COPA and the Importance of an Aviation Advocacy Organization

Cessna Flying

In life, we all have things that we are passionate about. Things that excite us; things that help us relax and escape. If you are here, it is because you are an aviation enthusiast of some sort. You either enjoy the benefits of the aviation industry, or you are directly involved in the aviation industry. Either way, if the aviation industry were restricted in a meaningful way, it would affect you and your way of life.

Often these attempts on altering the aviation industry are not done with malicious intent. Another advocacy organization, social movement, or government will push for some sort of change that to them, seems like a good idea. Without an organized voice defending the interests of aviation, the concerns of the aviation industry will be ignored.

The good news is that there are lots of advocacy organizations serving the interests of the aviation industry to choose from. If you are an Airline Pilot employed by a unionized carrier, there is the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA). Or, if you’re a Professional Pilot there is the College of Pilots. If you are a pilot that only flies general aviation aircraft (think small single-engine or light twin-engine aircraft) or just an aviation enthusiast there is the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA).


COPA is Canada’s largest aviation advocacy organization with 15,000 members from coast to coast to coast. COPA’s specifically focuses on general aviation’s interest. So what does that mean? It means that COPA uses it’s bilingual staff at their office in Ottawa, steps from the main office of Transport Canada, NAV CANADA (the company in charge of Canada’s Air Navigation System) and Parliament Hill, to advocate on behalf of its members so that you don’t have to. As the recognized voice of General Aviation in Canada, government and non-government agencies turn to COPA first when discussing new policies or potential new regulations that affect general aviation.

That type of collaborative relationship didn’t happen overnight. It took decades of work to establish the resources and rapport that are required to be a successful advocacy organization. So, to answer the initial question of why join an advocacy organization; it’s simple. Any organization is only as strong as its members. More members mean more influence. A collective voice that speaks for 15,000 people across Canada is going to be much more powerful than a group of 100 people in one part of the country. That’s the type of voice that gets results.

In addition to the indirect benefits of having an organization fighting for you in Ottawa, you also often receive great direct benefits of being in an organization like COPA. There are members discounts at businesses across Canada, discounted rates on home, auto and of course aircraft insurance and lots of social media content to go along with 12 issues of COPA Flight magazine. If you take advantage of these discounts, you will get far and above in return what you pay to be a member of COPA.

If you are interested in advancing, promoting, or preserving the Canadian freedom to fly and aren’t a member of COPA, it’s time to give COPA a look.

Clark Morawetz is on the board of directors for the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) and can be followed on instagram @ctmorawetz

See other Aviation articles from The Modern Aviator here.

Everything You Need to Know about the “Black Box”


A black box is a device that allows investigators to look back at the circumstances surrounding an aircraft crash. Many innovations have been implemented thanks to data read from black boxes, to both aircraft design and crew training. As you may have already noticed, the black box isn’t actually black at all. It has a bright orange color known as International Orange (the same colour as the Golden Gate Bridge). The reason for making the black box this orange color is for the purpose of finding it!

Incorporating black boxes into airplanes dates back to the 1950s, when the first commercial jet (the de Havilland Comet) met 5 accidents within the course of 2 years of passenger service. The causes of these crashes were essentially mysteries due to a lack of information. Investigators urged on the necessity of having a system that could record the activities of the aircraft before its crash. Based on the recorded data, the causes of the accident could be found. Then recommendations could be made to enhance the technology, engineering and crew training standards.

The Device

A black box has two main components. The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR). 

The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) stores, well… voice recordings. This includes captain and first officer intercommunication, air traffic control (ATC) conversations, communication with cabin crew and announcements to the passengers. It also includes alarms, warnings, and any other ambient sounds in the cockpit. These all contribute to the story of what exactly happened leading up to the accident. Several microphones in the cockpit do the recording, but the CVR is actually located in the tail section of the aircraft. This is where the least damage is likely to occur in a wreckage. In a modern-day airliner they will typically store the last two hours of audio.

The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) stores aircraft maneuvering inputs and commands given by pilots, and the motion and behavior of the aircraft resulting from these commands. It is now mandatory to measure a minimum of 88 different parameters, but with updates to technology, FDRs are often recording many more. Thanks to these different parameters, investigators can tell exactly how the aircraft was performing at a specific moment. When this data and information is compiled and played alongside cockpit voice recordings, a true picture of the happenings starts to appear.  

