January 23, 2020

Safety, efficiency drive service changes at NAV CANADA

To ensure our skies remain safe, NAV CANADA provides a range of services, including air traffic control, flight advisory services, weather observation and flight planning.

Our mission at NAV CANADA is to deliver a safe, efficient and cost-effective air navigation service from coast to coast to coast. That’s why we regularly evaluate the services offered across Canada to ensure they are fulfilling the needs of our customers and maintaining the highest level of safety.


Situated on the roof of the Red Deer Regional Airport’s terminal building is a NAV CANADA flight service station. In Red Deer, NAV CANADA provides essential advisory services to flight schools, charter traffic and others.

Flight service specialists in Red Deer – and at more than 50 regional airports across the country — keep a watchful eye on every departure and arrival, pass traffic information to pilots, control vehicles on the ground, and provide wind, altimeter, runway and weather information to pilots.

Recognizing air traffic in the region is steadily rising, NAV CANADA began an aeronautical study in 2018 to review the air traffic services and airspace requirements at Red Deer Regional Airport. An aeronautical study is the first step in systematically evaluating whether a change to NAV CANADA services is required.


Safety is the raison d’être of every aeronautical study and at the centre of every level of service change.

Aeronautical studies, which typically take nine months to conduct, examine several factors. This includes assessing the amount of air traffic and its distribution throughout the day; airport and airspace configuration; and more. Before any conclusions are drawn or recommendations are made, several risk assessments are conducted. This includes formal consultations with stakeholders.

It’s also important to know that NAV CANADA is regulated by Transport Canada. Simply put, a level of service change could not be implemented without a thorough and transparent assessment of safety and a robust process to mitigate any risks. Transport Canada concurrence is obtained before any changes are made.


We operate and maintain hundreds of manned and unmanned sites across the country that serve Canada’s aviation community. Adjusting air navigation services at a site is not uncommon and can take many forms. In some instances, it means changing the type of services offered to respond to increase in air traffic with which comes increased complexity. It could also mean installing new weather, communication and surveillance systems, introducing new airport approaches, or the reclassification of an airspace.

In the case of Red Deer, it was concluded that with such growth in air traffic, air traffic control services should be introduced during peak demand periods. Beginning in August 2021, air traffic control services will be introduced for 16 hours per day, from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. local time. The implementation of airport controllers to issue instructions and clearances would help maintain a safe and orderly flow of traffic both within the control zone as well as on runways and taxiways. An aeronautical study is now underway to determine the required level of service for the overnight period.

In instances where air traffic services are in excess of demand, level of service changes could take the form of eliminating air traffic control services – but never at the expense of safety. In 2008, after conducting an aeronautical study reviewing the ATS requirements at Montreal-Mirabel Airport, the air traffic control service was replaced by a flight service station. This was in large part due to a significant decrease in traffic levels at the airport over a period of time.

NAV CANADA staff at Mirabel

Mirabel, Québec

Recently, Mirabel airport has been seeing a steady increase in traffic. In 2017, the movements at the airport more than doubled. A new review was conducted and following the completion of a recent aeronautical study, it was determined that the level and the mix of traffic warrants the return of air traffic control service at Mirabel during peak hours.


Guiding aircraft safely through Canadian airspace is core to everything we do. That’s why safety drives all decision-making at NAV CANADA.

We’re dedicated to ensuring the country’s air navigation system is ready for whatever the future brings, with safety always as our top priority. To do that, we challenge ourselves to innovate, to seek opportunities for increased efficiency and continuously strive for better ways to serve our customers. It’s how we ensure the flying public benefit from one of the safest and most efficient air navigation systems in the world.

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