Category Archives: Featured

Flying to the Bahamas

By: Phil Lightstone, Richmond Hill, ON

Photo Credit: AVweb, avweb.com

Our pilot licences open a world of opportunity aka the Freedom to Fly. Obtaining my Private Pilot Licence (PPL) in 1994 and joining the Buttonville Flying Club (COPA Flight 44) opened a new world of destinations, people and experiences. With handheld GPS navigators just emerging, I invested in a Garmin GPS 92. Complete with a worldwide aviation database, this small handheld helped me navigate from Toronto (CYKZ) to the Bahamas and explore the islands.

Leaving Ontario in the early spring, with temperatures hovering around the freezing point in Toronto, the thought of lying on a beach surrounded with turquoise blue water was enticing. My first long cross country required roughly 2,370 nm to complete (there and back). Before the days of the Internet, the multi-leg cross country required a lot of preplanning, telephone calls and leveraging the experience of the local pilots from the Buttonville Flying Club (COPA Flight 44). Part of the experience was attending a few planning social meetings. Early in my aviation career, before Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) like ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot, paper charts, airport guides like Flight Guide by Airguide Publications, Bahamas and Caribbean Pilots Guide and Flying to the Bahamas information packet (Banyan Air Services at KFXE), were indispensable to getting to the Bahamas and discovering the islands. The various Bahamian government forms had to be completed in triplicate making carbon paper an indispensable tool.

Fast forward to 2024, flying to the Bahamas is even easier with access to on-line resources and in cockpit technologies like GPS, ForeFlight or Garmin Pilot. Do not be daunted by the distance, just consider the journey a series of shorter cross-country flights. As a VFR pilot, I was never in a hurry, after all, getting stuck in Nassau with IFR weather in Florida, was not a problem.

Accommodation, restaurants and fuel costs are much more than the US mainland. You can expect to pay as much as $9.00 USD (or more) for avgas. With the distances between the US mainland and the Bahamas being relatively short, you might consider departing Florida with full fuel.  Fuel at Pompano Beach Airpark (KPMP) is $5.61 USD. Tony Davis, vacationed in Long Island at the Kahari resort in early January 2024, spending $700 USD per night for the room. Tony reports, “in January 2024, we landed at Exuma International Airport (MYEF) and stayed at Kahari (www.KahariResort.com) on Stocking Island, experiencing one of the best beaches in the Bahamas which we had all to ourselves.”

Departing Canada, flight planning begins selecting a US airport of entry to clear US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). There are two trains of thought: clear at the closest airport of entry to your Canadian departure airport; or clear deeper in the US enabling a longer first leg. My first Rockwell Commander was a 112TCA, equipped with 68 gals and using 10 gph. That gave me roughly 5 hours with reserves. Flight planning at 135 TAS, I could easily make Greensboro NC (KGSO) in 4 hours (depending on upper winds).

Fast forward to 2024, we have the added burden of the Electronic Advanced Passenger Information System (eAPIS) (www.eapis.cbp.dhs.gov/eapis/auth).  A Notice of Arrival must be completed in the eAPIS system prior to calling the US Airport of Entry CBP folks to obtain landing rights. Critical to navigating CBP is to ensure that the data entered is correct. A member of our flying club had a typo in his eAPIS filing (F instead of G for his aircraft registration). A month after his trip, he received a notice of enforcement from CBP including a $3,000 USD fine. PRO TIP: Apps like FlashPass from LoboLabs (www.FlashPass.net) will create, modify and upload eAPIS Notices of Arrival and Departure to CBP.

Once you are in Florida, you need to select a jumping off point. I have used: Treasure Coast Int in Fort Pierce (KFPR); Lantana (KLNA); Fort Lauderdale Executive (KFXE); Miami-Opa Locka Executive (KOPF); and Key West Int (KEYW). From a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) perspective, my personal favorite is Banyan Air Service in KFXE (www.BanyanAir.com). Banyan was founded in 1979 by Don Campion (a Canadian) who continues to be engaged in the day-to-day activities of the FBO. Banyan has a complete Flying to the Bahamas kit packed with charts, information and Bahamian forms.

