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RCAF Needs Lots of Aircraft

Twin Otters are among RCAF aircraft needing replacement.
Twin Otters are among RCAF aircraft needing replacement.

A House of Commons Committee has issued its report on the state of the RCAF and it doesn’t paint a very encouraging picture.

Decades of political wrangling and procurement paralysis have led to a situation where almost all of the RCAF’s different classes of aircraft are in need of replacement either immediately or within 15 years, which might sound like a long time but doesn’t seem long enough if the recent procurement history is any indication.

The CF-18 replacement grabs most of the headlines but the committee report also lists the immediate or imminent replacement of the CP-140 Aurora, the CC-150 Polaris, the CC-138 Twin Otter, the CC-144 Challenger, the Ch-146 Griffon and the Snowbirds’ CT-114 Tutor as being priorities.

In the meantime, the RCAF wants to modernize the existing aircraft to keep them reliable and relevent.

As for the CF-18, the committee identifies it as a priority and outlines the various arguments about the number of engines and compatibility of any new replacement with U.S. aircraft, which will be the F-35 and F-22.

In 2014, the government announced a life extension program for the CF-18s but the report says the work hasn’t even been tendered yet. It might be another year before the scope of the work is set and the contracts are let.

The full report is at

Jail Time For Tardy Hijacker

Michael Howells is arrested after a bomb threat in Kelowna.
Michael Howells is arrested after a bomb threat in Kelowna.

An Okanagan Valley man who called in a bomb threat against a WestJet flight in 2014 will spend a year in jail for what he admits was a “stupid” idea.

Michael Howells, 37, was late for his flight from Kelowna back to work in Fort MacMurray so he called in the bomb threat to delay the flight.

He made the call on his cell phone and it was easily traced. RCMP were waiting for him when arrived to check in for the flight.

His lawyer blamed drug addictions for Howells’ poor judgment and the tardy traveller apologized but the judge gave him a year in jail and two years of probation and ordered him to pay $4,000 in restitution to the City of Kelowna.

The actual cost of the threat probably can’t be tallied but it resulted in three flight cancellations and disrupted the travel plans of hundreds of passengers. Those on the plane that was targeted were loaded on a bus and watched as their bags were searched by police and dogs.

CSeries Support Urged

Feds are being urged to invest in CSeries.
Feds are being urged to invest in CSeries.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says the federal government “must” invest in Bombardier’s CSeries program because it’s good for the country.

He told Bloomberg that CSeries “is by far the most innovative project in Canada in a very strategic sector, and clearly to me, the federal government has to be part of that,”

He said the federal Liberals make a big show of supporting high tech innovations and should put their money where their politics are.

“ A federal government that talks as often as they do of innovation cannot stay away from the most important innovation project in Canada,” he said.

It’s been almost a year since the Quebec government poured $1 billion into CSeries for a 49.5 percent stake in the program. The feds are being asked to match that investment but they’ve set a condition that so far Bombardier has been unwilling to meet.

Even though the company is publicly traded, it’s controlled by the Bombardier family through its preferred share structure. The federal government has said it won’t write the cheque unless the family gives up its control.

Since then, Bombardier has bought itself a lifeline in the form of orders from Air Canada and Delta but Couillard said the feds should chip in anyway.

“I would welcome their participation,” Couillard said of Canada. “The uncertainty at some point has to stop. They have to decide.”

WestJet Becomes Oil Patch Charter

WestJet will do 100 weekly flights for Suncor.
WestJet will do 100 weekly flights for Suncor.

Westjet has inked a deal with Suncor Energy to conduct more than 100 weekly flights between five cities and Fort MacMurray to move its workers.

It wasn’t immediately clear what affect the deal might have on Suncor’s own significant aviation operations, which included several Bombardier regional jets.

The new arrangement will see regular flights from Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Saskatoon and Kelowna to take workers to and from their camp-based jobs.

Most Suncor workers have extended periods of down time between their equally-lengthy work shifts and they live all over western Canada.

It’s likely the flights will be done late at night and through the early morning hours when the aircraft are mostly idle.