There was a bit of ‘he said, she said’ at Qualicum Beach town council’s committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday.
About a dozen residents, mostly from the Qualicum Woods area, voiced their concerns over the possibility of changed flight paths and low-flying aircrafts at the Qualicum Beach Airport.
Carol Dowe, a Qualicum Woods resident, said her concerns are over the low-level flights. She said there are trees close to her home that are at the 300-foot level and the planes are coming too close to their densely-populated neighbourhood.
“It’s kind of scary,” Dowe said. “If we expand the airport, it will only get worse.”
In the past year or so, Dowe said the planes have begun to fly over Qualicum Woods and she said she wanted to know why the change, when did it change and who authorized it.
She said that on Nov. 7 she called Transport Canada about the perceived changes and she said she was told the flight plans — the routes planes take to land and take off — have not changed. She also said she asked for an emailed confirmation of that as “something (she) could hang her hat on.”
At the meeting, Dowe also brought forth a petition with 114 signatures and letters from Qualicum Woods residents regarding their concerns over low-flying aircrafts and changed flight paths.
Director of engineering Bob Weir said that Transport Canada has confirmed that the flight path had not been changed.
Jordan White, a KD Air pilot and a Qualicum Beach resident, said there hasn’t been a change in flight path, except at night when planes have to circle.
“If anyone’s flying low, it’s more of an inexperience thing because they’re trying to slow the plane down to get it down. A more experienced flyer will bring it in higher and slower,” White said.
White also said he was unsure how residents were measuring how low the planes were flying.
“To get into the airport on an instrument approach where we’re flying on instruments, our minimums are 780 feet above sea level or 580 feet above ground level and we have to circle within a mile and a half of the airport and that’s for us to safely get in,” White said.
Weir also said they are working with Transport Canada and the Comox military radar to enforce regulations on noise abatement.
Weir said that the town now has video monitoring at the airport in both directions of the runway and it supplies that information to Transport Canada along with radar from Comox.
“Once a pilot is off the ground, we have no control over him and we have to use Transport Canada services to track any violations,” said Weir.
The meeting was specifically for the 2016 Qualicum Beach Airport business plan.
At one point in the meeting Tuesday morning, Coun. Barry Avis floated an idea that the airport may be in the wrong location.
“Maybe if we are entertaining the idea of a larger airport we should be moving the airport outside of town to a less residential area,” said Avis.
The vision of the business plan is “to become a viable community-based municipal airport and business hub while contributing to the economic growth and quality of life for residents of the Town of Qualicum Beach.”
Priorities for the plan have been divided into seven goal areas which include something called “airside” facilities and capacity, administrative initiatives, confirm governance and airport presence, land use and development plan, terminal and parking area, apply for provincial and federal funding and marketing and communications.