Flying to the Bahamas has a few simple requirements: file an eAPIS US Notice of Departure; file an international flight plan; present three copies of the C7A Bahamas Cruising Permit form to Bahamian Customs; present one Bahamas Immigration Card per person; proof of citizenship such as a passport; clearance from last port if not arriving from the US; and pay a Bahamian Customs processing fee of $50 USD per aircraft.

There is no VFR night flying in the Bahamas.  So, plan your inbound and outbound flights accordingly. With the typical heat and humidity, flying early in the morning is a great way to be comfortable in the cockpit. There could be long distances flying over water. While you can island hop, the first leg from the continental US could exceed the gliding distance of a piston aircraft. Wearing life jackets and having an inflatable life raft is a must in single engine aircraft and certainly advisable in twin engine aircraft. Jackets and rafts can be rented from FBOs like Banyan, but I prefer to own my life jackets. Typical Mae West lifejackets are hot. Consider suspender style jackets from companies like Mustang, Revere and for technical standards orders (TSO’d) compliant vests checkout Switlik (TSO-c13F).  You might also consider a Portable Location Device (PLD) like a Spot or Garmin enReach.

Most airports in the Bahamas, except for Nassau and Freeport, are uncontrolled, using the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) of 122.8 MHz, left hand circuits and a pattern altitude of 1,000 (ASL).  Fuel can be an issue in the Bahamas, especially 100LL avgas, so call the airport before arriving. Once in the Bahamas, the distances between islands are relatively short. If you find that the airport does not have fuel or the accommodation is not to your liking, you can simply fly to another island.

Jim Parker of Caribbean Flying Adventures (www.caribbeanflyingadventures.com) reports, “there are over 25,000 GA flights annually to the Bahamas with over 55 airports of which 20 are airports of entry. There are a few, like the 2,150 ft limestone strip at Cape Santa Maria on Long Island, which only the old and bold pilots, like me, should ever consider and even then, only a small high wing aircraft with no wheel fairings.”

Flying around the Bahamas opens a panacea of destinations and activities. One of my favorites is Staniel Cay (MYES) and the Thunderball Grotto, where the underwater fight scene in the James Bond Thunderball movie was filmed. I was standing in the bar in the marina at Staniel Cay, having a cocktail, looked up and saw a photograph of Sean Connery standing at the same bar having a drink. Only in the Bahamas. The next day, our flying club rented a zodiac and boated to the Thunderball Grotto and Beach. Snorkeling into the Grotto required some underwater swimming as the entrance is below sea level. Once inside, I could easily stand on the bottom with my head out of the water. It was quite the adventure, especially reliving some of the Thunderball scenes.

Norman’s Cay (MYEN), in the Exumas, is another favorite spot with a 4,700’ x 80’ asphalt runway and a few hangars. The runway was built by Carlos Ledher, an infamous member of the Medellin Cartel. On the west side of the runway is a small resort consisting of cottages and a small open-air restaurant bar called McDuff’s (www.normanscay.com). McDuff’s is the original bed and breakfast and club, with a rustic atmosphere that makes every guest feel as if they have been visiting for years. In recent years, the island has been redeveloped with new dining and lodging. With electricity provided by a diesel generator, the proprietors use a chainsaw engine powered blender to make cocktails when the power is out. On the east side of the runway is a path which will take you to Carlos’s concrete home. On the north end of the island is a splashed Curtiss C46 aircraft sitting in shallow water, perfect to explore while snorkeling or scuba diving. Sitting on the resort’s beach, a CND registered Lake Buccaneer amphibian landed and beached itself. A couple of younger folks jumped out and told me that they had just dropped in for lunch. Norman’s Cay is renowned for their hamburgers. A few minutes later, a US Blackhawk helicopter dropped in, about 10 feet of the deck and 20 feet of the beach, looking at us. As we did not look like a threat or smugglers, the Blackhawk carried on with its patrol.

