Iqaluit sizes up potential for expanded flight-testing
City delegation spots opportunities at Paris Air Show
Cold-weather testing has drawn the world’s biggest airplane manufacturers to Iqaluit, and the city hopes to keep it that way by setting up a testing facility in the Arctic capital.
“There’s a tremendous amount of potential in aerospace for Nunavut,” said city councillor Mark Morrissey.
When he headed up a city delegation to the Paris Air Show in the French capital last month, from June 17 to June 23, Morrissey and his team quickly found that their goal to promote Iqaluit as the world’s premier cold-weather test centre could be taken a step further.
“There is an opportunity to build a formal aerospace industry in Iqaluit,” he said.
Since 1996, Iqaluit airport has hosted no fewer than 25 cold-weather tests by major civilian and military aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing, Airbus, Dassault, and Eurocopter.
The airport’s long runway and Arctic location, along some of the world’s busiest flight paths makes it a favoured place for cold-weather testing.
“We have the right mix of products and geography that’s very attractive to them,” said Morrissey.
But beyond that, he added, it’s time for the city to take on some new opportunities in the industry.
“Component-testing is something a lot of organizations are looking for these days,” he said. “Not testing of a full airframe, but testing a piece of equipment, of some component or system.”
Unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones, present another new opportunity for testing.
“Every UAV manufacturer that we talked to is very interested in our location,” said Eric Leuthold of Frobisher Bay Touchdown Services, who represented the city’s aviation industry.
“We certainly have all these airframe manufacturers coming here. But the next step is where to have a facility where we can test those UAVs indoors.”
This year marked the first time the City of Iqaluit sent a delegation to the Paris Air Show, the world’s biggest meeting place of industry players.
Held every two years at Le Bourget Airport just outside Paris, the event takes up an area the size of Iqaluit itself, hosting up to 150,000 trade delegates.
Attendance ensures that Iqaluit keeps its connection with the world’s major aerospace companies, and maintain its place as the world’s premier testing centre, said Morrissey.
The city estimates every dollar spent promoting Iqaluit as a testing centre brings a return of $30 in business to Iqaluit. The city budgeted $40,000 for the delegation’s work.
When Morrissey and Mayor John Graham took note that the territorial government would not be sending a delegation this year as they had in past years, city council decided to send one on its own.
As airport manager from 1996 to 2012, Graham had attended three air shows and was more than willing to organize one this year.
The death of close family member in Scotland prevented him from leading this year’s effort, and Morrissey took the role.
The councillor, who heads up the city’s economic development committee, admitted that the air show was “a little overwhelming” at first.
“The size and the scale of this thing was unimaginable,” he said.
Exhibitors were housed in six pavilions, each roughly three times the size of Iqaluit’s Arctic Winter Games arena in Iqaluit, he said.
A static display of individual aircraft showcased everything from the world’s largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380, to small unmanned aerial vehicles no bigger than a laptop, he said.
The displays area’s sprawling grounds were “probably the size of Iqaluit airport,” he said, “including the ramp and runway.”
More than 2,200 exhibitors from 44 countries put on displays. Iqaluit’s exhibit was housed in the Canadian Pavilion.
The delegation included Morrissey, Leuthold and colleague Patrick Carter of Frobisher Touchdown Services, and a project manager to assist with planning.
To raise awareness about Iqaluit’s offering with countries where larger manufacturers are based, the city delegation also arranged meetings with trade commissioners of France, Britain, the U.S., Israel, Brazil and Spain.
“The next step is to continue talking with new companies on how we can test their products,” said Leuthold.
“It was very much a fact-finding mission as well,” Morrissey added.
The delegation found that Iqaluit’s competition is not simply from other airports with cold climates. Facilities that test individual components are also in high demand.
“It begs the question, are we able to do that. What equipment, what infrastructure do we need to do that,” he said.
“This is an opportunity we need to take advantage of.”