is starting to happen now and it is about to get worse for northern carriers. Things have been tight but okay for the last while, but things are also picking up. Air Canada has recently announced a major hiring program for its new low-cost operation, and WestJet is starting up its turpoprop feeder operation.

This will stress the northern carriers, as they are usually a prime labour source when expansion of this nature takes place. At the same time, the military is hanging on to its people longer, and interest in getting into aviation as a career seems to be at an all-time low. The supply of new maintenance technicians, in particular, is in trouble due to increased competition from other technical trades and biases, like the Aircraft Maintenance Engineer program not being eligible for federal apprenticeship programs and tax breaks due to jurisdictional issues.

Finally, I would like to quickly touch on the economic importance of the northern-based carriers to the local communities. Not only does an air carrier provide essential service to a community, but when an air carrier bases its operations in the North, a significant amount of that money stays in the North, providing well-paid jobs and otherwise contributing to the local economy. NATA carriers provide almost 2,000 jobs in the North, with an estimated northern payroll of $80 million and pay almost $1.2 million in northern taxes, not to mention spinoff jobs, contracts and other economic benefits.

Contrast this with the southern-based carriers, such as Air Canada or WestJet. When they come into the North it is to cherry-pick on the routes that actually make some money but with virtually no payroll or investment left behind. Systemic issues also make it difficult for northern carriers to effectively compete on these routes with large, southern- based carriers due to the lack of a level playing field. Air Canada and WestJet have used their dominant positions with the large southern airports to establish cost structures in areas such as de-icing and other services to their significant advantage.

Although providing competition and temporarily lowering prices on these particular routes, it has the overall effect of driving up prices on the service to the smaller communities so dependent on air travel.

In short, northern carriers are not looking for handouts but, rather, give us the necessary tools and environment to prosper: good infrastructure, a level playing field and appropriately crafted regulations.

That concludes my brief look at NATA, the carriers we represent.

Senator Stratton: Is there anything positive happening?

Mr. Nourse: Absolutely.

The Chair: I will have to discipline the senior senator at the table and say if you have questions, you can address the chair.

That being said, Mr. Nourse, as I mentioned before when we met, there is, as you know, a lot of sympathy for this cause around the table. The committee has travelled north and has realized much of what you mentioned to us. Now that we have it on the record, it will make our work that much easier.

I would like to start by introducing the members. Senator Zimmer from Manitoba; Senator Jaffer from B.C., Senator Verner from the province of Quebec; Senator Merchant from Saskatchewan; Senator MacDonald from the province of Cape Breton — when I say Nova Scotia he does not appreciate it. Senator Greene from Nova Scotia; Senator Doyle from Newfoundland and Labrador; Senator Stratton from Manitoba; Senator Unger from Edmonton; and Senator Boisvenu from the province of Quebec.

I will start with Senator Boisvenu.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Mr. Nourse, thank you for joining us and congratulations on your presentation. I think you mentioned that Alaska has about sixty airports, all paved.

[English]

Mr. Nourse: Alaska, as a contrast to the territories, has less than half of the geographical area but 61 paved runways.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: How long have you been in the aviation business?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: I have been with the Northern Air Transport Association for three years. Prior to that, I was 30 years with First Air which, as I believe most people here know, is a carrier that specializes in the North.

Senator Boisvenu: You know a lot about the North.

Mr. Nourse: I hesitate to say "a lot." I have been in the North a lot and like to think I have a good idea of what I am talking about.

Senator Boisvenu: I am sympathetic because I lived in the north of Quebec for 38 years

[Translation]

In all that time, have you had discussions with your colleagues in Alaska?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: Yes.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: We understand that it is an American strategy, but what is the overall aviation development strategy in the state?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: They are very supportive of aviation in Alaska. The airport funding, by and large, is federally provided. It is quite a different system for both AIFs — airport improvement funds — and funding in the States, but Alaska is quite subsidized that way. There are a considerable number of regulations that have exemptions for specific clauses to them to cater to the Alaskan situations.