Returning home begins a little differently than crossing the border from Canada into the US. The US CBP, DEA and other law enforcement agencies are spring loaded looking for drug smugglers. This is one trip, where you absolutely want to do things right, beginning with leaving any contraband in the Islands.

Departing the Bahamas requires: one copy of The Bahamas Customs General Declaration Outward Form (C7); turn in The Bahamas Immigration card copy; file an international flight plan; submit an eAPIS Notice of Arrival; call and advise US Customs of your estimated time of arrival; receive an email from US Customs confirming landing rights; pay a departure tax for all persons six years and older of $29 USD. During your flight: contact Nassau Radio on 124.2 MHz once airborne to open your flight plan; contact Miami Center to get a squawk code; once entering the Air Defense Zone (ADZ) you may be provided with a new squawk code; request flight following with Centre (VFR flights); and you may be provided with the appropriate frequency hand offs as you approach your US destination airport.  Once on the ground, you will be required to taxi to the CBP apron (a red box). Different CBP offices work differently, e.g. at KFXE, they will have you deplane and walk into their air-conditioned office, while at KSUA, they will meet you at your aircraft. Pro Tip: when you call CBP to arrange landing rights, ask the agent what the process and procedures are.

Telephone and Internet communications on the out islands could be challenging but not an issue in Nassau or Freeport. Some islands are connected using radio technology (as opposed to oceanic fiber cables).  You might want to make your eAPIS and Customs arrangements for your return flight before you leave the US. A great way to acclimatize to the process is a day trip to Bimini (MYBS). My son and I did this a few times, launching out of Lantana to enjoy a Bahamian lunch and the beach in Bimini.  A great resource site can be found at www.bahamas.com/getting-here/private-aviation/pilot-faqs which includes links to the Bahamian customs forms, VFR Flight Planning Guide, Pet Permit Application and others.

Most US and Canadian mobility providers will roam on the Bahamian network, but daily roaming fees can get expensive and you may experience slower-than-normal connections. The best option is to use an internet data plan with a smartphone through one of the two local providers (Bahamas Telecommunications Company or Aliv) or Wi-Fi at the resort or marina. Data speeds are 4G LTE, rivaling what will be found in the US. Their offices can be found in most of the major islands. If you have an unlocked international phone, you can purchase prepaid phone cards for local use.

The Freedom of Flight opens a panacea of experiences through exploring the Bahamas and the Caribbean. For the average Canadian pilot, most of the flights are over land with a small amount of the trip over open water. But the experiences, new friends and access to areas of the Bahamas where most tourists avoid, are well worth the risk of open water flight.

Who Can Use RCAP Procedures?

— Text provided by COPA

If you have ever considered flying an instrument approach procedure published in the Restricted Canada Air Pilot, there are a few things you should know. Only operators with specific authority from Transport Canada (Ops Spec 099 or 410), operating under CAR 604, 702, 703, 704 and 705, can legally fly these procedures because they have been designed with certain deviations from the regulations.

These deviations are permitted because special crew training, operational procedures and/or aircraft capability permit. As a general aviation pilot, it’s important to understand why these procedures are not available for you use.

Who is considered a 604 operator? A 604 Operator is considered a Private Operator, and applies to anyone, for the purpose of transporting passengers or goods, flying the following aircraft:

• large aeroplanes (MCTOW of more than 5,700kg or 12,566 pounds);
• turbine-powered aircraft;
• pressurized aircraft; and
• multi-engined aircraft.

CAR 702-705 operators fall under the Commercial Air Services. It should be clear that neither of these designations will apply to general aviation.

Even though you may look at an airport with a procedure in the RCAP, and feel tempted to use that approach, it is not something you are authorized to fly. In order to receive permission to use RCAP procedures, operators must prove to Transport Canada an acceptable level of training, procedures and aircraft performance. The procedures listed in the RCAP are simply not designed to be flown by pilots and aircraft without authorization. Limit yourself to regular Canada Air Pilot procedures, and be safe.

(Photo: Adobestock)

RAF completes world first flight with synthetic fuel

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) recently completed what is being described as the world’s first flight using 100 per cent synthetic fuel. The flight took place on November 2, 2021, in Great Britain with a Rotax-powered Comco Ikarus C42 microlight aircraft.

