David Olsen’s office in his North Saanich home is full of pictures, plaques, clippings and certificates attesting to his long career in aviation.
Only semi-retired from the field, Olsen still writes for Wings magazine, an industry publication specializing in aircraft, airports and air policy. He continues, as well, to provide aerodrome safety sessions for interested companies.
His wife, Jane, also spent much of her working life taking photos for his work.
Olsen was also at one time a contract employee for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) based in Montreal, and it was for this reason that the News Review spoke with him.
Olsen, a Transport Canada technical officer at the time, was seconded to ICAO in 1978. He would eventually be named a technical director at the International Air Transport Association, working hand-in-glove with ICAO.
ICAO — the world body that governs aerodrome standards and regulations — has been in the news recently, as Qatar has put the bug in the United Nations’ ear (ICAO’s governing body) to consider moving the organization’s headquarters out of Montreal and to the gulf country. Canada has responded by vigorously defending its hosting of ICAO.
While Olsen said the Canadian government may be too aggressive in its response, he still defends keeping the ICAO HQ in this country.
“ICAO has been in Montreal since 1947,” Olsen said. It’s its one and only home.”
He estimated Qatar is making a move now due to Canada’s changing position on the international scene, paired with the rising prominence of the Arab world as social, economic and industry leaders.
“They are an important player on the world stage,” he said. “Look at where they are and what they do. They established their own airline and got the World Cup in 2022. They have a global reach.”
Canada, however, has an excellent track record as hosts of ICAO — despite the view of this country as having less influence today than it has had in the past.
“The goal remains that we should continue as hosts,” Olsen explained. “The appropriate response is to state the obvious in quiet, measured tones that Canada has genuinely done a good job and is in a position to continue doing a good job.”
He added there is opposition already to any change in where the headquarters of ICAO currently rests — yet that doesn’t mean things might change in the future. Growing economies and societies in the middle east and in Asia could put pressure on where the world’s aviation hub should be.
Olsen is watching with interest what is happening with his former workplace. He said the issue should resonate with people in Greater Victoria because of the prominence of the Victoria International Airport and the aviation-related industries that have grown up around it.
The standards established by ICAO are in place here, he said, as they are around the world, providing consistency and safety to air travellers no matter where they might land.