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A call to action for Albertans and the rest of Canada

 

In my December 2009 column I told you about the movement in Edmonton to close the 85 year old Edmonton City Centre Airport (ECCA). Since similar scenarios are playing out across the country I would like to give you an update, and issue a call to action for those living in Alberta.

In July 2009 the City of Edmonton announced it would undertake a phased closure of the ECCA. The first phase called for the closure of runway 16/34 one year later in July 2010. A schedule would then be drawn up for the closure of the balance of the airport over a few years. This deadline is approaching and the city has been uncomfortably silent since then.

The Aviation Edmonton Association (AEA) was founded about this time last year in an attempt to unite the aviation community in Edmonton. The AEA has grown to over 180 members and is busy creating awareness of the immense value of the ECCA, not only to Edmonton but to all of Alberta.

Have a look at the AEA website for details on their mission and an interesting presentation on the economic impact of the airport: www.aviationedmonton.com . For only $10 you can join the AEA and strengthen their numbers. The more support they have the better.

The AEA is planning a fly-in at ECCA in June. The date has not been determined as of this writing so check their website and COPA’s On the Horizon section as we get closer for the details. This would be something that as many Edmonton area pilots as possible should attend.

Two other organizations in Edmonton are also working hard to support the retention of the ECCA. The Alberta Enterprise Group calls itself, “Alberta’s common sense public policy advocacy group” and has taken a strong stand in support of the airport. They have a wealth of information and documents on their website: www.albertaenterprisegroup.com .
The Commuter Air Access Network of Alberta represents commercial operators and municipalities that depend on air access in Alberta and use the ECCA. Please visit their website for more valuable information on the ECCA situation: www.caana.ca .

Currently there are two law suits under way, and possibly more coming. Airco Aircraft Charters Ltd., a long-time tenant at the ECCA, is seeking an injunction preventing any part of the airport from being closed until the lease between the city and the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority (ERAA) expires in 2052. The ERAA in turn granted a sub-lease to Airco running until 2023 with an option to renew until 2048.

Airco claims the ERAA has tried to terminate this lease in violation of its contract. Airco also contends that the ERAA is in violation of the requirements of the Alberta Regional Airports Authorities Act, under which it was created.

A second suit has been filed by the Edmonton Flying Club, an 80-year tenant on the airport, making similar arguments.
In addition to the legal challenges and the economic arguments there is a huge outcry from the medical community. The ECCA handles almost 3,000 medivac flights a year from Alberta’s northern communities with patients bound for the University of Alberta hospital and the Royal Alexander hospital, both located in downtown Edmonton.

If these flights are forced to the Edmonton International Airport it would add as much as an hour to the transit time for critically ill patients.

Here’s how you can help save the oldest licensed airport in Canada. If you live in Alberta write a letter or email to your MLA. Visit the Aviation Edmonton Association website for an example of a letter and join the AEA while you’re there. You will also find reprints of many support letters on the Alberta Enterprise Group website.

Both sites have a link to the contact information for the MLAs. If you include the medivac issue in your letter send a copy to the Minister of Health and Wellness, the Honourable Gene Zwozdesky.

You don’t have to live in Edmonton to write a letter of support for the ECCA, all Albertans should be concerned. But if you do, send a copy of your letter to Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel and your city councilor. This is an election year so help to make this an election issue.

If you live outside of Alberta you can still help. Writing a letter of support now will be good practice for when an airport near you is threatened in a similar manner. Write to Premier Ed Stelmach and let him know the rest of Canada is watching.
Let’s hope common sense and the legal system prevail and Canada’s historic “Gateway to the North” stays open.

Meanwhile, keep you prop spinning.