Prior to the flight, Zero Petroleum’s synthetic fuel was extensively texted by CFS Aeroproducts Ltd, the UK Distributor and Authorized Service Centre for Rotax Aircraft engines. From this testing, Rotax explains the engine performed as though running on fossil fuels, but ran at lower temperatures, suggesting that the synthetic fuel could increase engine lifespans while reducing carbon emissions.

Officials from both CFS Aeroproducts and Zero Petroleum stated that power and torque curves closely match between what is now being called ZERO SynAvGas and UL91 fossil fuel. The synthetic fuel could also save up to 90 per cent carbon per flight, explains Rotax.

The innovation behind the synthetic-fuel powered flight comes from the RAF’s Project MARTIN, which was initiated by the Rapid Capabilities Office in June 2021. Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement said that the flight was “a world first innovation and that it shows the determination of UK Armed Forces to drive forward creative ideas on net zero alongside meeting operational commitments.”

“We are proud to be part of this world record flight,” said Peter Oelsinger, General Manager BRP-Rotax / Member of the Management Board, Vice President Sales, Marketing RPS-Business & Communications. “The multi-fuel capability of our aircraft engines, that are able to fly with unleaded, leaded MOGAS or AVGAS fuel provides the perfect match for such an innovative project like this.”

The gasoline was manufactured in Orkney by extracting hydrogen from water and carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide, and combining these ingredients using locally generated wind, and tide and wave energy. Rotax explains this process can also be used to create a range of “drop-in” fuels, which are a substitute for fossil-based aviation fuels and require no engine modification. Paddy Lowe, the chief operating officer of Zero Petroleum, explains that the synthetic gasoline had been developed “in just five months” and yet it ran successfully in the aircraft without any modification to the plane or the engine.

Leveraging this innovation and working towards the government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050, the RAF has set an internal goal of becoming a net zero force by 2040 with its first net zero airbase by 2025.

(Photo: Rotax)

Local businessman part of group interested in buying Saugeen Municipal Airport

After almost 70 years of municipal ownership, the Saugeen Municipal Airport has a prospective buyer. A group of local business people has expressed interest in purchasing the airport. (Photo: Pauline Kerr)

— By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

A group of people has expressed interest in buying Saugeen Municipal Airport (SMA), for the purpose of operating it as an airport on a financially viable basis.

The group, consisting of Walkerton businessman Darren Holm, his brother Todd Holm and his landlord Sam Bacher, recently made a presentation to Hanover council about purchasing the airport. In stating their case for private ownership of the airport, they promised to run SMA as an airport for 10 years. They have yet to make presentations to West Grey and Brockton councils.

When asked about the short length of time (10 years), Holm referred to Canada’s intention to reduce carbon emissions and get rid of internal combustion engines in vehicles — this could have an impact on airplanes.

“We can make it profitable,” Holm said in an interview about the group’s plans for the airport. “We can make it stand on its own two feet.” He spoke of a combination of investing in the kind of infrastructure at the airport — things like automated grounds maintenance — that would drastically reduce operating costs, and some new airport-related development.

Holm also spoke of problems with the way the airport is presently being operated, as a partnership of three municipalities — Hanover, West Grey and Brockton. “It’s being run on a shoestring,” Holm said. “The taxpayers will not support additional investment in it.”

He went on to say that he thinks the airport “is in trouble, but it can be fixed” by having private owners with the resources to make necessary investments.

In his presentation to Hanover council, Holm referred to a $171,000 deficit — a number that the mayor and council took issue with, saying $150,000 of that was the “municipal contribution.”

This year, Hanover Coun. Dave Hocking, who represents that municipality on the airport commission, predicted a $35,000 surplus. Holm said he takes issue with this figure. By his calculations, “it looks like a deficit again.” Holm has copies of financial documents presented at airport commission meetings.

Holm said his group questions a number of things in the airport’s financials. One is the amount pilots pay for hangars. A few own the land and building, and pay taxes and access fees; most either lease the land or rent hangars. Holm said he’d like to see a more equitable rental fee structure, for starters.