Black Box Durability

How can black boxes withstand something as violent as an aircraft accident? Well generally they can’t. The majority of these devices are destroyed in the wreckage. The Crash Survivable Memory Unit (CSMU) will survive, however, with near certainty. This is where the data from the FDR and CVR is stored, and is therefore the most important piece to find. It’s the only component that needs to be essentially indestructible.

CSMU before and after testing – The real “Black” Box

Black box memory boards are kept secure by the CSMU in steel and titanium cases that are rigorously tested. These cases can withstand an impact with the ground at 750kph (466mph), or the equivalent of 3,400 G’s. They can also burn at 1,100 degrees celsius for a minimum of 60 minutes, and survive 20,000 ft underwater for over 30 days. All this while still emitting ultrasonic signals every single second. This is accomplished via the Underwater Locator Beacon and the signal is picked up by locating equipment in order to find the black box. The data is then brought back to a laboratory for analysis.


Designing and developing such sophisticated systems requires years of research and millions of dollars of investments. Although the present technology used in black boxes is state of the art, incidents like the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 disappearance demand black box manufacturers and designers come up with more technologically sound systems than the current ones. Still, the black box is often the sole survivor of accidents and has played a pivotal role in aircraft safety, engineering innovation, and crew training.

Read more of our aviation posts here. Leave a comment below if there is a topic you would like us to cover in the future.

Career Path: DC-3 and Pilatus PC12 Bush Pilot, Nicolas

My name is Nicolas and I am a French citizen who came to this beautiful country that is Canada on my career path to becoming a professional pilot. Let me tell you my journey so far, and maybe it will help some of you, at any age, to fulfil your dreams as I am doing on a daily basis.

My dream of flying began as a child. Looking out the window at our wonderful sky while I was in school, day after day. As a French citizen and coming from a family with a big military background, all I wanted to do was becoming a fighter pilot for the French Air Force. 


After many years of training, I started to attain my dream by entering the French Navy Pilot School. Unfortunately I was unable to complete my training, and my dreams to become a fighter pilot ended.

French Air Force Training
French Air Force training

After one year of divergence and doubts, I met a man who became a mentor, instructor and then best friend. He brought back to me the love and the need of flying. I used up all my savings to get a Private Pilot License in France. I accomplished this, and my goal turned towards the commercial license. 

The questions that came into mind were “where and how much?”. Canada was brought up to me by many friends. Indeed, the training cost was close to 3 times cheaper to get to a full licence (CPL, ME, IR) than France, and the diversity and accessibility of a first job were exceptionally higher than in Europe.

So, I went to Canada! Unlike what you might think, I did not go for Quebec, or any French speaking province. My feet landed in British Columbia, or should I say: “Beautiful British Columbia”. And let me tell you one thing, they did not embellish the word beautiful. BC is absolutely gorgeous.


I joined up at a school based in Delta, BC (just south of Vancouver). But once I arrived there, having broken English, my school suggested that I start my training in Kamloops, a city in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. The air traffic is a lot less condensed than in the lower mainland. It ended up being a good choice and I flew there until getting my Commercial Pilot License. I met many interesting people, who all shared their stories with young student pilots like me and my friends.

Kamloops - Career Path - Pilot Training
Kamloops, B.C.

Something that my instructors and CFI kept on telling me was that I will have to become an instructor to start my career because I was a foreign student and that no companies would hire me. 

One day, I crossed paths with a fire boss pilot for a firefighting company (Conair) based in BC. He asked me what my plans were after graduation. I told him that I would become an instructor, since I thought I had no other options. This gentleman almost raged back at me. He insured me that if my dreams where to become a bush pilot, I WILL find a job. His words were “take your car, drive all over the country, and knock on doors. You might not find a flying job, but you will find a job leading to a flying position.”

His words and experience convinced me. I then moved to Delta, to complete my ME IR and started sending resumes all over Canada even before I completed my course. I was offered a Ground Support position open to Flight Line based in Pickle Lake, Ontario. This is where my next adventure started.

