Page 11 - Linkline Summer 2018
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  David Collenette at the CILT event at the Grand Canal Hotel
In Canada, on the road from Montreal to Ottawa, David heard again from his deputy, Louis Ranger, that Norman Mineta, his counterpart in the US had grounded all flights  “What this meant was that all planes needed to land at the nearest airport, any planes attempting to fly across the border would be forced to land or could, ultimately, be shot down by the US Air Force  For us, the question was, do we follow the American lead? But what about the flights which were in international air space approaching Canada  The American order had come at the peak of rush hour over the Atlantic, every 90 seconds an aircraft was entering Canadian airspace  We were faced with 5,000 aircraft, holding an estimated 85,000 people that were over the Atlantic and en route to North America or Canada 
“The US decision was made, naturally, with great haste, and was apparently oblivious to a key fact  The International Civil Aviation Organisation allocated jurisdiction over the western portion of the North Atlantic to NavCanada (the Canadian Air Traffic Authority), our air traffic control organisation, and over the eastern section to the U K  The United States actually has no jurisdiction over the area most transatlantic flights traverse; it only controls the 12 nautical miles directly off its coast  However, we had to act quickly to deal with the unprecedented amount of incoming air traffic  We had three mobile phones, no smartphones back then, so I made the best-informed decision I could and ordered a number of measures  No flights could take off, but we allowed all flights in the air to proceed to their final destination ”
This helped address the flights in the air over Canada, but what about the fleet of aircraft over the Atlantic  Frantic calls and discussion ensued between a car on the Montreal- Ottawa highway, NavCanada and the British Civil Aviation Authority, in conjunction with Ireland  Evaluations and decisions were made in a matter of minutes based on the location, fuel load and destination of the aircraft  “In a little more than five minutes more than 250 planes were ordered to make a U-turn mid-ocean  However, there were 224 that
Mick Curran, Pat Treacy and Finbarr Cleary
had passed the point of no return,” Mr Collenette explained  So, he and his colleagues had to swiftly decide where to land the planes, flights which the US had decided were too dangerous to allow into their airspace  The Canadians didn’t know who was onboard, but intelligence pointed to the possibility of terrorists being amongst them, which coupled with bomb threats at Canadian airports, made for a very sinister situation 
Faced with the decision to let these planes land or wait until they fell from the sky left the Canadians with only one sane choice on that motorway journey  They had to decide where to land these planes, but Montreal and Toronto, the two largest Canadian airports presented massive security risks to both those cities and, if hijacked, planes could be diverted to attack nearby US cities such as Boston, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland or Detroit before fighter jets could be scrambled to intercept them  “Our only option was to land most flights at more remote designated airports on the Atlantic side of Canada, where the security risk was lower  Throughout the second world war, the Maritime provinces and Newfoundland and Labrador, then a British colony, were major staging areas for troops and supplies going to Britain  There was an abundance of airports with long runways ideal for receiving such large numbers of planes,” he explained  And so, airports such as Gander, Goose Bay, Stephensville and Winterland became additions to aviation history as they were prepped to handle the majority of this massive fleet of incoming aircraft 
David Collenette brie ng the audience on his recollections of 9/11
On the Pacific side the issue was the same but thankfully the traffic volume at that time of the day was not as high, but Vancouver still had to take in 33 planes that day  One of the most striking aspects of the decisions taken by Collenette and his colleagues that day was the speed at which decisions were taken, without consultation or reference with other members of Government, just on sound judgement of the facts in hand  He was literally making decisions affecting tens of thousands of people, because he was the only person with the proper authority to act in this situation 
When he got to Ottawa, Mr Collenette was briefed before meeting with the hastily assembled crisis team, which comprised elements of Transport Canada and National Defence, the former had opened a Situation Centre in 1994 and it was here that the crisis team assembled  Transport
     The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport 11

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