I am a big fan of NAFTA and Canada/US relations in general — free trade with the U.S. is the lifeblood of our economy — but sometimes the price is too high. President Bush is visiting Ottawa next week, and our government (which is usually quite calm and rational about security issues) is imposing American-style flight restrictions. Basically, if I don’t reposition my plane to an airport at least 60 km away from Ottawa, I will be grounded (along with hundreds of other non-military, non-commercial flights) for much of 30 November and 1 December. Here’s the NOTAM: [updated with COPA’s reaction]
040918 CZUL MONTREAL FIR PART 1 OF 2 CZUL DESIGNATED AIRSPACE HANDBOOK IS AMENDED AS FOLLOWS: 1) CYR537, PARLIAMENT HILL ON, REVISED TO READ: CLASS F RESTRICTED AIRSPACE IS ESTABLISHED WITHIN THE AREA BOUNDED BY A CIRCLE OF 12 NM RADIUS CENTRED ON 452529N 754159W, SFC TO 12,500 FT MSL. NO PERSON SHALL OPR AN ACFT EXCEPT FOR STATE ACFT, MIL, POLICE OPS, REGULARLY SKED COMMERCIAL PASSENGER AND CARGO CARRIERS, HUMANITARIAN OR EMERGENCY FLTS AUTH BY ATC. 0411301550/0412011300 2) CYR539, OTTAWA ON, CLASS F RESTRICTED AIRSPACE IS ESTABLISHED WITHIN THE AREA BOUNDED BY A CIRCLE OF 10NM RADIUS CENTRED ON 451921N 754009W (OTTAWA/MACDONALD-CARTIER INTL). SFC TO 12,500 FT MSL. NO PERSON SHALL OPR AN ACFT WITHIN THE AREA DESCRIBED UNLESS THE FLT HAS BEEN AUTH BY THE RCMP AT (613) 993-1430. 0411301500/0411301550 AND 0412011230/0412011315 3) CYR540, OTTAWA ON, CLASS F RESTRICTED AIRSPACE IS ESTABLISHED WITHIN THE AREA BOUNDED BY A CIRCLE OF 30NM RADIUS CENTRED ON 451921N 754009W (OTTAWA/MACDONALD-CARTIER INTL) EXCLUDING CYR537 AND CYR539. SFC TO 12,500 FT MSL. NO PERSON SHALL OPR AN ACFT WITHIN THE AREA DESCRIBED EXCEPT FOR STATE ACFT, MIL AND POLICE OPS, REGULARLY SKED COMMERCIAL PASSENGER AND CARGO CARRIERS, HUMANITARIAN OR EMERGENCY FLTS, ACFT ARR OR DEP LOCAL AERODROMES AND ACFT TRANSITING THROUGH THE AREA AUTH BY ATC: ALL ACFT ENTERING, EXITING OR OPR WITHIN CYR540 SHALL: - BE ON AN ACTIVE IFR OR VFR FLT PLAN WITH A DISCRETE CODE ASSIGNED BY ATC 866-837-2633 AND SQUAWK THE DISCRETE CODE PRIOR TO DEP AND AT ALL TIMES WHILE IN CYR540. - REMAIN IN TWO-WAY RADIO COMM WITH ATC. 040918 CZUL MONTREAL FIR PART 2 OF 2 0411301500/0412011315 ACFT PLANNING TO OPR WITHIN CYR537, CYR539 AND CYR540 CAN ANTICIPATE POSSIBLE DELAYS. 0411301500 TIL 0412011315
This is … dare I say it … Uncanadian. There was one case of a similar overreaction when the G7 leaders met in Kananaskis, Alberta a few months after the September 11 attacks, but that case was a bit more understandable (if still wrong-headed), since everyone was pretty jumpy. Still, foreign leaders visit Ottawa all the time, and we have nothing like this kind of fuss. We usually have a tiny restriction over Parliament hill (0.5 nm circle up to 1,500 ft MSL) and a similar one over Rideau Hall, but that’s about it. I do believe that we should welcome President Bush to Canada, but I do not believe that our government should roll over and let the U.S. start imposing the kind of security hysteria they’ve foisted on their own citizens. If you’re not a pilot, imagine not being allowed to take your car out of the driveway for two days because a VIP is visiting your city, and you’ll understand. The worst thing is that other leaders might start asking for the same treatment now so that they do not seem less important than the U.S. president. I hope that COPA is ready to speak up, loudly — this is when we need you most, guys.
[Update: COPA has posted a reaction on their front page. Unfortunately, that’s not a permalink, and the information will eventually disappear; so, in the spirit of persistence and hopefully under the umbrella of fair use, here’s the most important part of the commentary:
When COPA first heard about the Bush visit, we contacted officials at Transport Canada, NAV CANADA and the Department of National Defence to determine if there would be any airspace restrictions and to press for an early disclosure of any restrictions so that the word could get out to everyone who may be affected. In past presidential visits, immediate airspace around the airport was closed for a short period before arrival and after departure. However, with the state of the world these days, there could be more extensive closures involving more airspace and time.
With just a few days to go until the visit, there was still nothing announced, except for vague rumours that something was coming. After all, COPA as well as any other organization, is not permitted to have input to these security operations. While we understand that there were several agencies involved and some confusion about the President’s schedule and the security requirements, and while we appreciate and support the desire to provide protection, we expressed a strong concern that a last-minute NOTAM and sudden closure of airspace may go unnoticed by some pilots and there could be dire consequences as a result.
Following 9/11, COPA convinced the government that a better way to communicate and cooperate was needed in order to ensure that clear NOTAMs are produced and conveyed in a timely manner. To that end, COPA and CBAA have positions established near the Transport Canada Operations Centres. This resource was not employed for the development of these NOTAMs, although, in our opinion, it should have been. We will be pursuing this in hopes that a more coordinated effort can occur in the future.
In the meantime, check NOTAMs whenever you fly. Although these NOTAMs are not officially known as TFRs in Canada, what looks like a duck… .Let’s hope that the “T” in TFR means “Temporary” in Canada rather than what it has come to be known in the US — “Total”.