He also takes issue with the fuel pricing and the airport’s management contract.

He said that if his group ends up negotiating a good price for the airport and purchases it, the priorities will be “creating efficiencies and getting spending under control — and keeping the pilots happy.”

Holm is the owner and operator of Holm Graphics in Walkerton. He has a diverse background in aviation and health care as a paramedic and respiratory therapist who operated his own air ambulance service in California.

Helijet, Blade partnership to develop Electric Vertical Aircraft network in BC

Helijet International entered into an agreement with Blade Urban Air Mobility Inc. for the sale of exclusive rights for the booking of flights on Helijet’s scheduled service routes. These routes will continue to be operated by Helijet, headquartered in Richmond, BC, as North America’s largest scheduled helicopter airline. Blade is based in New York City.

Helijet explains the exclusive rights sale is part of a new operating partnership aimed at introducing additional routes and delivering the first commercially available and sustainable Electric Vertical Aircraft (EVA) service to the British Columbia market. The partnership will focus developing new route networks in BC and the Pacific Northwest, as well as future services to be provided by Blade.

“Helijet and Blade are partnering to ensure our combined leadership in the early adoption of EVA on existing routes in British Columbia, as well as the new services Blade may launch in the future,” said Danny Sitnam, President of Helijet. “EVA technologies are going to change aviation in the same way that the jet engine revolutionized air travel 60 years ago. EVA will make urban air mobility more efficient, more sustainable, and more affordable. In Blade, we have found a unique partner that shares our commitment to customer service and experience, safety and innovation. Together, we are looking forward to a future that is literally just around the corner.”

Helijet explains, that while Blade is not acquiring any shares or ownership in Helijet, it will have the right to acquire up to 49 per cent of Helijet‘s wholly subsidiary, Pacific Heliport Services (PHS), which manages and operates heliport waterfront terminals in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo.

Blade’s investment in existing and future vertiport infrastructure provides Blade access to heliport passenger terminals controlled by PHS for future route expansion.

“This partnership is a perfect fit with Blade’s mission to eliminate travel friction around the world,” said Melissa Tomkiel, President of Blade. “Like Danny and the team at Helijet, we recognize EVA’s incredible potential. Together we are committed to making aviation more accessible, and our transition to lower-cost, quiet and emission-free EVA should only serve to increase the number of passengers that travel by air between Helijet and Blade locations and the value proposition to our fliers.”

Helijet explains it will continue to operate its current routes as usual, with Blade integrating its booking and sales technologies to achieve greater reach into Helijet’s existing and future route network. Together, Helijet and Blade are currently reviewing new routes to serve Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and other locations along the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia corridor. The two companies are also looking at how to advance their aircraft fleet, booking and sales systems, and flier experiences.

“For our customers, Helijet’s integration with Blade’s platform will be seamless over the coming months and will provide new booking technology features as part of Blade’s dynamic offerings,” said Sitnam.

(Photo: Helijet)

SNC-Lavalin to support EAG on hydrogen technologies

Project management company SNC-Lavalin Inc. of Montreal entered into a strategic agreement with the UK’s Electric Aviation Group around H2ERA, a planned zero emission, regional aircraft to be fueled by hybrid hydrogen-electric technology. The collaboration involves Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin.

“The increasing international demand for air transport means the development of clean aircraft technologies is critical to driving down global carbon emissions.” said Ian Edwards, President and CEO of SNC-Lavalin.

The partnership offers Electric Aviation Group (EAG) access to SNC-Lavalin’s aerospace capabilities and resources as it progresses its proprietary hybrid electric and hydrogen technologies. EAG expects to launch its H2ERA aircraft in 2030 as the world’s first true zero 90-seater regional aircraft.

“EAG aims to be the market leader in developing disruptive sustainable technologies for the transportation industry with an acute focus on hydrogen powered aviation,” said Kamran Iqbal, Founder and CEO of Electric Aviation Group. “Central to achieving this is teaming up with best-in-class industrial and academic partners to codevelop the key building blocks to realize our goals.”

