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Canadian Pilots Threaten Boycott Of Airports

March 16, 1987

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ Canadian pilots have threatened to stop flying wide-bodied jets into that nation’s major airports if Transport Canada does not reverse cuts of firefighters.

The cuts, from eight to five on each shift, endanger the lives of passengers, Capt. Norm Bindon, president of the Canadian Airline Pilots’ Association said Saturday.

″Certainly, if the number of firemen at an airport the size of Vancouver drops to five, the wide-bodied aircraft like 747, DC-10s and L-1011s will not be landing at that airport,″ Bindon said.

Transport Canada changed the firefighter staffing requirement last fall, a move estimated to save $1.5 million ($1.12 million U.S.) per year.

″It’s below what is considered an acceptable level in virtually every developed country in the world,″ Bindon said in an interview last week. ″The United Kingdom’s airports have about 18 firefighters (on duty).″

A boycott by the pilots could upset travel plans because there are not enough small jets to replace the wide-bodies, said George Tietjen, a spokesman for the Alliance of Canadian Travel Associates.

Peter Golding, spokesman for Canadian Pacific Air Lines, which flies 12 DC- 10s out of Vancouver, said a boycott ″could cost us millions.″

Transport Canada spokesman Steve Rybak disagreed with the pilots’ assessment.

″We can still provide adequate crash fire rescue service,″ he said.

After meeting with transport department officials, the union representing the firefighters said it planned to set up information pickets at major airports.

Vancouver firefighters were called out 1,028 times in 1986. Four of the calls were for aircraft crashes, one an aircraft fire.

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