REGINA -- The future of the control tower at Regina’s airport is still under review by Nav Canada, but those in the cockpit say challenges may arise if the tower were to close.

Pilots at the helm of large aircrafts flying into Regina are guided by air traffic controllers all the way to touchdown. According to one pilot, their workload would increase if the tower closes.

“You have the second set of eyes – that are the air traffic controllers – assisting you in a very meaningful way and this does scale significantly as the airport becomes busier and more complex,” said Luc Arsenault, a pilot for a major carrier.

The Regina Airport has been served by a control tower since 1940. The present tower was constructed 20 years later. Now, Nav Canada has handed layoff notices to all 10 controllers as it reviews the need for the service. 

“The fact that they have used these notices already to local air traffic controllers and again definitively stating their intention to close our tower flies in the face of what they’ve committed to,” said Regina Airport Authority CEO James Bogusz. 

A petition to save the tower has now gathered close to 8,000 signatures. It expresses concern that Regina will lose airline service entirely. Some pilots feel that it unlikely to happen, but future growth could be hampered.  

“I can imagine that Air Canada, Jazz, WestJet and all the airlines would be able to continue comparable services. But there still comes a point where you would prefer the air traffic controller in order to send more planes,” said Arsenault. “So when we talk about growth of an airport, an air traffic control tower is an important piece of that.”

Some pilots feel that losing the tower would be limiting. 

“I think Regina should hang on to that tower because you can’t paint all airports with the same colour brush,” said commercial pilot Spence Bourassa. “There are certain airports and certain circumstances that will rewrite the use of an air traffic control tower.”

Nav Canada insisted that no decision has been made, even though six months notice of pending layoff has been issued to all Regina controllers. Its’ assessment of future air traffic control needs is continuing.