Council wants new airport safety report

  • Oct. 7, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Town council wants an updated Transport Canada inspection of the Ponoka Industrial Airport before deciding whether to cut down a stand of trees some pilots want to preserve.

Coun. John Jacobs made the motion to ask for another inspection to confirm whether the trees that parallel the runway at Labrie Field should be removed for safety reasons.

ìSome pilots are saying we should cut down the trees and other pilots are saying we shouldnít cut down the trees ó both for safety reasons,î he said.

At its Sept. 14 meeting, council heard a delegation of pilots who oppose the recommendation of the townís airport commission. They say the 40-year-old stand of trees between Highway 2A and the runway actually help to reduce crosswinds making for safer landings.

But in a letter to council from Perry Wilson, the pilot calls the trees a hazard. ìThe safety issue is squarely in favour of removal of tree hazards. This is aviation 101 ó trees and runways donít mix. Pilots who, ignore this are not in the majority in aviation circles.î

Stan Baliant, director of property services, told council that since the trees were not removed following the 1998 safety report, ìweíve lost our credibility as an airport.î

In reply to an email letter from Baliant, Dean Zimmer, an official with Transport Canada, says the department has received no complaints about the trees. He refers to the Ponoka field as an ìaerodromeî and not an ìairport,î which generally has commercial flights and more strict safety standards.

Baliant told council the pilots who spoke to council were in correct in stating the GPS system has not been accepted by Transport Canada and a new wide area augmentation system (WAAS) under consideration wouldnít require removal of the trees to be effective.

ìIt has been accepted,î Baliant said. ìIt is tied up in the bureaucracy of the federal department.î

Council decided to ask Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins to ìgive a little nudgeî to the process of having the GPS approach published in the Canada Air Pilot gazette, which would advertise the Ponoka Industrial Airport is open to business aircraft operators.

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