Atkins’ Aerospace team will provide EAG with strategic business and technical support for commercialization, including advisory services, safety assessments, specification, integration and certification.

(Image: Electric Aviation Group)

Aeronyx: Developing Regional Commercial Drone Delivery

― By Julien B. Gauthier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Le Lac-Saint-Jean

Montreal-based Aeronyx wants to develop the drone delivery market in the Saguenay―Lac-Saint-Jean area. Choosing to establish itself in Alma, the company plans to run tests and start building relationships with local businesses.

Its vision is to offer businesses a new segment in the supply chain that can be called upon when transport issues risk disrupting the transit of goods. “We noticed that interruptions in the production line can cost companies thousands of dollars per hour. We have to come up with an alternative solution to restart production – it’s a vital issue,” declared Jérémy Laplante, Aeronyx’s president and cofounder.

Aeronyx got its start through the SUITE entrepreneuriale Desjardins business incubator program and is a member of Alma’s UAS Centre of Excellence. It currently has three employees.

For the moment, however, the company must overcome obstacles posed by Transport Canada’s regulations. Currently, drones cannot transport cargo exceeding 25 kg and deliveries must be within the pilot’s line of sight.

This is why Aeronyx is currently networking to find companies willing to participate financially.

Parallel to these efforts, the company is also lobbying Transport Canada to change its regulations. With more and more actors asking for change, Aeronyx believes the law will have to adapt. “We have to demonstrate that companies are interested in this new market to convince Transport Canada to broaden the scope. Within a year or two, I believe they will be ready to take that step. We’re starting to see it in the United States, with out of sight flights,” reasoned Jérémy Laplante.

Aeronyx believes that it will soon be possible for drones to transport heavy cargo, most notably for companies and hospitals. “There are examples around the world, but we’re still talking about pilot projects focused on a single region. For example, there is a company called Zipline already making medical deliveries in Africa. We want to take it even further.”

Demystifying Drone Delivery
“Many companies associate drones with military applications or small drones that can only carry small loads. We tell them to imagine how things will be a few years from now. If today drones can carry 25 kg, tomorrow it will be 100 kg,” he concluded, pointing out that high capacity cargo drones already exist.

Next summer, Aeronyx will be working on a drone delivery project to connect two strategic points over the Saguenay Fjord. Talks are currently ongoing with a partner based in La Baie.

(Image : Aeronyx)

Category 4 medicals

— Cynthia Murphy, Director, Aviation Operations, Canadian Owners and Pilots Association 

Many pilots are experiencing delays in the processing of either new or renewal medical certificates. However, there are a few things you can do to make the process as smooth as possible. For a Category 4 renewal, apply early, at least 60 days prior to the expiry date of the medical certificate. Be sure to submit your application electronically, either via email or epost. As medicals are processed by region, so make sure to send the form to your TCCA Regional Service Centre, not to Civil Aviation Medicine. AIM 1/2022 will be updated to contain the website with contact information for the regional offices, which can be found here.

A Category 4 medical is an acceptable means, but not the only means, to validate a: Student Pilot Permit (all aircraft categories, see NCR-117-2020), a Glider Pilot Licence, a Recreational Pilot Permit (Aeroplane) and an Ultralight Aeroplane Pilot Permit.

A number of exemptions have been put in place with respect to Category 4 Medical since the start of the pandemic, with the intent of minimizing delays.

Exemption NCR-014-2021 – This exemption allows applicants attempting the Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot or ATPL exams to write the required exam(s) with a Category 4 medical certificate. This exemption is valid to January 31, 2022.

Exemption NCR-037-2021 – This exemption allows applicants attempting the Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot, or ATPL skill requirement to hold at least a Category 4 medical certificate. This exemption is valid to February 28, 2022.

Exemption NCR-117-2020 – This exemption allows for a physician signed Category 4 Medical for a SPP Helicopter, Gyroplane and Balloon. This exemption is valid until November 30, 2025.

You can find these exemptions listed here.