Pickle Lake

I moved to Pickle Lake on a sunny summer day. With my nice shoes and my hair full of gel with no idea in the world of how I ended up here. Pickle Lake is a town of 300 people, lost right in the middle of Northern Ontario. It is the last town linked by road to the rest of Canada. Everyday, trucks full of groceries, building supplies, boats, and pretty much anything that anyone would need, arrive at the airport for shipment. They are then flown to all the very small and remote communities of First Nations up North.

Career Paths - Pickle Lake CYPL
Pickle Lake with airport seen top left

This is where my job comes in. A bunch of ground guys like me, all dressed with heavy duty work clothes and steal toed boots, are offloading the trucks full of groceries and plywood etc., and building the loads for our planes.

My company is operating vintage DC3 aircraft upgraded with turbine engines known as Basler BT-67s. It is an overpowered and perfectly fit aircraft to be operated on the small gravel and ice strips we land and take off from. Each flight leaves with over 10,000 pounds of freight to serve those communities. Despite the tough conditions of living up north, clouds of mosquitos, extreme cold temperatures in the winter, and very, very long work shifts every single day, my time working on the ground there will forever be one of the best decisions I made in my life.

Career Paths - North Star Air DC3
Nico and his DC3

All my co-workers from Pickle Lake became like a family. Everyone is linked together, helps each other, and understands each other. Everyone is here for the love of the job. No one goes to work with a bad attitude. I worked as hard as I could, and managed to pass over my ground time in only 4 months. I then started training to become a DC3 first officer.

The training was extremely fast, and the learning expectations pretty big. The captains here are aware that some of us did not touch a plane for many months, even years for some of us, and so they go “easy” on you, knowing that you will mostly learn as you actually do the job. 

Career Paths- Cold Mornings in the North
Cold Mornings in the North

Once on the flight line, the schedule is 14 days on, 14 days off. The company uses you to the maximum, but you get to rest for a full 14 days after that, with your family or traveling the world, it’s all up to each of us.

Day to Day

The typical day as a DC3 cargo first officer is to show up 1 hour before the first scheduled departure. Then you come to the plane and do the walk around. Then things start to move. Ground guys are coming around with forklifts and freight and show you the way they had it planned to be loaded in the plane. The more experience you get, the quicker you know what will fit in the plane with respect to the weight and balance. And then we load! It takes between 30 min to 1 hour to do a grocery load, and around 1 hour to 90 min for construction material loads. Once the plane is loaded, it’s time to fly!

After arriving at the destination, the offloading process begins. Trucks, loaders etc. are backing up to the plane and we start offloading. Depending on the location, we have to “handbomb” the full load. Sometimes we can use forklifts and loader to take it out. It’s a very fun part and you get to have a good amount of fun with the people around you, but it is also extremely tiring. Once the offload is done, we fly back to base, and load again. The average number of trips would be 3 to 4 a day, for an average flight time of 5 to 6 hours.

DC3 in Northern Ontario
DC3 in Northern Ontario

The company values hard work here. It is not rare to be upgraded from right seat of one plane to left sit of a different plane. After about 1 year and a half, and 1300h on the DC3, it was my turn to change seat! I am now captain on the Pilatus PC12, leaving 704/705 freight operation for 703 passenger operation. It is a pretty huge change, and I still have a lot to discover and improve in this new world.

I hope you can use a bit of this story to find your own career path, and don’t hesitate to take some risks! It usually pays off.

You can follow Nicolas on Instagram @nico_dupre. If you have a unique or interesting job or career path in the flying world, send us an email at or leave a message below to be featured.

If you’re interested in becoming a pilot, checkout our post How to Become a Pilot in Canada.

Pilot Shortage


With an industry-wide pilot shortage in its initial stages, young aviators are able to move from a 703 to regional airline quicker than ever before. This has a trickle down effect. To stay flying, these regionals are upgrading first officers to be their captains at a much quicker pace, which then results in the right seat of the aircraft being kept warm by even more inexperienced first officers.

