O Canada! Where the skies are vast, the charges are fair and the Admin is sane…

16 November 2013 / by Brian Mackie / Consultation, Costs, Employment, Governance, Opinion, Overview, Safety
How the Canadians view GA and what it can afford

How the Canadians view GA and what it can afford

Today, NAV CANADA – the Canadian equivalent of our Airways – published its 2013 Customer Guide to Charges, and GAA is quietly proud to be the first website in the world outside Canada to reveal some of the contents.

They will come as an unpleasant surprise to Kiwi general aviators, still hurting from Airways’ heavy increases earlier this year. We also hope that they will annoy those at Airways who were responsible for GA cost increases in our country. In the opinion of many, these people damaged general aviation in New Zealand and harmed our economy.

Canada appears to treat its general aviators with greater respect, particularly in the Wallet Department. This is not surprising, given that in North America, GA is recognised as an essential part of travel, communications and the prosperity of a nation – rather than a pastime enjoyed by the “privileged” affluent, to be screwed to death by myopic, ground-bound pen-pushers.

NAV CANADA operates under a very similar commercial philosophy to Airways in New Zealand. Like us, its services were once entirely State-controlled. It is now a non-share capital, private corporation. Its charging regime differs from the State-Owned-Enterprise Airways Corporation in a number of significant respects.

Here are a couple of extracts from the NAV CANADA Charging Principles:

♦ charges must not be structured in such a way that a user would be encouraged to engage in practices that diminish safety for the purpose of avoiding a charge

♦ charges in respect of recreational and private aircraft must not be unreasonable or undue

That sounds like an Airways or NZ CAA mission statement, but let’s take a look at how NAV CANADA differs from Airways and our CAA.

In New Zealand, low-level aviators must pay MetFlight more than $100 a year to access weather information that is vital to GA safety. It follows that some will choose to save money and thereby reduce the overall level of GA safety by not subscribing.

In Canada, there are no charges for aviation weather forecasts. They are covered in an annual fee paid per aircraft to NAV CANADA, which has an Aviation Weather Website, open to the general public to view without charge.

(On November 14, the Canadians began to provide free SIGMET information that meets ICAO requirements but also meets the needs of of local aviators. It is called parallel forecasts and their idea, which helps domestic aviators, was ignored by the four people who oversee NZ CAA meteorology policy. The result will be seen in your next SIGMET on Metflight.)

The NAV CANADA charge starts at C$68 (or NZ$78) a year for aircraft with a MTOW of 617kg and above.

Microlights are exempt, for reasons obvious to everyone except Airways in New Zealand and our CAA.

Remember, the annual fee is for what we in New Zealand understand as Airways services – with the exception of weather forecasts, which NAV CANADA includes as part of its package.

Now compare Canadian “Airways” annual fee for its services to light aircraft with the New Zealand CAA’s “participation fee” of more than NZ$100 which, according to the CAA website, offers you:

Safety investigation and analysis

Industry-wide accident and incident trends are developed. These trends steer the CAA’s safety initiatives.

Safety education and information

The safety and information publication, Vector, is provided free to aviation community participants, as are booklets, posters, safety videos, seminars and the CAA web site.
Four Aviation Safety Advisers provide face-to-face contact, advice and information.

Random surveillance and spot checks

This safety service is carried out as required.


Occasionally enforcement action is required to ensure safety compliance.

Other information and advice

The Annual Registration Fee and Participation Levy is charged in accordance with the schedule of the Civil Aviation (Safety) Levies Order 2012 and the Civil Aviation Charges Regulations (No 2) 1991 Amendment Regulations 2012.

Ignore the fact that it is not possible to develop a trend (it does that all by itself, quite naturally). That sentence was obviously written by a highly paid oxymoron at the CAA.

Do you get the feeling that you are compelled to pay CAA enforcers for checking you out, perhaps helping to finance them to prosecute you, maybe print a heap of “free” advisory bumpf that a self-respecting pilot already knows, plus a glossy calendar that few people receive? Do you wonder how the CAA can charge you $100 and then say, without blinking, that Vector is free?

Did you note the statement of the legal justification for its levy? In other jurisdictions, it has been realised that quoting legal justifications for such a so-called service does not improve public relationships, or help build trust with the customers. It merely delivers a “Don’t mess with us” warning and supports the impression that this organisation and its personnel serve no useful purposes other than their own.

But overlook all that CAA bullshit for a moment. In Canada, many light aviators are today paying their equivalent of Airways an annual fee of about 78 bucks for services they can see, use and value, while in New Zealand, the State-owned Airways works on the principle of charging for everything that moves within its sphere of control, right down to $1 for a microlight transiting controlled airspace under VFR.

The Canadians also understand the concept of Exemptions and they implement it with a high degree of common sense. This includes, but is not limited to, for example:

♦ gliders, ultralights and balloons (except in certain cases involving large airports)

♦ all aircraft weighing less than 617 kg (except in certain cases involving large airports)

♦ aircraft or flights dedicated to search and rescue operated under the direction of police or the Department of National Defence

♦ test flights performed exclusively for:

• testing aircraft following overhauls, modifications, repairs and inspections for which a certificate of compliance is to be given; or

• enabling aircraft to qualify for the issue or renewal of a certificate of airworthiness

Now, note the Canadian approach to training flights in controlled airspace and compare it to that of Airways:

“For a flight operation performed exclusively for the purpose of training or testing of a person or persons (e.g., flight crew) to obtain, upgrade or renew a licence, including pilot proficiency checks, a charge is applied only on the first departure at each airport involved in the flight operation. However, training flights that transit from a main airport to a smaller airport because training flights are not allowed at the main airport are exempt from the TSC (terminal service charge) at the main airport.”

Unlike their counterparts in New Zealand, the Canadians know that circuit training does not constitute an additional component of risk or cost to their controllers (and they, unlike Airways, have not yet detected any additional level of workload that should be charged for).

It’s obvious that in Canada, administrators encourage flight training – preferring to avoid hitting the trainers with costs that just harm their ability to do business. They know that flight training is part of every progressive airport’s activity, not something to be discouraged by charges that drive operators and students away.

Note also, the absence of a $1 fee for “transit” through controlled airspace. This imposition by Airways in New Zealand makes no sense unless you understand that Airways has created a precedent for even higher charges. (Remember the introduction of GST at 10% which then subsequently increased to 12.5% and again escalated to 15%?) No one in their right mind would impose a $1 charge for a single item to recover actual costs, because the administrative costs far outweigh the income.

Unless it is part of a longer and larger agenda.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of NAV CANADA’s approach to user charges (apart from a liberal use of common sense and fairness) is how it made such great efforts to explain to customers the whole thing in plain English (and, of course, French).