A holiday wish list for Canada’s aerospace sector

November 30, 2022

An opinion piece published in the Hill Times | November 28, 2022

By Grant Stevens, Chief Corporate Services Officer at KF Aerospace

Click here for web article

As we turn the page to a new year, I’m encouraged to see the worst of the pandemic’s impact fade further in the rearview mirror. However, new challenges to Canada’s aerospace sector continue to emerge and these storm clouds must be carefully navigated to ensure Canadian businesses and workers aren’t left twisting in the wind.

We know when Canadian industry and government work together we can achieve incredible results. Canadian aerospace is not only a fundamental part of our national identity and critical infrastructure – this sector employs more than 200,000 Canadians and contributes more than twenty-two billion dollars to our economy, with nearly 75% of that GDP value in exports.

These are high-paying, quality jobs in a competitive global marketplace, so to keep businesses like ours viable for the long term (we’re 53 years and counting this March by the way), we should accelerate collaboration between private and public to unlock our industry’s full potential in 2023.

Here’s my holiday wishlist to help make that happen:

Wish #1: Expand the fast track for qualified workers to other areas

Staffing is the single largest challenge our industry faces across the board. Our business – KF Aerospace – is forced to make difficult decisions about contracts we can take on from international customers due to the uncertainty that we can find the required staffing.

Last week I was encouraged to see the Government of Canada expand the express entry option for aviation assemblers and fitters – but that only helps part of the industry (the manufacturers).

Operators and maintenance organizations (MROs) like KF Aerospace require the same express entry option for Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AMEs) to support operations across Canada.  Without that option there simply are not enough AMEs trained and developed in Canada to support a growing industry, which will lead to further operational issues and restrictions for airlines – or worse – force them to go outside Canada for maintenance and modifications.

Wish #2: Expedite improvements to the regulatory system

Transport Canada (TC) plays an important role in maintaining the integrity and safety of aviation in our country.  But there is needed room for improvement in service delivery response times and coordination between regulatory regimes.

During the pandemic, regulatory changes were made at lightning speed to meet the crisis demands, but as we exit the pandemic we are slipping back into our old ways, which only serves to throttle back our industry compared to other countries.

To remain competitive and a true world leader in aerospace, we need to be able to operate at a faster, more efficient pace. If we don’t, capital and work will flow to more efficient and effective countries, and we will lose our competitive edge.

Supply chain challenges are a good example. Some parts manufacturers no longer apply for TC certification due to the long lead times.  This requires operators to find alternates and then work with TC to get them approved.

The Government of Canada can help improve the competitive nature of our industry and ensure we retain a solid international footing by supporting and directing Transport Canada to meet or exceed service delivery times and make it easier and faster to adjust to global aviation conditions. Imagine having to wait over 6 months to get to fly your shiny new airplane?

Wish #3: Prioritize domestic firms when awarding major contracts

The recent Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) bid for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is a critical program needed for Canada’s future defence and security. It’s also an outstanding opportunity to invest in Canadian job growth, innovation and industry.

The chosen bidder for this multi-billion contract will provide 25+ years of training and support for RCAF pilots and aircrew, weaving together industry, R&D, suppliers and communities – including Indigenous communities and businesses.

Full disclosure: KF Aerospace is bidding on FAcT alongside another great Canadian success story— CAE Inc. Our partnership – called ‘SkyAlyne’ – combines 120+ years of Canadian aviation and defence experience and expertise. We are also the current training partners of the RCAF through separate contracts and we have assembled a full team of Canadian-based subcontractors and suppliers to meet and exceed all the capabilities and requirements of the future program.

However, despite the many advantages of our made-in-Canada solution, we could lose in a head-to-head competition with a European-based entity when this contract is awarded late next year. If this happens, it will end a legacy of Canadian excellence in military aircrew training dating back to WWII.

The Government of Canada should prioritize domestic firms when presented the opportunity of having a highly qualified Canadian-based supplier that is ready to hit the ground running. That way we can ensure the jobs and the innovations of the future are created here, in Canada, and exported outwards.


Grant Stevens is the Chief Corporate Services Officer with KF Aerospace, a leading Canadian aerospace company with over 1,100 staff that competes globally in aircraft maintenance & engineering, military pilot training, aircraft leasing, passenger and cargo flying.