Editorial: Dangers of inner-city airstrips are real

Two separate aviation incidents within 39 hours of each other in Courtenay created a lot of discussion regarding the safety of the Courtenay Airpark.

At the scene of the May 9 crash landing in the Comox Valley Animal Hospital parking lot, Don Bardonnex said that was his 10th response to an aviation incident in his seven-and-a-half years as Courtenay fire chief.

Certainly not all incidents are as serious as the May 9 crash, which sent the pilot to hospital after his plane reportedly lost power. (It is believed the pilot was attempting to make an emergency landing in the field behind the animal hospital.)

The less serious of the two incidents that week saw a small plane overshoot the runway at the airpark and crash into the fence.

Although there were no injuries in that incident, there very well could have been a tragic ending. A children’s playground sits not 50 feet from the fence line.

A quick search brings up at least three aircraft incidents with planes at the Rotary Skypark end of the airpark in the first four years of the Skypark playground’s existence.

Arguments that the playground does not line up with the runway are illogical. That’s like arguing that ditches are not part of the road, so no cars should ever hit the ditch.

When a plane is in distress, anything can happen.

The Rotary Skypark is a beautiful facility, and a popular one as well. But how much forethought was given to the park’s location? Not nearly enough.

A playground at the end of an aviation runway is a bad idea. It’s an accident waiting to happen, and when it does, all the apologies in the world may not be enough to rectify the result.

Yes, the airpark has been a part of the Courtenay Estuary for a long time. It’s been around longer than most current residents. But this may be one of those instances where “it was here first” is not the best argument. With the natural densification of the city, the hazards of having an inner-city airport grow exponentially — and the risks of injuries to innocent bystanders also grows.

Perhaps the time has come to re-think the practicality of an inner-city airstrip.

–TF

 

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