New Flight Test Centre in Ottawa

Mcpl Robert Olivier (L) and Pte Gary Dunn look over a CF-18 at CFB Cold Lake, AB September 28, 2010 during a routine inspection before take off. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

The federal government is creating a new flight test centre at Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier International Airport that will be operated jointly by the Department of National Defence, Transport Canada and the National Research Council’s Flight Research Laboratory. It will be formally known as a centre of excellence for flight testing and evaluation. The new centre will result in the closure of the military’s current flight test facility in Cold Lake, Alberta. “This partnership will streamline our flight testing and evaluation capability, while ensuring sufficient space is available for the arrival of additional fighter aircraft in Cold Lake,” said DND spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier.

The current flight test centre in Cold Lake employs 166 military personnel and 22 public servants. Some of them will move to Ottawa but about a third of those jobs will be lost entirely. The move will save the government about $14 million a year. Money will likely be lost to the Cold Lake economy and that’s annoyed local politicians. The area is already being hard hit by depressed oil prices and about 10 percent of the homes in the area are in foreclosure. “Cold Lake can’t afford to lose even one position,” said local MP David Yurdiga. There is hope that employment will rise when Cold Lake gets its share of 25 Australian F-18s to shore up the declining inventory of CF-18s while the government makes up its mind about a future fighter force.