In my experience having connections in the military has only given me more opportunities to be exposed to different aspects of life, namely aviation.
I love when I get these opportunities to do things that most people wouldn’t get to do! One of those experiences took place March 16th, 2017. Due to my family friend military connections I had the amazing experience of touring NAV Canada in Winnipeg!
To most of you NAV Canada sounds like a really boring name, but let me explain what this is before you close this page… but warning it may get a little detailed... if you like learning then read on!
NAV Canada is the organization in Canada that controls all airspace from coast to coast. They make sure no airplanes crash in the air or on the ground (as far as is in their control of course). They make the airspace rules and train the people that pilots talk to. Now I know most of you are thinking that they live in a tower with glass windows that can view the whole airport, but that is mainly incorrect! Don’t worry, I thought that too!
Yes there are a few men and women that work up there but the main stuff all happens in a building with no windows and is definitely no tower.
Driving onto the compound we had two security stops. The building was surrounded by a tall chain-link fence with a big gate. Walking into the building we had to go through a detector of some sort. After all of that though, you entered into a pretty friendly atmosphere!
We were greeted by a friendly receptionist and then we had to wait for the RCAF captains to arrive. After all the military men arrived we were a group of twelve people, three civilians and nine military. We were split into two groups I was apart of the group that first went to the control simulation room!
This was a smaller room with six big tv screens in a half circle and a desk in the middle with four computers and two small computers. This particular room was setup to simulate VFR (Visual Flight) air control, which basically means it was setup like the control tower with the big windows!
They turned the lights off and turned on all the computers and tvs. The tvs revealed a airport with planes on the apron. The computers in front of us showed what the controller needs to make everything run smoothly. This my friends was one big awesome video game!
Example of what went on:
Brad playing “March” Ground controller: Husky one two one, March Ground, cleared taxi Bravo, stop zero niner.
Husky one two one: Husky one two one, taxiing bravo, stop zero niner.
Then we’d watch this “airplane” taxi to the said runway and stop short!
Husky one two one: March Ground, Husky one two one, stopped short runway zero niner.
Brad: Husky one two one, March Ground, com one one three decimal two.
Then Brad would click something on his screen which would mean that now I was now main communication for Husky one two one.
I would then get a call: March Tower, Husky one two one, on com, stopped short runway zero niner, ready for take off.
Me: Husky one two one, March tower, cleared for takeoff runway zero niner.
Husky one two one: Husky one two one taking off runway zero niner.
An we would watch Husky one two one take off into the clouds.
That was a lot of fun!
Then we toured the real deal! A room as big as a small house lined with cubicles with at least five screens per cubicle. They were controlling airspace from Ontario to Alberta all in that room. It was amazing to listen to! These are the guys that I talk to form the air and they are sitting in high back chairs watching me, a little dot on their screen, fly around! It was a crazy realization for me to think how far aviation technology really is! Not only that but the fact that the whole system has been around for more years then I’ve been alive!
Military interception came up a lot during the tour since I was touring with a military group!
Military interception or what we just plain call interception happens when someone either isn’t following rules in the air, needs help, or is illegally flying either in illegal airspace or just not in the right country for some odd reason. When the military are called to intercept they basically send out a few intimidating plans and surround the plane in question and go from there; whether they force him to land or guide him to a airport safely, etc. Basically these military pilots were wondering what happens in ATC when there’s an interception in progress. The controller told us that they try and keep that area free of planes to the best of their ability so that the interception can go through without having to think about other air traffic.
I now have a deep respect for the ATC in our country and in the world. Their job is about daily making sure that people stay alive, and they work long hours to do that due to a shortage in that profession. (although they get paid well for what they do!) If you want to learn more about Nav Canada click here!
A very special thank you to those in the military and special forces! I am very, very thankful for any amount sacrifice you have put into making sure that Canada is free and others in this world can experience relief and/or freedom.
Also thank you to those at NAV Canada for the amazing tour and for the service you provide to people. Even though most are unaware of how much we need you to make the world go round right now!