Pilots using the Cobden airstrip have warned that a nearby wind testing tower is a hazard to aircraft and could cause a major crash.
“I fear for the fact that someone will hit it,” Cobden pilot Duncan Morris said.
“If I hit it in my plane, I’d land in a screaming heap in a paddock.”
Camperdown pilot Philip Robertson labelled the tower as “very dangerous” and said it was not lit or marked on aviation maps.
“It’s definitely a hazard if you came in in low cloud and didn’t know it was there,” Mr Robertson said.
The wind testing tower was erected about three kilometres north of the airstrip as part of the proposed Naroghid wind farm development.
The project gained State Government approval more than two years ago, but work on the construction of the 21 turbines has not yet started.
Mr Morris claimed the wind testing company, Windfarm Developments Australia, had placed the tower as close as possible to the flight path to meet aviation regulations but hamper pilots who had lodged objections to the wind farm.
“The problem, as a pilot, is that it’s almost impossible to see as it drops below the horizon.”
Local residents now fear the Air Ambulance has stopped using the Cobden airstrip for patient transfers because of the location of the wind testing tower and the poor condition of the airstrip surface.
Mr Morris said the ambulance had been flying in up to 20 times a year to transfer cancer patients for chemotherapy treatment in Melbourne, but for the past eight months the service had only used the airstrip for emergency transfers.
However, an ambulance spokesman said suggestions the service’s aircraft were no longer using Cobden’s airstrip for patient transfers were not true.
“We’re not aware of any problems with the Cobden airfield,” the spokesman said.
The airstrip committee is hoping to repair and widen the sealed surface of the strip this year.
Mr Morris said aircraft landing on the strip were regularly being damaged as propellers picked up loose gravel.
“It’s like sandblasting. You get nicks on your propeller and paint damage,” he said.
A spokesman for Windfarm Developments Australia was not available for comment.
By Mary Alexander
8 January 2008
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