Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope finds it ironic that shortly after Transport Canada has ordered the removal of eight turbines near the municipal airport, a C-130 Hercules military aircraft landed there safely for a training exercise.
“How can you have an unsafe airport when you’ve got that type of a plane landing there today,” he said early Sunday evening shortly after the municipality issued a media release about Transport Canada’s position.
The order calling for the removal of the turbines by Dec. 31, 2014 is change from the federal agency originally issuing a letter last year “requesting voluntary compliance.”
The turbines are owned by GDF SUEZ, which is expected to formally object to the order from Transport Canada seeking a hearing before the Minister of Transport through a process in the Aeronautics Act.
A company representative could not be reached Sunday night nor could Transport Canada officials.
The municipality is surprised by the turn of events taken by Transport Canada, which included issuing letters demanding the turbines be removed. The affected turbines are in a “no fly zone” south of the airport, which had been approved by NAV Canada prior to the construction of these eight turbines in 2012. Pilots have not been allowed to fly in the area for quite awhile, says the municipality.
Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire said, in a written release: “It has been clearly established by multiple aeronautic consultants that there is no safety issue with the location of the eight turbines or their impact on airport operations at the Chatham-Kent Airport.”
John Norton, Chatham-Kent’s chief legal officer, met as recently as two months ago with Transport Canada officials and proposed that the eight turbines be recognized as “exceptions.” The proposal was based on an aeronautical expert’s advice.
“It’s a simple solution,” the mayor said. “It wouldn’t cost anybody any money . . . it could be easily resolved.”
Municipal officials are convinced Transport Canada has an ulterior motive to pressure Chatham-Kent to decertify the airport.
Norton said if that happens it becomes a private airport and Transport Canada doesn’t have to worry about monitoring it or sending out officials to inspect it.
He said keeping the airport certified allows for growth in the future.
Norton noted an airport must be certified to have commercial traffic come into the facility.
“If we were ever to have a commercial company want to come in and do regular paid flights into Chatham-Kent then we want to be certified,” he said. “We also want to be certified, because it allows us to have certain standards that are required for bigger aircraft.”
The mayor said, “I said it from the beginning, this is a political move, it is nothing but a political move.”
He believes the lobbyists from the anti-wind groups have been putting pressure on government.
Hope noted the eight turbines in question are considerably farther from the Chatham-Kent Airport than the CN Tower and other skyscrapers are from the Island Airport in Toronto.
He said the federal agency knew about the turbine locations prior to construction, but didn’t notify anyone about this problem until after they were built. He added Transport Canada specifically approved the lighting on each of the turbines in question.
If this results in a lawsuit, Hope doesn’t doubt the municipality will somehow get dragged into it.
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