Letters

Fog caused most of Comox Valley Airport disruption — trees responsible for one-third

Dear editor,

With respect to the recent letters regarding delays and cancellations at the Comox Valley Airport, I would like to provide a few comments from the perspective of the Airport Commission.

First and foremost, I completely understand the frustration of Carol Arnold, Win Hunter and anyone else whose travel has been disrupted.

Aside from dealing with passengers here in the terminal, my own family, as well as the families of many airport employees, have been similarly affected. Whether travelling for a vacation, a business trip, commuting to work or attending an important family function, residents depend on this airport to get them to where they need to go.

While the frustration over this issue is palpable, it is important to clarify that not all cancellations and diversions at YQQ are the result of property owners objecting to having their trees trimmed.

About two-thirds of the cancellations and diversions are simply due to fog. Like any coastal airport, YQQ experiences a certain number of days when dense fog makes normal flight operations impossible.

The last week of January was a case in point, and we were in good company with airports like Victoria and Vancouver.

No doubt your readers experienced the same phenomenon as a pilot does on approach — driving down Ryan Road in clear blue sunshine, only to hit the top of the fog at about 200 to 300 feet above the airport, and all one can see is bright, white fog.

About one-third of the cancellations and diversions can be attributed to the overheight trees on a few neighbouring properties.

While the majority of property owners around the airport have allowed 19 Wing Comox to trim their trees, to comply with Transport Canada regulations, there are indeed a few property owners who have formally objected to the process (as is permitted by the Aeronautics Act).

The Minister of National Defence’s senior staff in Ottawa have the delegated authority to determine whether these objections should be supported or not, and they are currently working their way through this legal process.

While we have no influence over the timing or outcome of the legal process, we have been working with the full support of local, provincial and federal political representatives, as well as the CV Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Society, to make it very clear to DND that this matter is both very important, and very urgent.

The Minister of National Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff have given their assurances that this item will receive the priority it deserves.

Further, we have provided DND with our detailed records regarding the impact of the trees on civilian flight operations at YQQ, and material to explain the scope of the financial impact YQQ has on the Valley as a whole.

I believe that legal process is moving as quickly as it can, though I understand this does little to ease the frustration of those passengers who have been affected.

The legal process aside, I have also been working closely with our air carriers (including WestJet), 19 Wing Comox, Transport Canada, and RCAF Headquarters to seek out alternative technical solutions that would see our air carriers return to normal landing limits as soon as possible.

I can tell you that I am encouraged by the support we have received. However, I will not be satisfied until the day that I can write a letter to this paper informing everyone in this Valley that these restrictions have been lifted.

Our mission statement is pretty clear — we are here for you — to provide air service to meet your needs. I can assure you that we at the Comox Valley Airport Commission are doing everything we can to see that we do.

I thank you for your continued patience as we work each day to resolve this issue. And above all, I thank you for continuing to support air service in the Comox Valley by including YQQ in your travel plans.

Fred Bigelow

Editor's note: Fred Bigelow is the chief executive officer of

Comox Valley Airport.

 

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