Alaska also has — I cannot remember, unfortunately, the exact name of the program — essentially a subsidy program for airfares. A lot of the locations within Alaska have reduced fares and subsidies to the carriers to provide the service, which is not necessarily a model that we are advocating.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Even so, in Alaska, the Americans have chosen a development model for the aviation industry that is different from the states in the south, whereas we do not seem to make a significant distinction between the north and the south in terms of our regulations, do we?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: There have been, in the past, some regulations in Canada that had a north-of-60 component to them: either a let or a special consideration given.

There are a couple of problems with that, first and foremost being the northern situation in Canada does not follow a nice, neat geographic line across the North. It actually probably is closer to what happens with the treeline, if anything. However, you cannot tell me that God's Lake Narrows, Manitoba, is any more or less remote than places in the territories. The Nunavik region of northern Quebec has no roads. The road stops at 55 north. They are just as remote, and God help the Labrador coast.

When a regulation just has a "North of 60" aspect to it, it is missing a significant amount of remote Canada in terms of allowing for it.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: From the descriptions of all the people who have come to tell us about the issues in the north, the situation seems alarming to me, not to say catastrophic, in terms of the quality of the equipment, the maintenance, the management, and so on. And most of the time, contracts are actually given to municipalities that unfortunately do not have the budgets they need to keep the equipment up to date.

This seems to have been going on for years. What steps has your association, and others who are concerned about aviation in the north, taken with various governments, Liberal or Conservative? What action have you taken to make the government aware of this situation, which is nothing short of depressing?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: In the past, we were primarily dialoguing with the provincial and territorial governments. For the last number of years, they have ended up being the primary operators of the airports. When the airports were devolved years ago, first the Arctic A's and B's and the smaller airports in various other regions, a lot of them became provincially or territorially operated.

As I indicated before, I think most governments have done a commendable job in maintaining those assets. The problem is that is all they financially are capable of doing, maintaining them, keeping them going well. The surfaces are good; they are able to replace and upgrade lighting and everything. However, in terms of significant improvements to length of runway or pavement or graded areas, these types of things, it is huge dollars in the North.

It is not like you can do in the South where you say, "Okay, we are going to add some length to the end of the runway," and you call up the local supplier and the gravel trucks start rolling and away you go. Just putting a new gravel surface on a runway up there is a three-year operation. It takes a year to move the equipment in over ice roads or barges. It takes another construction season to do the crushing and get the gravel on, and then it is another year to move that equipment out.

When you look at the actual amount that equipment has done and the fact that it has to be paid for, it affects the price. As I said, it is easily an order of magnitude higher. That is why it is such a problem with things like RESA. Adding 500 feet onto the end of the runway, when that runway is a muskeg bog and it is a three-year program and you have to bring in gravel, is a big problem. As I say, it is not just call up the Karsons down the road and say, "Bring it on in."

Going back to your question, we have actually in the last year or two taken our message more to the federal government in forums like this. Traditionally, our involvement with Ottawa was on the Transport Canada regulatory side. Still very important, but in order to deal with the issues we have today and to assist the territorial and Nunavik and other governments in getting some funding to grapple with these basic infrastructure issues, we have to become more active in this type of forum, and that is why you are seeing us hopefully more.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: The task of solving the problems in the north boggles the mind. Southern solutions are being used to address situations unique to the north.

Last week, another witness, also from your industry, appeared and talked about research in order to find solutions that can be used in the north. Often, that is what remote areas have done. We have used southern solutions to solve problems in the north. It is true that the costs are huge.

In your opinion, is enough research being done into management and into every kind of improvement for northern aviation, so that northern solutions can be found, economic solutions that would mean that you did not have to face these insurmountable challenges?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: I would have to say no. One of the areas that I did not even get into is climate change. That is bringing a whole host of other issues, again somewhat on the airline side but actually more on the airport and infrastructure side. As the Arctic warms and permafrost becomes destabilized, there is a great concern over some of the runways and their stability, as well as even some of the buildings and other infrastructure themselves.

Based on the science of the time, a lot of the buildings have been put on steel piles driven down into the permafrost. There is considerable concern that with things warming, these piles may actually be conducting heat down and the stability of the buildings will be in question, certainly at some of the coastal airports. Most airports in the Arctic are very close to the water and are not significantly above sea level. If there is any significant rise, they will be in trouble. There are already issues with places like Tuktoyaktuk, where with the ice gone, there is more wave action, more erosion on the edges of the sides of the runway and stability issues as well.