This is creating an exodus of pilots from the north, where most attain their first flying job, to these now-available regional positions. 703 operators are having a difficult time finding first officers who want to upgrade and captains who want to stay. This should come as no surprise. Not many pilots choose to fly in the conditions manifested by the 703s. Most do it out of necessity and now it just isn’t required, or at least not for more than a year.

Jazz Dash 8 on the apron
Jazz Dash 8 on the apron


For those flying in the right seat of a King Air, PC12, Navajo etc. at their first job there are two options.

They can upgrade to captain. This brings about a pretty good salary (comparable to a regional captain on a Q400) after just a year working as a commercial pilot. They will also log PIC time which increases a pilot’s confidence in their ability to make decisions. It gives them the ability to attain an ATPL and makes for a more attractive resume down the road. The downside of this is a pretty poor overall quality of life. Frequent 15 hour days. Minimum rest. 1 hour callouts in the middle of the night. A general disregard for safety when it comes to weight and balance/weather/icing. To top it off, there’s usually a noticeable lack of respect for pilots from management.

Ornge PC12. Medevac companies are feeling the pilot shortage.
Ornge PC12

Alternatively, they can move from their 703 to a regional airline and fly a Dash 8. This likely means moving to a metropolis like Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver. These are cities that, despite the increased cost of living, young people would prefer to be living in. The regional lifestyle is objectively much more attractive than staying at a 703.

The schedule is easy to manage and known about well in advance. Even on reserve (which is likely a reality while junior), the callouts are well in advance and the duty regulations are more strictly monitored/adhered to. At no Canadian regional will you get called to start a 15 hour duty after being awake on-call for 12 hours already. The equipment flown is bigger (giggity), there’s health benefits and base is probably going to be much closer to home.

The pilot shortage is giving aviators a quicker path to a place where safety is more important than profit.

Porter Airlines is one of the big 3 facing a pilot shortage.
Porter Airlines in Toronto

PIC Shortage

So you’ve been first officer in the Dash 8 for over a year. You have your iPad, fancy luggage, and your 3 stripes – but you want another one. You start looking into the ATPL requirements, since your airline requires that for the captain upgrade. There’s something missing! Pilot in Command time.

Your only PIC time is from your solo flights in training, and you have around 100 hours. The ATPL requires 250 hours. The Pilot in Command Under Supervision (PICUS) program that airlines like Porter provide is going to be of great use to you, but its not good enough. For the ATPL, you can fly 200 hours of PICUS time, of which 50% can be counted towards your PIC time. This adds 100 hours of PIC to your existing 100 hours but you’re still 50 hours short.

Canadian Aviation Regulations – ATPL Requirements

Although a pilot shortage is a good thing for us plane fliers, a new and unique problem lies here in Canadian aviation. As the rapid flow from 703 to regional airline continues over the next few years, we will see more and more pilots who are unable to upgrade due to a lack of PIC time. The eager ambition and quick upward mobility of the fresh-faced pilot could quite possibly have their career left stagnant in the right seat at the regionals.

If you have any comments or questions make sure to leave them below, and subscribe to The Modern Aviator for future articles on this topic and others. If you’re thinking of becoming a pilot in Canada then click here for some advice on the initial stages!

How to Become a Pilot in Canada

Becoming a pilot may seem like an intimidating goal, but with a little guidance from those who have done it before, you’ll have the tools to make your aviation training and career path progress as smoothly as possible. There is a very real pilot shortage at this point in time. It may not be as severe in Canada as it is in Asia and the Middle East, but it’s still very noticeable. It’s true that the shortage is for experienced pilots, but the effects trickle down, with younger pilots being hired and upgraded to captain at a more rapid pace in order to fill the gaps. For obvious reasons, this is a good thing for you, and we’re here to help you get started with how to become a pilot in Canada.

1. Decide How to Fund Training

Pilot training is expensive, we all know that. Canada, however, is one of the most affordable nations for pilot training. This doesn’t make it cheap, but it could be much worse. There’s a reason you’ll find pilots from all over the globe at most flight training schools in Canada.

One option is to pay as you go (modular) while working a part-time job or even a full-time job if you can manage both. This will ensure you have no debt at the end of your training, but your entire life will consist of work and training. The other problem with this is that it will take you longer to finish your training. If the goal is to become a career pilot, getting there sooner than later is ideal, as you’ll want to be upgrading your seat/aircraft type and earning bigger paycheques sooner than later.

