Windsor

Windsor West MP pushing transport minister to save air traffic control at airport

NAV Canada, a private firm contracted by the federal government to provide air traffic control, has put Windsor on a list with five other smaller airports to see if air traffic controllers can be cut.

Brian Masse says he will have an online petition for residents to sign

Windsor West MP Brian Masse calls on federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau to protect air traffic contoller jobs at Windsor Airport. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Windsor West MP Brian Masse, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Rakesh Naidu and members of Windsor's aviation community on Tuesday morning called on the federal government to intervene and have Navigation Canada (NAV Canada) remove Windsor International Airport from a list of six airports being studied for possible removal of air traffic controllers.

"The Minister of Transportation, Marc Garneau, must provide a clear and definitive answer that the future of Windsor's Airport is secure and that air traffic control services will be maintained," said Masse.

Masse said he will have a petition to the federal government online that reads, "Remove NAV Canada's decision to consider closure, or reduction of services of the air traffic control tower at the Windsor Airport or explicitly express opposition to any decision or recommendation of this nature."

"The minister can simply intervene and he should do that," said Masse in a news conference in front of the airport terminal and control tower.

Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmiercyzk recently told CBC News that Garneau did not have the power to tell NAV Canada what to do, and that he and anyone else opposed to losing air traffic controllers here will have their say when NAV Canada consults with stakeholders.

But Masse said there should have been clear signals from the government to NAV Canada before this study, adding that he doesn't believe any of the other airports, including in Whitehorse and Regina, should lose air traffic control either.

NAV Canada is considering eliminating air traffic controllers from the control tower at Windsor Airport. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"So even if he says [Garneau] technically can't take them off the list at this point in time, he can still go out and publicly say that he's actually against closing the towers and he's not going to approve them," said Masse.

 "In fact, if NAV Canada actually does eventually recommend closure or reduction of services, the minister then has to do another study and the study then actually comes back again. So we're into the cycle of study after study after study when it is completely unnecessary," he said.

Dilkens also said Garneau can certainly have a conversation with NAV Canada officials.

The airport has seen a 300 per cent increase in traffic since 2009 and was serving 383,000 passengers in 2019. Dilkens said losing the air traffic controllers jeopardizes future growth and threatens the continuation of commercial air traffic the airport has now.

"Moving bodies out of a control tower causes issues for the future prosperity of Windsor airport. It will cut this success story off at the knees," said Dilkens, adding he has not heard back from Garneau, to whom he sent a letter asking that the air traffic controllers remain.

Commercial pilots also added their voices of concern for safety, considering the high volume of air traffic in and around Detroit.

Corporate pilot Dante Albano likened air traffic control to traffic lights, and when they go out the intersection turns into a four-way stop.

"In a busy air space like this with Detroit so close it gets kinda of crazy up there sometimes," said Albano.

Richard Bradwell, manager of the Windsor Flying Club, said loss of air traffic control is the "first step toward" to closing the airport entirely.

"Our business has been growing. We've been surviving through COVID. This is absolutely the last thing that we need is to see NAV Canada considering closing the tower and doing this sort of damage to our airport," said Bradwell.

Essex MP Chris Lewis has also issued a statement calling on Garneau to remove Windsor airport from the study.

Masse's petition is expected to go up on his Facebook page and website Wednesday afternoon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is a video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print. He has received a number of awards including an RTDNA regional TV news award and a New York Festivals honourable mention.

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