Climate change is going to bring a whole host of issues that I do not think we even properly understand yet. Whether or not there is enough research to deal with them, I doubt it at this time.

Senator Merchant: When you compare things with Alaska — I like when we compare things with Southern and Northern Canada because we understand it a little better. What is the population of Alaska as compared to —

Mr. Nourse: Compared to the three territories, it is about seven times the population. It is about 700,000 or 710,000, somewhere in there. It obviously has a significantly larger economy as well.

Senator Merchant: Perhaps for the Americans a more strategic location over time, too.

Mr. Nourse: Oh, yes.

Senator Merchant: For all these reasons.

The Chair: We can see Russia from there.

Mr. Nourse: Let us be honest; I would expect that some of that pavement and infrastructure is a relic of either World War II or the Cold War, yes.

Senator Merchant: When you have problems with aircraft up North — I know that even in places like Regina, if there is something wrong with the plane, there are no flights going out because they do not service the planes in Regina. They have to bring in another aircraft in order to accommodate passengers. What could you do up North if something like that happened?

Mr. Nourse: The major locations — Kuujjuaq, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Yellowknife and Whitehorse — all have facilities for the full maintenance of the aircraft and full staff. However, once you move out into the communities, yes, you are in that situation. If there is an issue there, it is send a rescue mission and bring in another bird, yes.

Senator Merchant: To maintain these facilities in small centres is also expensive. I imagine that is why Air Canada likes to service all their planes in one —

Mr. Nourse: Absolutely. To serve the communities, you have to base the aircraft there, and that requires both the infrastructure and the investment in it to do so properly.

Senator Merchant: Does that make air travel more expensive? The air carriers or whoever is maintaining these facilities, they pass that expense on to whom? The traveller?

Mr. Nourse: At the end of the day, let us be honest; there is only one pocket, and that is the person either paying the freight or buying the ticket. It all comes down to that. How you distribute that changes slightly, but at the end of the day, that is the only person paying.

Senator Merchant: Fuel, you said, is more expensive, or someone else might have said that.

Mr. Nourse: It depends on your locations. In some of the coastal communities, fuel is not as expensive as you might think, because it is brought in by ship, pumped directly into a tank, and in Iqaluit it is pumped directly to the airport seamlessly. Other communities where it is relying on barging down the Mackenzie, it is very expensive. That service is quite costly.

Senator Merchant: You spoke about your fear of shortage of pilots, and perhaps even attendants and maintenance.

Mr. Nourse: That is correct.

Senator Merchant: Do you pay more to pilots? Is there a northern component to their remuneration?

Mr. Nourse: Absolutely, yes. Pilots with major companies such as Canadian North, First Air, are making the equivalent, if not better, than Air Canada.

Senator Merchant: Even so, would they still move away?

Mr. Nourse: What you have to understand is people come to the North for a variety of reasons. In the pilot and maintenance world, quite often it is to gain experience because everyone is looking to gain the experience to further their career. People come north and they either absolutely love it and would never want to live anywhere else or be anywhere else, or it is simply a stepping stone to that right seat out of Air Canada. Unfortunately, for many of them, it is just that; it is a stepping stone.

We become their training ground — Air Inuit. If you go to Air Transat, for example, you will find that probably 60 per cent or more of the pilots from Air Transat came from Air Inuit. We may as well hang the sign up that we train for them, because that is the reality.

The Chair: We made a comparison with the South. We have heard this here and you made the comparison with the West, with Alaska. Are there comparatives with Greenland or other Nordic states? Have you or associations made the comparison with how they deal with those issues?

Mr. Nourse: Greenland has a heavily subsidized program. For years, they actually went with a government-run program. For many years, Greenland Air was operated by the Greenland government and, because of the very same infrastructure issues, they actually operated large helicopters into many of the communities. You can imagine what that cost. They then got to the point where they simply could not afford that any longer, so they built STOL strips, short takeoff and landing strips, and moved to the Twin Otter aircraft in many locations and, in some cases, the Dash 7. Greenland Air was one of the early adopters of the De Havilland Dash 7 and used it on a number of their routes. Over the years they have continued to expand.

