Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 53 seconds.
The letters issued by the B.C. Aviation Council to the federal government outlined the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on British Columbia’s aviation and aerospace industry, and proposed action items to assist airports’, air operators’ and flying schools’ survival during the liquidity phase and subsequent recovery.
Here are some of the highlights of those letters:
- The management and staff at Transport Canada have been nimble in their responses to the industry’s regulatory needs;
- In 2019, B.C.’s aviation and aerospace industry directly employed over 44,000 professionals and contributed $12.6 billion to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product;
- British Columbia is home to 172 air operators, 42 flying schools and over 100 highly active aerospace companies. The majority are small businesses;
- Business in the province’s aviation sector is down 93 per cent;
- Regional services are decimated with several small, remote and Indigenous communities losing regular scheduled service completely;
- Most of the industry has been designated an essential service. In order to survive so they can provide those essential services, aviation needs help in addition to the programs already announced.
Air Operator Needs
- To sustain regional air operators qualified to provide medevac and other essential air services to remote and Indigenous communities, the provincial and federal governments should issue requests for proposal for standby aircraft and crews;
- Provide low barrier forgivable business loans or grants to essential small or regional air operators and aircraft maintenance providers to cover such costs as Nav Canada charges, airport charges, aviation fuel excise taxes, rent and ground handling fees;
- Recognition that aircraft are an essential, not a luxury, good and should be exempted from any luxury tax;
- Issue provincial forest fighting contracts early with a clause allowing pre-payments.
- Ensure that all airports, irrespective of their ownership model, are eligible for all programs launched to combat COVID – especially the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program;
- Flexibility to adjust tight implementation deadlines, and dedicated federal funding, to help airports meet new regulatory requirements. This includes new airport accessibility regulations that mandate some capital investments be made by June 2020. It also includes Runway End Safety Area (RESA) regulations introduced March 7, which will have a significant capital cost for many airports;
- Increase the funding for the very positive Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) to $95 million and a relaxation of the program’s guidelines. This would help kickstart airports, their suppliers and the economy post-COVID;
- Double the funding for the British Columbia Air Access Program (BCAAP), use the program in 2020 to support airport operating costs, and increase the program’s contribution to projects to 95 per cent;
- To compensate for lost revenue and provide a boost to the industry once travel begins recovering, increase funding for federal infrastructure programs, including transit to airports;
- The scope of the National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF) should be expanded to support movement of people and goods on passenger aircraft;
- Support for border modernization programs and initiatives such as Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) 2.0, visa‐free transit, and border facilitation initiatives pursued under the Beyond Preclearance Coalition. The cost to government to implement these initiatives is relatively low, yet their impact could stimulate international travel through gateway airports and into the region, resulting in airport revenue growth;
- Increased funding for Destination Canada to promote travel domestically, as well as to stimulate international tourism to Canada once travel has begun to rebound;
- Reforms to duty free programs, such as the ability to purchase duty free products upon arrival in Canada from a transborder/international flight, would allow Canadian airports to repatriate sales from foreign airports and bring Canada’s offering to transborder/international travellers.
Flight Training Units (including both private training organizations and public post secondary institutes)
- Provide forgivable business loans to flying schools to ensure they survive. This industry sector is responsible for substantial higher education exports and has not been designated an essential service even though some of the training provided supports essential services;
- Provision of written exam centres external to the current Transport Canada accredited centres for professional exams – CPL, IFR, ATPL;
- Allowances for students to write exams prior to fully completing ground school and achieving current required hours;
- Increase the amount of student aid available for domestic students to reflect the approximately $85,000 commercial pilot license program cost;
- Suspend payments to the provincial Private Training Institutions Branch for three months after the return to regular pilot training.
The council concluded by emphasizing its key message that the regional aviation and aerospace industry is in danger of collapsing. Support is requested at this time of urgent need.