Montreal Gazette

Another pilots’ group wings way to Montreal

‘Aviation capital of the world’

- fshalom@ montrealga­ FRAn çOIS SHALOM

Montreal is not exactly renowned as a head-office magnet, with perhaps one exception — aviation.

The city is about to welcome yet another group setting up shop here, the Internatio­nal Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associatio­ns (IFALPA), which is moving its headquarte­rs, located in a London suburb since 1948, to Montreal on Jan. 1.

This follows the move by Airports Council Internatio­nal from its longtime Geneva HQ to Montreal two years ago. And soon, three more internatio­nal aviation groups are expected to follow that increasing­ly well-trodden path here.

The reason for all this attraction? ICAO and IATA.

The Internatio­nal Civil Aviation Organizati­on and the Internatio­nal Air Transport Associatio­n, both based in Montreal for many decades, act as a gravitatio­nal force for aerospace players. The former, a United Nations offshoot, is the world’s government aviation regulator, setting internatio­nal standards, norms and practices, while the latter is the world’s airlines’ lobby group.

Gideon Ewers, director of operations for IFALPA, said that the move “simply would not have happened” without Montréal Internatio­nal, whose mandate is to attract global organizati­ons to the city. Its $8.6-million budget is financed 22 per cent each by Ottawa and Quebec, 39 per cent by municipali­ties — mostly Montreal — and 17 per cent by industry.

Stéphanie Allard, vicepresid­ent of internatio­nal organizati­ons for Montréal Internatio­nal who headed the project, said that “civil aviation is the principal priority for us, it’s a force of nature for Montreal. ICAO acts as the sun around which all these smaller planets revolve.”

Her organizati­on financed various expenses, including the move, but she could not give a figure for the total cost.

Ewers said the reason behind the move can be summed up in three words: “Proximity, proximity, proximity.”

“ICAO and IATA are the core reason we’re coming here,” said Ewers, who will move to Montreal from England in May with his family.

The move will set up a permanent staff to deal with issues daily rather than a travelling delegate who flies in as needed.

“About 400 metres from us will be ICAO, and in the opposite direction another 400 metres will be IATA and ACI on Square Victoria,” Ewers said.

“That’s key. You can (email or Skype) or do a video conference all you want, but nothing can replace building a relationsh­ip face to face.”

ICAO is launching an 11day conference on Monday on air navigation. Pilots have no vote at ICAO — only government­s do — but they have participat­ion status and “our thoughts are taken very seriously,” Ewers said.

Among the most pressing issues is FRMS, — fatigue risk management systems for pilots — and trying to ban lithium batteries from being carried on cargo planes, the cause of two crashes of B747 freighters, Ewers said.

ICAO agrees that pilot fatigue is a priority and has placed it on its agenda.

Ewers said that three other groups will most probably follow IFALPA to Montreal: IFATCA, the Internatio­nal Federation of Air Traffic Controller­s’ Associatio­ns, based in Switzerlan­d but already with a permanent office here; CANSO, or Civil Air Navigation Services Organizati­on, currently based at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport; and Flight Safety Foundation of Alexandria, Va., outside Washington, may move or open a main office in Montreal.

“They are making Montreal the aviation capital of the world. They really are.”

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