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Wind turbines may close busy airport: pilots launch political campaign

This is an excerpt from the August edition of COPA Flight, provided by a member of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.

So ridiculous, pilots can't believe anyone would put turbines at an airport
So ridiculous, pilots can’t believe anyone would put turbines at an airport

Windmills may close airport

By Russ Niles

The owner of an Ontario airport that will be in the shadow of a proposed wind turbine project fears Transport Canada [TC] will close his strip if the windmills are built.

Kevin Elwood says he’s been told by a senior TC official that the department will not intervene to prevent construction of the windmills but it will act to ensure public safety after the fact by restricting or even stopping operations at the affected airport.

“He said that if [the province of Ontario] chooses to put green energy before airports, that’s their choice,” he said. “We will respond by restricting airport operations and we will go so far as to close airports,” he {Elwood] quoted the official as saying.

That would seem to fit with the scenario now playing out over the so-called Fairview Project, a group of eight, 152-metre turbines planned for farmland adjacent to Elwood’s Clearview Aerodrome (also known as Stayner Airport). The huge windmills will be directly in the flightpath of aircraft in the circuit for his airport and the nearby Collingwood Airport.

TC has declined to oppose the project and that means the only hope Elwood and other opponents of the windmills have is the rarely used power on the Minister of Transport to unilaterally stop the project on safety grounds.

Minister Marc Garneau has so far been silent on the issue and COPA is calling on its 17,000 members (and voters) to apply their significant political influence to nudge him out of that complacency.

COPA has launched a full-scale letter writing campaign to draw attention to the issue that Elwood is convinced is an immediate threat to both airports and will set a precedent that could affect airports across the country.

The turbines would be in blatant violation of Transport Canada’s airport obstacle guidelines and Garneau, a long-time pilot and COPA member, has the power to stop their construction. In fact, because of the protection afforded such projects by Ontario’s Green Energy Act, Garneau is probably one of the few who can stop them. He won’t even talk about the issue, however.

“We really have a good working relationship with Transport Canada, very open and collaborative,” [says COPA President Bernard Gervais]. “As part of our regular discussions I presented the situation and possible course of action,” Gervais said. “Section 6.41 of the Aeronautics Act authorizes the minister to make an interim order to deal with such threats to aviation. If the minister is of the opinion that the windmills are hazardous to aviation safety, he (or his deputy) has the authority to stop such construction. … the lack of feedback from TC and knowing this is a very sensitive political issue, drives me to think that our only course of action at this point is to go on the political front.”

ERT members unfamiliar with aviation safety

COPA appeared at the original [ERT] hearings in the approval* process along with many other opponents, and all of the arguments were essentially ignored. … Complicating that process is the fact that the two members hearing the health arguments have no aviation background at all and have had to be schooled on airport operations and aviation terminology.

… [Elwood] says that if it plays out as he thinks it might, TC will either close his airport or make it so difficult and inconvenient to use that it might as well be closed. The aerodrome is home bas to Elwood’s business, an aircraft management and business charter operation. Over the years he’s invested heavily in hangars and other infrastructure and if the windmills go ahead, a lifetime of work might go down the drain.

[The wind turbines] will prevent pilots from using the recently re-invigorated [Collingwood Airport]. Ironically, the federal government has spent millions on improvements to the field, including a new terminal and lots of new pavement.

“Even people who don’t fly, [says Collingwood based pilot Austin Boake], they realize it’s just common sense …It’s just so ridiculous I can’t even believe it.”

*The author means the “appeal process.”

For more information on the COPA appeal go to: http://www.copanational.org/FeedFeds.cfm

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