It is important to note that CAR 401.03 (1) states “…no person shall act as a flight crew member or exercise the privileges of a flight crew permit, licence or rating unless:
(c) the person holds the appropriate medical certificate; and
(d) the person can produce the permit, licence or rating, and the certificate, when exercising those privileges.”

This means that you must have received your Category 4 medical certificate from Transport Canada, prior to exercising the privileges it affords. A Category 4 medical can be used by student pilots, who are awaiting a higher level medical, to continue training by writing exams or attempt a skill requirement with the Category 4 medical.

(Photo: Adobestock)

Englishman gets not-so-warm welcome at Saugeen Municipal Airport

Shortly after pilot Phil Englishman flew his plane back to his hangar at Saugeen Municipal Airport, he was given a ticket for trespassing. (Photo: Pauline Kerr)

— By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

When Phil Englishman got the word that he could pay his access fees for the Saugeen Municipal Airport (SMA), he was pleased he’d be able to get his plane into his hangar before the snow flew.

That was Friday, Nov. 19. Two days later, Englishman’s plane was back in its hangar, but the dispute between him and the airport commission is clearly far from over. He’s once again preparing to fight a trespassing ticket and has launched a petition he plans to present to Brockton council.

Englishman, a longtime pilot, has been involved in an ongoing dispute with the airport commission that has involved an accusation of flying in an unsafe manner (not even investigated), a trespassing charge and subsequent court case (he was completely exonerated) and having his hangar blocked with up to four large pieces of concrete. Englishman’s cheques went uncashed. He was forced to fly out of other airports, most recently Kincardine, which meant an added expense.

He’s been spending an increasing amount of time dealing with lawyers when he’d prefer to be flying. In addition to his work with Royal Canadian Legion Br. 102 Walkerton where he’s Sergeant-at-Arms, he’s been an active member of the Saugeen Municipal Airport community for many years. He’s been instrumental in arranging many special events there, including air shows and appearances by the Snowbirds Canadian Air Demonstration Squadron. His work with the Young Eagles program has earned him international recognition.

He and others had an expectation that the findings in the court case would end the dispute, but since last summer, matters escalated. A West Grey member of council and previous member of the Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission (SMAC) was censured by the integrity commissioner for her testimony on behalf of Englishman – that was deemed to be a violation of the code of conduct.

The issue of the concrete blocks has been raised at Brockton council numerous times and has proven quite divisive (Dan Gieruszak, chair of SMAC, is the municipality’s deputy mayor and representative on the commission).

Englishman decided to pay his access fees at the Hanover municipal office, which handles the airport’s books, to ensure everything was in order. He presented a certified cheque, which this time was accepted, and made plans to move his plane from Kincardine.

The agreement included the provision the concrete blocks would be removed within 24 hours, and they were – but contrary to the agreement, not far. They were placed mere feet from the hangar, where they could be easily moved back. Englishman had stipulated they’d be removed from the site. Englishman and his wife, Martha, stated the blocks in their present location continue to “pose a threat.”

Englishman flew out of Kincardine Sunday morning and offers the highest praise to the people there, saying he was treated with respect and consideration. But SMA is “home.” It’s where he’s invested a lot of effort and time, owns a hangar and has friends.

The wind was picking up and the sky was becoming overcast when he made a perfect landing at the airport and cruised down the taxiway to put the plane in his hangar.

He went to the airport’s restaurant for a cup of coffee with Martha and a couple of friends and was asked to leave. Shortly after that, an OPP cruiser showed up and Englishman was given… a ticket for trespassing.

As for announced plans to celebrate the airport’s 70th anniversary in 2022, Martha Englishman offers a carefully worded caution.

“Predictions for 2022 sound promising, but it will be a huge undertaking and will involve extensive co-operation and camaraderie to guarantee a success.”

