December 2, 2021

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

Jon Robinson

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.”