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Working Together to Protect the Airspace Above Metro Vancouver

Protecting the Airspace Above Metro Vancouver Supports Long-term Growth

Canada's airspace is controlled by Transport Canada, including the airspace above Metro Vancouver.

Every aircraft operating in airspace must adhere to strict flight procedures that are designed to protect public safety and maintain timely airport operations. Transport Canada regularly updates flight procedure regulations and guidelines as aviation and aircraft technology advance. This includes how aircraft operate in low visibility conditions like heavy rain, fog, wind and wildfires. However, federal regulations were developed many years ago and did not contemplate construction of mega-towers underneath federally regulated airspace. Recently, development and construction activities in the vicinity of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) have created hazards that conflict with federally controlled airspace and threaten public safety in communities near YVR.

Metro Vancouver’s population is expected to grow substantially over the next decade. It is crucial that local, provincial and federal governments work collaboratively to ensure development in the vicinity of YVR does not inadvertently create future impacts to airport operations and the significant value that YVR brings to the community and economy.

YVR is an Economic Engine for the Region

YVR exists to serve our community and the economy that supports it. 

As Canada’s second-busiest airport, YVR is a critical economic engine for Metro Vancouver YVR’s operations, combined with tourism and cargo, facilitate $16.5 Billion in economic output and support over 26,000 jobs. In 2023, YVR handled over 216,000 domestic and international flights, and welcomed over 25 million travelers to the region.

As the region grows, so must YVR. The future growth of YVR is critical to attracting people and creating new economic opportunities. YVR links residents to their connections abroad and supports local businesses in accessing global markets. Companies such as EA Games, Ballard Power Systems, and Bridge Studios rely on the access to global markets YVR provides, while over 100 Burnaby businesses benefit from providing goods and services to the airport.

Our connections support B.C.’s $8 billion visitor economy, including $4.8 billion in Metro Vancouver. YVR also supports region’s the ability to host world-class events like the 2025 Invictus Games and 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup.

Federally Controlled Airspace above Metro Vancouver is Constrained

The controlled airspace above Metro Vancouver is confined and complex. This is due to the mountains to the north, U.S. airspace to the south, numerous airports in the region, and a diverse mix of aircraft operating in the airspace. Airport capacity and safe air navigation safety rely on published approach and departure procedures that meet strict Transport Canada design criteria. Transport Canada’s design criteria require that those procedures be built with specific protection areas, or buffer space, from any structures to ensure aircraft stay safely clear of these obstacles.

Based requirements set by Transport Canada, NAV CANADA designs the navigation rules, procedures and air traffic control services to ensure safe and efficient air travel in the region. To ensure incoming or departing flights have the necessary space they require to safely navigate, NAV CANADA often designates procedures that can extend 10 to 15 nautical miles from an airport.

Who is Transport Canada?

The Canadian government department responsible for developing and implementing policies, regulations, and services for transportation Canada. It oversees various modes of transportation, including aviation, marine, rail, and road, with the goal of ensuring safety, security, and efficiently.

Who is Canada's Air Navigation Authority?

NAV CANADA establishes rules, navigation procedures, and air traffic control services to ensure safe and efficient air travel in the region across Canada. Their accountability is enshrined in federal legislation and governed by the regulations, standards, and guidance set by Transport Canada. 

What’s at Stake

If optimal and safe flight paths are not protected, there will be permanent impacts affecting healthcare and emergency service access, goods movement, trade and investment, and the visitor economy. This will create broad negative economic impacts to the regional and national economy.

YVR is reaching out to the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver to join a collaborative, time-sensitive process to ensure a safe, clear flightpath over the region for missed approaches, while avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating impacts on the region’s housing development goals.

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