A few days ago I spent several hours pouring over something called a Prairie Mountain Development Scheme. I first heard of this when I received a letter from the county I live in suggesting I might want to obtain a copy from their website and read it. Scheme it was.
It was a concept plan complete with full colour renderings for developing 594 acres of farmland into a small community east of Calgary. Not just any old residential community. No, it was to have single and multi-family homes, apartments, a seniors’ complex, retail stores and a business park. It sounded exquisite with a tree-lined boulevard for a main street where residents would “enjoy walking to the retail stores” and commercial development that would provide jobs for residents. A mini-utopia with easy access to schools, shopping, work and the highway linking it to Calgary.
I scoured this 65 page document several times but found absolutely no mention of what I knew to be directly across the road from the proposed development – a small grass airstrip with 19 hangars and 20 aircraft. Mine!
This was every aerodrome operator’s nightmare. I always knew it might happen someday, but please not before I lose my medical. The proposed houses would be right off the end of runway 16. How classic!
I immediately set to work writing my comments to the county outlining how this development would shut down my aerodrome and eliminate air access to the area by transient pilots from as far away as Ontario. Only a few days before I had received calls from three pilots in different parts of the country requesting permission to land and tie down for a visit to the area. Then there is the question of what are the 20 aircraft owners to do with their aircraft if the aerodrome shuts down.
So I have started the lobbying process to save my aerodrome which I expect will last several years. I’ve been there twice before in the 20 years since I built the first hangar. One involved a road the county wanted to run across the button of runway 34 and the other involved high voltage power lines that would run along beside the runway. I was successful in deflecting both previous threats, but this one will be different. I pay commercial taxes on my land but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the tax revenue the county stands to gain from this development. Who do you think they will listen to?
I would like to tell you I made this up just to illustrate a point, but it really is true. Here we go again with another case of “airport loses to developer.” There simply is no interest in the preservation of airports and aerodromes at any level of government. And the reason is the National Airports Policy which totally ignores the need for and the value of small airports in Canada, as well as the lack of a General Aviation policy in Canada.
I know you’ve heard this over and over again but if we don’t educate all our politicians about this crisis what is happening to my little aerodrome will repeat itself one airport at a time until all we have left are a few airstrips in farmers’ fields far away from the cities and towns where most of us live.
I use the word crisis because I believe it is. You all have a place to fly from today but don’t think for one minute that you might not lose it tomorrow, even if you own the land you fly from.
I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” We can’t do anything about the weather but we can do something about the national political attitude towards small airports in this country.
Take pen to hand and write your MPs and let them know they should care about general aviation in Canada. Tell your MP you want him or her to support COPA’s call for a review of the National Airports Policy, and to support development of a General Aviation Policy for Canada. Get their focus onto GA and small airports, where aviation starts. Without eggs you don’t get chickens.
COPA will be knocking on the Transport Minister’s door about this. It’s up to us to knock on our MP’s door to garner support. My MP has already answered me stating that he fully supports both initiatives.
Meanwhile, keep your prop spinning.