Kelowna Flightcraft

Kelowna Pilots
A Convair 580 during sunset in Kamloops, B.C.

Following nearly a half decade of turbulence, things finally began to normalize for the small but dedicated band of pilots of Kelowna Flightcraft heading into 2020. With an optimistic outlook, the pilots continued to demonstrate their commitment to KF Aerospace, a company that has delivered innovative aircraft solutions for corporate, commercial, and military customers worldwide for 50 years.

The pilots are justifiably proud of their contributions to the sustainability of the company and have been recognized for their industry-leading reliability and customer service. At the onset of 2020, they were focused on providing the best service possible while fulfilling the carrier’s remaining contract that’s in effect until spring of this year.

The contract calls for the pilots to fly Convair 580s on a limited schedule on the B.C. Feeder Network for Purolator, including regular air freight cargo and various packages across all reaches of the province—as far north as Prince George, B.C., and throughout the B.C. interior.

After years of uncertainty that saw the pilot group go into custodianship in 2017, followed by Master Executive Council (MEC) elections two years in a row, the pilot group found some stability as Capt. Graham Cartwright, MEC chair; F/O Alfred Wong, MEC vice chair; and Capt. Fraser Carpenter, secretary-treasurer, all remained in office.

While continuing to work with Kelowna Flightcraft’s business development team in a bid to pursue new flying opportunities, the pilot group also focused on contract negotiations in early 2020. By the end of March, as part of the negotiating process ALPA served notice to bargain to the company. However, within days of giving the company notice, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions began to negatively affect Canadian aviation along with the entire airline industry. Like many other companies, Kelowna Flightcraft began facing difficult challenges that had a dramatic impact on the pilot group.

“If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that this virus has significantly altered the landscape of our industry,” said Cartwright. “Thankfully for our airline, the cargo sector in Canada has remained relatively strong thus far. However, in response to our notice to bargain, the company requested a deferral of bargaining for six months ‘until the world is over the pandemic and life begins to return to normal for our staff and the company.’”

Cartwright discussed the airline’s request with the MEC leadership in consultation with professional staff from ALPA’s Representation Department. After consideration, the MEC concluded that postponing bargaining would better address the pilot group’s interests and agreed to the delay.

In the aftermath of the delayed bargaining talks, the MEC continued to explore other potential improvements with the company, but in the end those efforts weren’t productive.

With bargaining at a standstill and a summer that saw consistent flight loads and scheduling, ALPA made the request in the fall to reopen contract negotiations, which were to formally begin in mid-November. Unfortunately, more COVID-19 restrictions went into effect on November 7 that limited gatherings, and the company requested another delay in negotiations. Bargaining is expected to begin early this year.