A long-time Chatham pilot says everyone involved was made aware of concerns about erecting wind turbines around the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport.
Jeff Pyefinch, who has been a pilot since 1984, said local pilots voiced their opposition to having turbines built near the airport when the project was in the initial stages during a meeting with interested parties nearly 10 years ago.
“We had concerns with it the right from the start,” he said on Saturday.
On Friday, The Chatham Daily News reported that, in an unprecedented move, Transport Canada has ordered the removal of eight wind turbines near the municipal airport for exceeding height restrictions.
A company official with GDF Suez Canada – owners of the turbines – told The Daily News on Friday, it hasn’t been contacted by the federal agency about this order.
Pyefinch recalled that when these turbines were proposed, “the municipality was very pro-turbine. They wanted to position the municipality as a leader for wind turbines.”
He believes political motivation may have caused the municipality to not seek the protection of the airport, to the extent that was available to them, to prevent turbines from being located nearby.
Pyefinch said it was clear the turbines would be within the four-kilometre protected radius around the airport, which is a federal airport zoning regulation.
He said he personally raised concerns about where a few turbines are located in proximity to a grass runway trip on the southside of the airport, 90-degrees to the main runway, that pilots may choose to use if the wind is strong from the south.
Somehow these concerns didn’t seem to go anywhere, at the time, he said.
Pyefinch admits to being surprised Transport Canada is ordering the turbines to be dismantled.
“I was more anticipating them putting operational restrictions on the airport then coming in and demanding the removal of them,” he said.
When asked how close the turbines feel when flying over them in a plane, Pyefinch said when weather conditions are good “it’s not a major safety concern, per se, it’s just kind of an annoyance factor.”
But he added, “as the weather deteriorates, then you could find yourself inadvertently a lot closer than you would care to be.”
Pyefinch credits the management of the airport for maintaining its federal certification, which provides projection under the Aeronautics Act.
“If we didn’t have that, there would be literally nothing that we could do,” he said.
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