Review by Nav Canada puts Windsor International Airport control tower at risk for shut down
Local officials are asking to have the control tower removed from the study
The Airport Control Tower at the Windsor International Airport is at risk of being shut down as part of a review by Nav Canada, the company that operates it.
The tower is staffed by Nav Canada employees, and will be under review by the company due to ongoing revenue impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
City officials plan to fight any plans to close the tower.
"Not being able to have Nav Canada controllers at YQG will really cut us off at the knees, it will have a detrimental impact. All the hard work we've done for more than a decade to turn this airport around and will actually be a disincentive, will be very difficult to attract new airlines to this airport if this happens," said Mayor Drew Dilkens in an interview with CBC News.
The shut down of the air traffic control tower would make the airport uncontrolled, something that some airlines avoid due to higher insurance premiums, according to Mark Galvin, CEO of Windsor International Airport.
He said the possible shutdown could also cause operational challenges, delays at the airport, and would mean pilots would have to navigate the airspace with more independence.
"They provide a vital service for us and we have a great relationship with Nav Can … So within that radius, you have three airports and it's very complicated airspace. And providing that service and having that tower as a control tower to marshal the aircrafts in and out is vital for us," said Galvin in an interview with CBC News.
Galvin said the surrounding airspace needs to be considered in the decision by Nav Canada as three major airports serve multiple regions with populations of up to five million, making for a complex airspace.
Windsor sticks out 'like sore thumb'
A total of six air traffic control towers including Windsor's will be subject to review, including facilities in Prince George, Whitehorse, Fort McMurray, Regina, and Sault Ste Marie. According to Galvin, Windsor is the largest on the list by 50 per cent.
"I would say if you look at Windsor on the list of airports that are being included in this study, we stand out like a sore thumb because of our geography and because of the complexity of the airspace in this area … and so that is concerning," said Dilkens.
Dilkens said he hopes Windsor can be removed from the study, adding that the airport experienced its most successful year in 2019 when it came to passenger volumes, which he said were up by 300 per cent since 2009.
In a statement to CBC News, Nav Canada said the studies will apply a safety-focused and Transport Canada-regulated process to assess the level of service required to provide safe and efficient operations for all airlines and aviation customers.
"Windsor will be the subject of aeronautical studies to assess whether the level of service offered should be air traffic control or airport advisory services. This site was identified as a result of long-term air traffic levels."
A spokesperson for the company said the studies will be launched in coming weeks, and the terms of reference for the study will be posted on the Nav Canada website.
Dilkens said he has sent a letter to Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, and local MPs expressing concern for the future of the control tower, in hopes the airport will be removed from the study.