I applaud the proposed upgrades to the Penticton airport, however more needs to be done to avoid cancelled flights due to poor weather conditions.
This winter, it appeared that Jazz flights often did not make it in/out, yet WestJet ones did. Why could this be? I believe YYF underwent a major upgrade in their navigational system back in 2014 that should assist planes landing but only if those same planes had GPS avionics on board.
Jazz uses the older Dash 8-300 into Penticton, that (I believe) are not equipped with GPS; whereas WJ utilizes the Q400, which has the ability to use such technology and seems to land here most times when visibility is almost nil. Jazz has more than 40 of those same Q400 planes but does not presently utilize them into Penticton.
Kelowna does not seem to have the same problems as Penticton — far fewer cancelled flights; — so again, why is that? Is it because more flights there are using Q400, 737, CRJ planes that have better avionics than the older Dash 8? I suspect that both airports now have similar landing systems in place. If there is a substantial advantage with the Q400, perhaps AC/Jazz could consider trying them out here. They are a far nicer plane and our terminal was already renovated to accommodate the larger number of passengers using the WJ planes.
Castlegar Airport has similar (slightly worse) problems due to weather. According to the Nelson Star newspaper, that airport was considering upgrading their navigational systems to try to improve landings. However, according to Nav. Canada, this would involve the installation of Required Navigational Procedure (RNP) into planes serving the airport. It is not just a question of upgrading the airport; the planes have to be equipped with the avionics that can utilize that technology.
RNP is a computerized landing system using satellite and GPS technology to find the shortest and safest route into an airport. It is relatively new technology and not all airlines use it. Jim Gouk, a former local MP and air traffic controller told The Star that with a properly equipped aircraft the landing ceiling could be reduced. He is now a consultant in air transportation issues and a former board member of Nav. Canada. Castlegar city manager John Malcolm told The Star that his understanding of the situation is that RNP could work if there were planes that were compatible with it. He said that RNP cannot be installed in the Dash 8 planes that AC/Jazz uses, as the fleet would have to be upgraded and pilots trained, all at considerable expense to the airline. This is the same plane type that Jazz uses into Penticton.
Again, I am in favor of the terminal upgrades here, but something needs to be done to improve the performance factor of the Jazz planes presently servicing Penticton. I still try to use Jazz from YYF whenever possible; but in winter, it’s less of a gamble using Kelowna.