Niche cluster support

Apart from the five niche clusters identified above, Alberta has four other areas that are noteworthy in their direct support to the provincial aerospace and defence industry, but which cannot be classified as niche clusters in their own right.

Aerospace Infrastructure

Alberta has a vast network of airports to service the movement of aircraft within the province with over 200 airports, heliports and aerodromes, including two international airports and one military airport. Alberta’s international airports are governed by airport authorities that are aggressively pursuing growth of their existing market share and expansion into new markets.

Alberta also has ambulance, forest fire suppression, agriculture crop spraying, aerial mapping and remote sensing, corporate aviation, recreational flying and flying education services.

Ranked as Canada's third busiest airport by aircraft movements and fourth busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic, the Calgary International Airport offers service to nearly 70 destinations. In 2011 over 12.8 million passengers passed through the airport.

The Calgary International Airport is also a major cargo hub. Calgary enjoys a strategic location, providing a single hub that specializes in receiving, transferring, storing and distributing air, rail and highway cargo domestically and internationally. In fact, cargo can be shipped from Calgary to anywhere in the world within 48 hours.

Edmonton International Airport is Canada’s second largest airport in terms of land mass, fifth busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic and thirteenth busiest in terms of aircraft movements. Edmonton International Airport is also Canada’s most northerly 24-hour international airport. Service is provided to every major Canadian city and to ten U.S. hubs on a daily basis.

Alberta’s Aerospace and Aviation Heritage

Alberta is home to the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame and six aerospace museums, which together house the largest collection of aviation heritage in Canada.

Alberta’s aviation heritage plays a critical role in shaping the labour force of tomorrow by attracting new technicians, engineers, businessmen and innovators into the sector. More so than any other industry group, aerospace and defence can leverage its proud Alberta heritage, through investment into museums and programs like cadets, in order to incubate the highly qualified people the sector will need tomorrow.

For more information, please visit Alberta’s Aviation Heritage

Aerospace Education

While lacking any specific aerospace engineering degree programs, the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Lethbridge offer programs that benefit and strengthen the sector, as do the province’s colleges.

The University of Calgary has expertise in space science, navigation and positioning, and security. The University is home to:

  • The Institute for Space Imaging Science (joint with the University of Lethbridge);
  • The Department of Geomatics;
  • The Centre for Information Security and Cryptography;
  • The Autonomous Reconfigurable/Robotics Systems Laboratory (which promotes UVS technology developments);
  • The iCORE Information Security Lab;
  • The Biometric Technologies Laboratory; and,
  • Researchers participating in the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicles Systems that was recently set up in Medicine Hat.

The University of Alberta also has a variety of institutions with aerospace and defence expertise, such as:

  • The Institute for Space Science, Exploration, and Technology;
  • The Canadian Centre for Earth Observation;
  • The Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Machine Learning (possible applications in defence electronics);
  • The National Institute for Nanotechnology (partnership with the federal government); and
  • The Centre for Frontier Engineering Research (CFER), a spin-off of the University of Alberta which has the facilities and expertise for large airframe testing. CFER is now a division of Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures.

The University of Lethbridge is also involved in the aerospace industry sector, having established the Alberta Terrestrial Imaging Centre and partnered with the company Iunctus Geomatics Corp. The University of Lethbridge also partnered with the University of Calgary to create the Institute for Space Imaging Science (ISIS), a unique national institute that researches the origin and evolution of structure in the universe. ISIS is also involved with the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory in developing the largest mirror ever built for a space telescope.

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) is a designated training organization under Transport Canada, and its programs are accredited by the Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council (CAMC).

The Art Smith Aero Centre at SAIT has three programs:

  • Avionics Technology;
  • Aircraft Structures Technician; and
  • Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technology.

Mount Royal University offers an Aviation Diploma Program.

All of Alberta’s colleges also offer programs that compliment the aerospace and defence industry, such as applied engineering, manufacturing, information technology/management, etc. Many of them also offer applied research services to help industry with product development.

Alberta’s post-secondary education community is interested in increasing the collaboration with industry to enhance and create new opportunities for the sector, especially in terms of research and development.

Research Capacity

Alberta has significant academic research capacity in the Aerospace sector the University of Alberta, the University of Lethbridge, and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).

University of Alberta

Research Focus:

  • Space Physics, Plasma Physics, and Space Environment
  • Microgravity Science and Planetary Science
  • Space Technology: Instrumentation and Robotics
  • Design, Analysis and Monitoring of Aerospace Systems
  • Earth Observation Sciences

Centres and Institutes:

University of Lethbridge 

Research Focus:

  • Composite Materials Engineering
  • Space Imaging

Centres and Institutes:

  • Astronomical Instrumentation Group (AIG)
  • Institute for Space Imaging Studies
  • Cryogenic Test Facility

SAIT

Research Focus:

  • Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) applications for:
  • Industries: construction, oil & gas and GIS & Geomatics;
  • Governmental bodies: natural resource management (water resources, forestry) and environmental monitoring; and
  • International and national disaster and emergency management: relief operations for both manmade & natural disasters.

Centres and Institutes:

  • Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Research Lab

Training Capacity

Alberta has excellent flying weather, making the province a great place to learn to fly. Alberta has a long-standing international reputation for providing quality, cost-effective flight training for aviation professionals from around the world, dating back to the British Commonwealth Air Training Program of World War II. There are 21 airplane and 6 helicopter flight schools in the province, offering both private and commercial training.

In recent years, demand from outside Canada for Alberta’s flight training program has increased, especially from southeast Asia, India and China due to a lack of indigenous training capacity. International students are being sent to Alberta to receive formal flight training (e.g., Sky Wings Aviation Academy in Red Deer).

For information on hiring and retaining skilled immigrants, visit:

For a list of flight training schools in Alberta, visit:

For more information on Alberta aerospace education and training capacity, download: