Local pilots have joined the growing opposition to a wind farm proposed for Merrick Township, near Jack Garland Airport.
The local chapter of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (North Bay COPA Flight 23) has drafted a letter to federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt objecting to Innergex Renewable Energy Inc.’s proposal for a wind farm about eight kilometres northeast of the airport. The group is circulating a petition among its members.
“These permanent vertical structures will unquestionably create life-threatening hazards for pilots and their passengers, as well as the numerous student pilots who make use of the North Bay airport and the North Bay waterdrome,” states the letter, signed by flight captain, Kori Ibey.
Ibey said three flight schools use the air space over the site for training, often at low altitudes to simulate the loss of an engine. He said the turbines could also interfere with radar equipment.
“It’s a big safety issue,” he said, noting the group, which represents about 120 area pilots, will discuss the proposed wind farm at a meeting Monday at Canadore College’s Aviation Campus.
Airport manager Jack Santerre will be on hand to provide the group with information about the proposed project’s impact on the facility.
The group’s letter also indicates the proposed wind farm would be directly in the climbing and descending flight paths of floatplane pilots who commute between the North Bay waterdrome and wilderness regions north of the city.
In addition, the group notes in the letter it is not aware of any other airports that have permitted large-scale wind farms to be built inside airport control zones.
“For obvious flight safety reasons, we think the North Bay airport should also be allowed to protect the quality and safety of its airspace, including a reasonable buffer zone around the control zone,” states the letter, which also points to flight safety hazards for the Mattawa airport.
The city, the airport and NAV Canada have all objected to the proposal for similar safety reasons.
The city and airport have also raised concerns the wind farm could jeopardize efforts to attract new space and aerospace firms to the industrial business park.
Innergex, which is also pursuing a separate wind farm project in the Mattawa area with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, has indicated the Merrick proposal is barely out of the starting blocks.
“We know the airport will be an issue,” Innergex spokesman Francois Morin said in a previous interview, noting it is not yet known if the project is feasible.
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