Provincial Aerospace

Navigating a Niche Industry

Ask a Newfoundlander or Labradorian about Provincial Aerospace Ltd. (PAL) and they will probably tell you that PAL is the dominant regional airline serving communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Ask an international aerospace expert and they will tell you that the company is a world leader in airborne maritime surveillance. Provincial Aerospace is the parent company of Provincial Airlines, the largest independent regional airline in Eastern Canada, and a major provider of charter, air ambulance, air cargo services, and fixed base operations in the region. The company has a joint venture with the Innu communities of Labrador to operate Innu Mikun Airlines – a scheduled passenger airline serving the needs of Northern Labrador.

Foremost provider of maritime surveillance
When Provincial Aerospace developed its maritime surveillance division, the company was reacting to a problem for the oil and gas industry: icebergs. During the 1980’s the industry was drilling for oil in the ice infested waters off Atlantic Canada; but identifying and tracking icebergs proved to be challenging.

Through the quest for innovation that has since grown to epitomize Provincial Aerospace, the company became one of the first civilian companies in the world to fly anti-submarine X-Band radars. The target though was not submarines, it was icebergs. The 1980’s proved to be the beginning of the privatization of aspects of maritime surveillance, an undertaking Provincial was well-positioned to capitalize on. The company has come a long way from iceberg spotting. More than 25 years later, Provincial is now a provider of leading edge surveillance solutions and services to governments and military in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba to name a few. The Company also offers sophisticated environmental and ice management services to most of Canada’s offshore environmental and oil and gas companies.

Provincial Aerospace operates its fleet of ten Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA’s) from three bases in Canada (St. John’s, Halifax and Comox) and one international base in Aruba. Provincial operates four fully configured King Air 200 MPAs for the Government of Canada that perform an average of 8000 hours per year. These aircraft perform missions on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic coasts of Canada, and are available for missions 24 hours per day, 365 days of the year. Provincial also operates two Dash-8 MPAs for the Royal Dutch Navy and through a research collaboration with Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, Provincial operates three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s).

Keith Stoodley, Senior Vice-President, Business Development and Government Relations, notes that the company is “not fixed to a particular type of aircraft. As part of our innovative approach, we find out what the application for the client is, and then decide what type of aircraft to use”.

He adds: “Being adaptable is vitally important in our industry, as is our extensive experience. We have amassed over 120,000 hours of maritime surveillance. There is no other company that has that experience. So when a client approaches us it is because they realize we have the experience to go with our products and service offering.”

The North Atlantic, as inhospitable and harsh as it can be, has proven to be an ideal training ground for Provincial Aerospace to perfect its maritime surveillance business model.

Leaders in aircraft modification
Being based in Newfoundland and Labrador has not been without its challenges. While being close to the North Atlantic was important in developing Provincial Aerospace’s maritime surveillance competencies, being based in St. John’s meant that the company had to develop its own capacity to modify and integrate the unique technologies required for a maritime patrol aircraft. Vertical integration was a necessity not a luxury.
Since those early days, Provincial Aerospace has emerged as a leading provider of aerospace engineering and aircraft modification services. Through its modification division, Provincial Aerospace is Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company and offers complete aerospace design and fabrication capabilities for aircraft modification, systems integration and installation while specializing in aerial surveillance specifically maritime patrol.

Stoodley explains: “Provincial Aerospace originally identified a unique need based on our company’s need to service our own fleet. When we began, you could not get aircraft modifications done in our region. Over 25 years, we’ve become experts in modification. Innovation has been a key cornerstone in the development of the company, and that’s how we’ve thrived.”

The company targets projects that require cost-effective support involving equipment that requires aerospace design, fabrication, systems integration, and airworthiness certification.

Modification projects that have been completed over the past few years include the modification and integration of Beech C12 Maritime Patrol Aircraft for U.S. Customs Service under a sub-contract with Raytheon Aerospace, modification and integration of Fairchild C-26 aircraft for nations in the Caribbean (Provincial Aerospace operate maintenance basis on Barbados and Trinidad) and South America for the U.S. Department of State. Provincial Aerospace has also installed surveillance packages for a variety of international and Government agencies on a numerous other aircraft platforms. The company has installed Litton AN/APS-504(V)5 Search Radars, Telephonics Search Radars, ELTA EL/M 2032 Air to Air Radar, various FLIR infrared systems, Litton 92 INS, LN-100G INS, Honeywell H-764G INS various SATCOM systems, various SIGINT Systems, and other avionics packages.

Environmental monitoring
The company operates an Environmental Services Division (ESD), in response to demand for airborne environmental impact assessment. The division provides ice and environmental monitoring services to most of Canada’s offshore oil and gas companies. The service is also used by the Canadian Government, and by the U.S. Coast Guard, which carries out the International Ice Patrol in the North Atlantic, mainly using ice reports created by Provincial. ESD has over 20 years experience providing Turn-Key solutions to harsh environment operations. “We’ve played an important role in looking for oil slicks and pollution. We have specialized devices to take samples of oil slicks and help monitor and identify the culprit.”

Special Missions System
Perhaps nothing is more indicative of the innovative spirit that presides over provincial Aerospace than the company’s investment in and development of, a specialized maritime surveillance tactical management system. This data management system, now entering its eight generation of development, is the central nervous system for its growing fleet of MPA’s. The company’s surveillance operations have evolved over the past 25 years from simply flying aircraft and collecting data to offering fully-integrated, multi-disciplinary system for networking on-board systems and gathering intelligence and distributing it to those who need it, in the air and on the ground. Provincial’s proprietary software, built by the in-house software engineering group has been the key to this evolution. The company uses such systems as the Airborne Data Acquisitions and Management Systems (A.D.A.M.), Surveillance Information Server (S.I.S.), Virtual Radar Control Panel (V.R.C.P.), and Ice Data Network Systems (I.D.N.S.) for its own fleet and for clients around the world.

Crew recruitment and training
“We offer an extensive training program for companies that don’t have the capacity to develop maritime control specialists. This is something we’re very proud of,” said Stoodley. The company trains pilots and sensor operators in mission tactical training, developing custom programs to meet the unique requirements of our clients. The company’s track record speaks for itself with over 12,500 maritime surveillance missions, totalling over 120,000 hours of flying without a single accident.

The company also prides itself on being an excellent employer and is a knowledge-based organization that attracts the brightest and best in the province. “Newfoundland and Labrador really is the youngest and coolest place to work in Canada. Recruitment is a challenge, but not something we worry about on the day to day.

A promising future
Provincial Aerospace is unique. The company designs, builds and modifies its own systems, trains its own people, and carries out its operations in the harshest of environments. Provincial’s innovative concepts aren’t just ideas- they’re proven solutions.

Proof of concept is an important difference that sets the company apart as the demand for maritime surveillance grows. Provincial’s clients know what they’re buying has already been developed, is being continually tested and refined, and has delivered proven results. The company operates in a specialized industry, and hopes to see expansion in the coming year despite economic downturn. “Are we concerned about the impending slowdown? Yes. Are we confident that we can ride it out? Yes. We know things aren’t going to be easy, but significant contracts were signed during the last quarter of 2008 which signifies a strong year ahead.”

The company currently employs a team of over 600 people, and looks to do more recruiting in 2009. The friendliness, dedication and resourcefulness of the team make Provincial a great place to work. As a leader in all the areas of their expertise, the sky is no limit for Provincial Aerospace.

Click to view the brochure