Changes on the landscape at the Whitecourt Airport

The area within the fence and outside of the fence around Whitecourt Airport is getting a remodel. Tree cover within the fenced zone was removed due to a court order, and just recently, Woodlands County Council voted to allow logging adjacent to the runaway. (Photo: Serena Lapointe)

— By Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press

Due to a court order, Woodlands County must remove all the tree cover on the fenced-in airport lands. Passersby can visibly see large mounds of debris from the removal of those trees. To keep the tree cover from growing back, Administration proposed breaking the land down and seeding it to forage crop. Doing so has a cost, and Administration proposed an idea to help pay for it. During a recent Woodlands County Council meeting, Director of Infrastructure Andre Bachand explained that they wanted to log an area of Woodlands County forest outside the lands of the airport.

“The conservative estimate revenue is $100,000. To break the land, we are estimating $650/acre totalling roughly $85,000. To burn the existing piles, the stumps and slash piles, is in the area of $40,000. We are working on obtaining pricing on chipping and disposing of material so that it’s usable, but we won’t have those numbers until later. ”

Councillor Alan Deane asked why it would cost $40,000 to burn the piles. “I believe you, but what’s captured in those costs?” Bachand explained that there needs to be equipment on-site during the burning process. “We need excavators to be able to move the material and keep re-piling it, and there are roughly 120 piles out there, so that’s a lot of piles to burn.” He then added that if they fail to break the land, the tree cover will regrow, and the cycle will continue of removing it. With a court order in place, they need to keep it from growing back.

Councillor Jeremy Wilhelm asked how they came up with the estimate of $100,000 for revenue from logging the land. “We just mean that if we log it, those lands will get roughly $100,000 revenue given the price of lumber. It’s probably more than that, but we are trying to be conservative with that number. When we tender it out, we ask for pricing per tonne for the different types of trees. The highest number gets the job,” answered Bachand.

Mayor John Burrows asked if any conversations had been had with the Whitecourt Trailblazers about their trail system being impacted by the clearing taking place outside the airport fence area. Bachand said they had not spoken with them and said he wasn’t sure if there were trails within the area being cleared. Mayor Burrows said there were.

Councillor Deane agreed. “Yes, they do, as the Mayor pointed out. For the most part, the existing trail is right adjacent to, I would call it, the North Boundary fence and then wraps around and goes by that lease. I don’t think there would be any concerns, but it would be good corporate citizenship to contact them.”

He then asked why the sections selected for logging were chosen. “When I look at the map, I see that there are other forested areas. Why this jagged map? I’m sure there’s a good reason, but I’m just curious,” said Councillor Deane. Bachand explained that much of it followed the property line but that some areas follow the crest of the ridge. “Although we are allowed to log the whole thing, we thought environmentally it would be best to stay away from that ridge a little bit.”

Councillor Wilhelm asked if the logging adjacent to the airport would impact wind protection for the airport area. “Will that have any negative impact?” Bachand said they had discussions with Nav Canada. “They’ve requested that we do some of that logging for the past number of years for sightlines. There may be additional wind or blowing snow hitting the runway, but we are able to deal with that.” Bachand said that within about five years, the regrowth from the logged area outside of the fence, near the runway, would grow back and give some relief from the wind.

“But they don’t think it will have a negative effect on the landing or taking off in the area,” queried Wilhelm. Bachand said they hadn’t discussed the impact on aircraft. Mayor Burrows, as a pilot, wasn’t too sure about not having done a consult on whether aircraft would be affected. “I would recommend that we have that conversation. We can either postpone this until we have that conversation, or we can vote it down. The amount of wind changes that have gone on there, if anyone drives on Highway 32, that is a polished piece of glass in the winter because of the deforestation along there. I don’t want to make our airport useless because we cut some trees down.”

Councillor Bruce Prestidge didn’t feel it would cause that much issue. “I don’t believe that cutting the trees will do much. The City of Edmonton has an airport, and there are no trees within miles of it. So, if we cut all the trees on one side, I don’t see cutting the trees down on the other side changing much.” Councillor Deane agreed. “If you go to Regina or Medicine Hat, those are very windy places, but that being said, I’ve never flown a plane, and I’ve never landed a plane, so I’m not coming from a position of experience.” Council voted to direct the Administration to tender the logging of the airport lands and budget for the revenue and expenditure in the 2022 operational budget.