[an error occurred while processing this directive] FactsCanada.ca -- Friday Feature 2000-10Fr -- Aerospace Over BC
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Aerospace Over BC.

October 27, 2000.

We take a well-deserved break from the cloak and dagger world of CSIS, and venture into the skies over BC. The sky over Vancouver is cold and grey this morning, but imagine for a moment that you're a five-year-old kid, spending a summer day on the shore of the lake by your parents' cabin...


Aerospace Over BC
By Michael Hora (mike@factscanada.com)

The first time I saw a MARS water bomber swoop down and pick up its many tons of water, I was hooked on BC aerospace tech. Of course, back in 1956, I didn't know it was tech I was hooked on. That word didn't exist for a lot of people then in the same way it does now. All I knew was that, as a five-year-old kid, this kind of stuff was really neat. Imagine, picking up water on the fly and dropping it on forest fires. Wow!

British Columbia has a burgeoning aerospace industry and its about to get bigger if all goes according to plan. The sector's profile is on the way up according to the Aerospace Industry Association of BC. The association, located at the south terminal of Vancouver International Airport, and the BC Trade and Investment Office at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver, are both bullish on the growth in this exciting field that currently offers the province about 80 companies and a sales revenue of over $700 million (CDN). The industry employs more than 7000 highly skilled workers and derives 80 per cent of its total revenue from the export market. BC Trade has no problem selling this type of venture overseas and across the continent with the type and quality of work performed here. The low Canadian dollar is also a selling point.

As a result of nearly 60 years of coping with the wild and diverse terrain for which the province is famous, both the fixed wing and the helicopter industries have been forced to come up with unique and innovative strategies to deal with the types of problems inherent in servicing this type of landscape. As a result, the world-class technologies developed here have proved themselves to be readily adaptable to the export trade. The vast distances needed to be covered here have lead to BC being recognized as a world leader in air ambulance services, aircraft fire-fighting equipment, and specialized land-sea operations. As Vancouver International Airport (or YVR as it is known in aviation jargon) happens to be ranked ahead of both San Francisco and Seattle in the number of scheduled weekly international flights, there has been added impetus to maintain a position of dominance. In order that the industry get off the ground, so to speak, a crucial part of its success must lie in the fact that it itself be strategically located to take advantage of service routes. With a large number of its industries set at YVR, development, testing, and shipping out the finished products and expertise becomes that much easier.

The industry itself is widespread in that it delves into sectors once thought to be the domain of aerospace giants such as Boeing, Lockheed, and Hughes. From MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates research and development of the $200 million Radarsat 2 satellite to Raytheon's Canadian Automated Air Traffic System (the world's most advanced air traffic management system), one needn't look to NASA anymore for cutting edge, high-tech innovation -- it's in our back yard. The British Columbia Institute of Technology, located in Burnaby, BC, is now a world leader in teaching advanced aviation applications. Graduates from their programs, which range from robotics to aircraft maintenance, are snapped up as soon as they hit the streets. In fact, thousands of high-tech jobs in the industry are going begging because of the demand. We can't keep up. Even though similar programs are offered in Prince George at New Caledonia College, Dawson Creek at Northern Lights College, Selkirk College in Castlegar, Okanagan University in Penticton, and University College / Coastal Pacific Aviation in the Fraser Valley, we can't meet the demand for this rapidly growing enterprise. By next year at this time we will be graduating 570 aerospace graduates annually. We'll need every single one of them if we are to remain flying high in BC.


If you're flying high this weekend, make sure you have altitude below you and runway ahead of you. That's a little wisdom that Craig learned at the aforementioned University College of the Fraser Valley and Coastal Pacific Aviation. Blue skies and check six!



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