Night Flight Training
Photo Credit Chris Leipelt via Unsplash

A better option is to take out a loan of sufficient size to cover both flight training and living expenses (rent + food). This way you can commit to training full time (integrated) and be done in as little as a year. Expect CAD $50,000 – $60,000 for Private/Commercial license and Multi-Engine Rating/Instrument Rating. The sooner you can start working as a pilot, the sooner you can begin to pay the loan back.

2. Choose a Flight School

If you’re choosing the loan option as we’ve recommended, your selection of flight schools is a lot more narrow. The bank you obtain your loan from will have a list of accredited flight schools that they deem worthy. That being said, the flight schools on that list should be of high quality. If you are paying as you go, you can pretty much select from any flying club or flight school out there that offer the licenses you need.

Flight Training
Photo Credit Alex Chuklanov via Unsplash

Visit each school’s website and if you are able to, visit them in person too. Check out the aircraft types and condition, as well as the character of those doing the training and those in charge. There are some cash hungry flight school’s out there who have no problem waiting until you’re locked in and then add all sorts of costs to your training (more about that in a later post). Check online forums such as AvCanada and Pprune for posts from current and past students to see what they have to say about the flight schools.

Location is very important to consider as well. Do you want to live in -25 degree celsius weather for a good portion of the year in Winnipeg? Vancouver has a much nicer climate, but often has low ceilings and fog that could inhibit your flying. You may want to live in a bustling city like Toronto, but the cost of training there is much higher. This will depend on what you like personally, but should not be overlooked.

3. Work Hard

Settle in to your new life and hit the books. If you’re becoming a pilot for the right reasons then you’re probably genuinely interested in the subjects. This being said, some topics are very dry (that’s you, CARs) and you just need to push through. Your life will now consist of reading and flying and hey… that’s not so bad.

Fly in the morning, have lunch/study, fly in the evening (sunset permitting), and keep a balance of social life/studying in the evenings. You’ll have exams for PSTAR almost right away, then private, commercial, and instrument. Stay on top of the material and don’t wait to cram last minute. Your in-flight tests will have prerequisite hour requirements so continue flying daily to keep training moving as seamlessly as possible. Once you’re going solo, take long cross-country flights. This will build valuable experience and time. Bring other pilots with you and explore. These are likely the only days where you’ll get to decide where you’re landing!

4. Network

Try your best to get to know people in the industry. Walk into some operator’s offices around the airport and talk to people. This could open doors for your first job if they like the cut of your jib. Keep in touch with other pilots who are training. Throughout your career you will find yourself giving each other valuable advice, news within your respective companies and job opportunities in Canada and abroad. Throughout your training, keep on top of job boards so you know the requirements and what to expect when you’re finished training. Don’t get an ego at this point, because you don’t know what you don’t know yet. You will learn a lot more when you start operating commercially, and continue learning throughout your career.

5. Seek Employment

This step is a lot easier currently than it has been in the past. Use your contacts along with the job boards below to find your first job as a commercial pilot. It will possibly take some persistence, and maybe even a stroke of luck, but you will succeed; especially the way the industry is today. With pilots needing less experience to move up to bigger aircraft, the gaps are there for you to fill with your low time.

DC3 with Canadian Air Force in background
Photo Credit nico_dupre

Some people grow to enjoy the North or the 703 operations and stay for a long time. You can upgrade to captain fairly quickly there and make some good money to start paying those loans back. Others seek a life back in a big city or close to home, with more stable hours and working conditions – to each their own. In today’s industry, once you’ve gotten about 1,000 hours total time (which you will likely achieve in a single year at your first job), you can start applying to regional carriers.

Helpful sites in Canada for finding jobs:

There are many different paths to take after you’ve built some time at your first job. This post is only intended to give you the initial steps on how to become a pilot in Canada.

Follow The Modern Aviator for upcoming articles, as well as more news and helpful tips about the aviation industry. Feel free to leave a comment with any comments or questions you might have!

Photo Credit to Caleb Woods via Unsplash