Virtually all the strips in Greenland are paved. Some of them are still short, but with the exception of places like Station Nord at the very top of Greenland, the vast majority of them are paved strips that are provided by the government. I do not believe Greenland Air is any longer a completely government entity. There is a private component, but it still receives considerable subsidy.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: My next question is very down to earth. Why are we shortening runways in the north?

[English]

Why are we making the runways shorter?

Mr. Nourse: Part of it deals with terrain and part of it deals with history. A lot of the strips, as I mentioned, were built for the DC 3 and date back to the days of the DEW Line and the Mid-Canada Line and the Cold War. As such, they were perfectly fine. However, a lot of it is geographic constraint. If you go into Pangnirtung, one of the shorter strips, the strip runs right through the middle of town and has water at both ends. Broughton Island is, again, very constrained. I believe Grise Fiord is the most northerly settled point in Nunavut, not counting Alert. The only thing that can really get in there is a short takeoff and landing Twin Otter because there is water at one end and a mountain at the other. There are a lot of these geographic constraints that exist.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Does shortening them have anything to do with environmental concerns or standards?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: What are you referring to here? I just want to make sure I am answering the question correctly. Are you referring to the runway and safety area program or just the fact that they are short?

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: I am trying to understand. Normally, runways are lengthened because a type of aircraft needs more space in order to land. But we are being told that, in the north, they are being shortened. I understand that steel contracts in the cold. But I am trying to understand why runways are contracting too. I imagine that would add one more constraint, would it not?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: Where the runways can be reasonably economically extended, the territorial governments have been doing that. In the west, they recently lengthened a few strips. Again, it is hideously expensive, and in some other locations it is simply extremely expensive to do and no one has yet come up with a cost-effective way of doing that.

Like every other government, there are many pulls on the purse and sometimes airports are not viewed as the highest priority.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: As I did in the previous committee, I am going to make you put on a senator's hat. If you had to write a report, what would be your top two recommendations that a federal government, one committed to the development of the aviation industry in the north, should work on?

[English]

Mr. Nourse: Certainly the airports.

Senator Boisvenu: As infrastructure?

Mr. Nourse: By "the airports" I am referring to the entire airports package. In some locations there are significant terminal issues. A lot of them have length issues and graded area issues. As I mentioned, some have GPS approach issues. Improving the airports' infrastructure will enable the carriers to provide the better service. It will allow us to use the best and most appropriate aircraft. When you use that best, most appropriate aircraft, you are using the cheapest per unit. You are delivering your lowest cost per passenger, or your lowest cost of pound of freight moving in there, when you can use the right aircraft.

Senator Boisvenu: The impact is very large; is that what you are saying?

Mr. Nourse: The impact is very large, yes. There must be paved runways or more paved runways. For example, for a lot of the carriers up there now, the staple aircraft in many locations is the B737-200. We are talking about an aircraft that dates back to 1972 in some base cases, but it can land on gravel. You cannot do that with a newer generation 737.

The carriers desperately want to move into it. If you take a look at Air North, they are buying B737-400s and 500s and using them on the route to Vancouver and Edmonton and any place else they can fly them because they are far more cost-effective. However, when they go north, they have to take the old bird.

Senator Boisvenu: That was the first priority. What is your second priority?

Mr. Nourse: My second priority would be the weather and navigation, which are all part of the NAV CANADA world in terms of improving them.

The Chair: I would like to thank you for your presentation. I am sure that you will have the occasion to see a lot of your comments in our report.

I would like the members to stay around, because we will have a short in camera meeting. We will give the people here two minutes to turn off the system.

I will remind you that the chair will be leading a delegation of parliamentarians at an Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Quebec next week, so travelling will be limited. The deputy chair will be on the committee. Therefore, we will not be sitting next Tuesday and Wednesday, but we will be squeezing the witnesses scheduled for that week into the following week so that we will not be delaying our meetings more than we have to.

Thank you very much, Mr. Nourse, for your presentation. If you have any additional comments, always feel free to communicate with the clerk and we will add them into your presentation.

Mr. Nourse: Thank you. I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity. The clerk has my contact information. If anyone wishes any information on specifics, I would be more than happy to accommodate.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

(The committee continued in camera.)