Recent incidents spark airpark debate

Two aviation accidents in past week

  • May. 13, 2015 6:00 p.m.

With two aviation accidents only days apart, concerns are being raised about the safety and location of the half century-year-old Courtenay Airpark.

But pilot and flight instructor Andreas Ruttkiewicz says while he understands public concern, aviation has the highest safety record of any transport medium.

“The regulations, the training, the constant updating, the maintenance are way and above cars and motorcycles or anything like that we take for granted. There’s accidents every day with motorcycles and snowmobiles and quad runners … where there’s absolutely no regulation.”

Last Thursday, a small plane ran into the fence at the south end of the runway upon landing. There were no injuries reported in that incident. Two days later, another plane clipped the roof of the Comox Valley Animal Hospital and crashed in the nearby parking lot, sending pilot Chris Cameron to hospital in Victoria.

Ruttkiewicz owns Airspeed High Ultralights at the airpark, and notes the location and placement of the runway in Courtenay “is a jewel.”

“It’s incredibly convenient, and for the community as a whole, it brings people far and wide to discover the Valley and for the local aviators, it’s convenient and beautiful at the same time,” he explains.

“People love (airparks); they actually go to those airparks because they are close to town. It’s an attractor.”

Ruttkiewicz explains Saturday’s incident was “devastating” as he believes he was probably the last person to speak with Cameron prior to the crash. He was flying while Cameron was getting ready to join in the circuit when the pair spoke with each other on the radio. Upon landing an hour later, Ruttkiewicz found out what had happened.

“I’ve been in aviation for a long time. I was in the military, I’ve flown in the Forces, and I’ve seen a few of my buddies go that way, and it’s like anything else, it’s not pleasant.”

This time of year, he says, people have their aircraft in a hangar for six months during the winter, and haven’t flown for half a year, and there may be situations where pilots don’t do their due diligence.

“They don’t come to an instructor and say ‘I need a refresher before I go up in my aircraft,’” he adds.

“It’s like a gun. If you have a gun in a drawer, it’s just a piece of metal. You put it in someone’s hands, and it can be either useful or dangerous. Same with an aircraft – it’s judgment of the pilot.”

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula acknowledges concerns for the airpark, but adds council has not yet come around to any discussions about long-term use of the space.

“There certainly have been over the past number of years discussions about the airpark, about the location, about whether it should be moved out to the country into a more rural-type area,” he says.

“I know there’s been complaints about noise, I know there’s been complaints about people walking and aircrafts flying over top. It’s certainly something that’s been mentioned before – it’s not new.”

While he knows there have been some incidents at the airpark over the years, he explains the flip side to having the park in Courtenay is that it is good for the local economy. He also understands aviation as a whole is safer than other transportation.

“It’s shown by fact, that aircraft are much safer than vehicles are, so, it’s a tough call. It’s something in light of what happened we will likely eventually be looking at it in a more serious nature, but in the immediate time I would say we’re not going to change anything.”

 

Just Posted

B.C. Youtuber to seal himself ‘in a jar’ in Courtenay to demonstrate impacts of climate change

Kurtis Baute wants to see how long he can last in a 1,000 cubic foot, air-tight greenhouse

2018 municipal election: Few surprises on Vancouver Island

16 incumbent mayors will continue in their positions for four more years

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

Cam Levins sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

The 29-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., ran it in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds

Steady stream of voters at Filberg

Voter turnout has been a steady stream Saturday at the Florence Filberg… Continue reading

Comox Valley gives back

A look at some of the organizations and individuals who help out in the community

One of Taiwan’s fastest trains derails, killing at least 18

The train was carrying more than 360 people

Scheer marks one-year countdown to federal election with campaign-style speech

Conservative Leader insists that it will be Justin Trudeau who ‘makes it personal’

Canada Post union announces rotating strikes in four Canadian cities

Mail will still be delivered but it will be delayed

B.C. VIEWS: Residents have had enough of catering to squatters

Media myth of homeless victims offends those who know better

B.C. Liberals’ hopes high as Nanaimo by-election approaches

Historically safe NDP seat vacated by long-time MLA Leonard Krog

Leaving B.C.’s electoral reform to a referendum is ‘ridiculous’: professor

B.C. voters getting ballots in the mail on proposal to change electoral system

Canada condemns killing of journalist in Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey

The Saudi government claimed Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a ‘fistfight’

Most Read