COLLINGWOOD – Charlie Tatham says it’s inevitable that aircraft flying into Collingwood Regional Airport will collide with a wind turbine.
“You think a grade school kid would understand, you wouldn’t put 50-storey buildings beside the bloody airport. It’s so stupid,” said the chair of the Collingwood Regional Airport Services Board. “They are going to smack into those turbines.”
The airport held a press conference on Thursday, outlining their concerns about the eight wind turbines proposed to be constructed near Stayner.
Tatham said at 500 feet, the turbines will not only be a safety concern but they will also impact the accessibility to the airport.
Tatahm said Transport Canada governs airports and has what is called an Obstacle Limitation Surface. This means obstacles can’t be higher than 150 feet above the ground within the outer surface of the airport.
“If you’re coming here in poor conditions, you have the expectation that you can sneak in here from anywhere know there is nothing above 150 feet,” he said.
Tatham said two of the turbines would also be within the outer surface of the airport – a 2.1 nautical mile radius from the centre of the facility.
He believes the only reason the turbines are in this location is because WPD has a willing landowner as a partner.
Tatham it’s not necessary for the turbines to be in this location would prefer if WPD moved them outside of the outer surface of the airport.
WPD Canada president Ian MacRae said they are unable to do so.
“There are a number of restrictions, that indicated what our sighting need to be,” MacRae. “You can take 1,000 acres and that boxes you in. Clearly, we would want to alleviate as many concerns as we possibly can and we’ve done that. These are the turbines we’ve worked towards our
Tatham said because of the height of the turbines, the airport will have to amend its arrival and departure procedures “and end up with a less accessible airport.”
He said they recently spent $100,000 to approve these procedures.
He suggests that Transport Canada is unlikely to comment on the validity of the Wind Turbine project but would only tell the Airport that it has to change its procedures.
Tatham said that 87 per cent of aircraft accidents in Canada, occur within five miles of the airport.
“The closer these things are to the airport, the taller they are, the more risk there is to the airport,” he said.
He says the Collingwood Airport sees about 12,000 movements annually – making it one of the busier airports in the region.
“This airport has been growing in leaps and bounds,” he said. “The future of the airport gets brighter everyday.”
However, the turbines could impact the amount traffic the airport sees, thus damaging its ability to generate revenue.
Ultimately, Tatham, said the biggest issue for him is the safety concerns. He said bad weather, combined with pilot stress, could lead to disaster.
Simcoe Grey Jim Wilson spoke at the press conference and says he has raised the issues of the location of the turbines in the legislature.
In an exchange with the Premier and Minister of Energy, Wilson questioned whether the location of the turbines was safe.
“There are no rules about windmills and proximity to airports because no one ever thought someone or any government would be so stupid as to put 500 foot tall windmills in flight paths leading to regional airports,” he said.
Wilson believes the wind turbines are unnecessary, saying the Green Energy Act has helped drive jobs away.
“It drove away jobs and lowered the demand for industrial power by 35 per cent in the province,” he said. “Clearly we don’t need the power from the WPD proposal.”
Wilson criticized the government for ignoring the concerns of experts and residents.
“I don’t know why any government would ignore the advice of these experts,” he said.
“Dalton McGuinty’s government has been so headstrong in seeing these turbines built, come hell or high water, they’ve ignored these very legitimate concerns. We can’t get let the government turn a blind eye to the concerns of experts and the safety of pilots and their passengers and the people on the ground.”
Also on hand at the press conference were Kevin Psutka, president and CEO of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) and Karen Smith, communications officer of Community Airports Group Ontario (CAGO).
Psutka said his organization was at the table when the Green Energy Act was developed. He said they are concerned about the safety of pilots and operators.
“Airports in this country, are critical to the national transportation infrastructure,” he said.