17 April 2015

Greenbank and a Tale of Three Airports

Photo: Greenbank Airport before all the fuss

By Gord Mahaffy, COPA Flight 70, Oshawa

If you think that the concern over the proposed amendments to the National Aeronautics Act is overblown, consider this: In the space of one week there were three public meetings focused on changes to airports in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The first was in Oshawa on March 26 to consider the new Oshawa business plan which includes the Oshawa Airport.

The second was in Port Perry on March 30 to consider improvements to the Greenbank airport. The third was on March 31 to present a plan for extending the runways at Billy Bishop Toronto Island Airport (BBTIA). With the exception of a few COPA members all of these meetings were attended by people opposed to any kind of changes whatsoever and many of these people would like to see the airports closed.

There will be more comments on the developments at the BBTIA airport by members of COPA National but this article will be focused on Greenbank airport.

First some background on Greenbank. Up until 2008 it was owned and operated by Micky Jovkovic who was slowly making improvements. He planned to add hangars, pave the runway, and build a restaurant. Unfortunately Micky died tragically in August of 2008 and several years later the airport was sold to a numbered company.

While all this was happening another phenomenon was occurring driven by the explosive growth in construction in the Greater Toronto Area. The disposal of gravel being excavated from huge building projects such as the Toronto subway was proving difficult. This created a controversial industry; that of paying landowners for the privilege of dumping this fill on their land. Anyone with enough land could have truckloads of gravel dumped and make lots of money while being completely passive in the whole operation.

The downside to all of this is the damage to the environment that it causes and the noise and pollution it causes for the neighbors. If the soil is contaminated it can contaminate water supplies and cause serious health problems.

To control the effects of unrestricted dumping for profit most municipalities have strict by-laws that require the soil to be used for legitimate building purposes. Other conditions include limits on daily loads and soil testing on a regular basis.

Ah, but there is a loophole that unscrupulous operators can employ to get around municipal by- laws. If the property is an airport then it comes under federal jurisdiction and municipal by-laws don’t apply.So there exists the situation where a legitimate airport that wishes to expand their facilities can import the necessary fill and actually make some money from the process which will help defray the cost of improvements.

On the other hand there is a temptation to use an airport as a dumping ground just to collect dumping fees.

This is the situation that the Scugog Council was dealing with at their meeting on March 30. Most residents of the area believe that Greenbank airport is now just one big gravel dump and when all of the fill has been dumped in this pristine area it will simply be closed and the owners will walk away with the profits.

Less cynical people including many pilots hope that it will be completed as per plans and present Southern Ontario with a pristine, full service, state of the art airport with increased capacity for General Aviation.

When the project first started the owners of Greenbank voluntarily complied with local building regulations and agreed to pay the municipality a “Tipping Fee” for every cubic meter of fill dumped. This was enforced by a one year contract between the municipality and Greenbank.

But this contract expired on March 31 2015.

The Scugog Council extended this contract for one week and submitted a new set of restrictions for Greenbank to consider.

These new conditions include increasing the security deposit to $1 million, increasing insurance coverage to $10 million, eliminating Saturday deliveries of gravel, erecting a security fence, giving municipal inspectors full access to the site and allowing the municipality to do its own soil testing by drilling 50 foot deep wells 10 feet apart in critical areas.

If the owners of Greenbank accept these conditions then another one year contract will be signed and work may proceed. If the conditions are not acceptable then more negotiations will be needed and work will stop until an agreement can be reached.

As of this writing a new contract has not yet been signed.

13 April 2015

College of Pilots Event Held in Ottawa

From the College of Professional Pilots of Canada

Join us in Ottawa on Friday, 17 April 2015 to hear from former Concorde pilot John Hutchinson speak about what it was like to fly one of the world’s most famous airliners.

This event is being held at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum starting at 1800 hrs and everyone is welcome.

Following Captain Hutchinson’s speech there will be an informal networking session where pilots can learn more about an organization we recently became affiliated with, the Honourable Company of Air Pilots. This event will be a good opportunity for pilots early in their careers to make contacts with more senior members of our industry.

External links

06 April 2015

Book Review: Yukon Wings

  • Yukon Wings
  • by Bob Cameron
  • Published by Frontenac House, Calgary, Alberta in 2012, printed in China
  • 12.25" X 9.5" hardback
  • 368 pages, including cast of major characters, notes, index of aircraft and general index
  • $60.00

Author Bob Cameron grew up in the Yukon, the son of a Yukon aviation pioneer. He graduated as an engineer and worked for United Aircraft in Montreal, before returning to the Yukon to become a bush pilot for Trans North Turbo Air. He retired as Operations Manager there after three and a half decades of flying, in 2001. Over the years Cameron also made it his vocation to collect Yukon flying stories, photos and artifacts, up to and including collecting aircraft wrecks. He still lives in Whitehorse, too. If anyone can tell the story of pioneer flying in the territory it must be him!

At 368 pages and 4.5 lbs (2 kg) dead-weight, this is no quick pass over the subject. This is a truly "large" work, with a lot of photos and a lot of detail in it. That said the book is very readable from start to finish and you can feel the author's personal connection to the people he is writing about, many of whom were his boyhood heroes.

The book's 16 chapters focus on the period between the First and Second World Wars when aviation arrived in the Yukon and went to work there. It covers into the time of the Second World War, as well, with the flying support for the Alaska Highway and Canol Pipeline construction that made use of local civil aviation, as well as the northwest ferry route of aircraft heading from North America factories to aid the Soviet war effort.

The book really starts with the US Army expedition of four British-designed Airco DH.4 biplanes landing in the Yukon in July, 1920 on their way to Alaska. It was not until 1927 that anyone actually set up an air service in the territory, when the Yukon Airways and Exploration Company started flying with one Ryan B-1 Brougham aircraft named the Queen of the Yukon, similar to Lindbergh's Ryan, the Spirit of St Louis. This outfit carried out the territory's first passenger flights, first airmail and first air freight runs, too. The Queen of the Yukon met an inglorious fate when it hit a Model T Ford truck on landing roll-out. It was replaced by an Alexander Eaglerock biplane and eventually a replacement Ryan, the Queen of the Yukon II. That latter aircraft was also crashed, with fatal results, after an engine failure on take-off on 22 November 1929.

In many ways that initial episode sets the tone for much of the story that Cameron tells, of brave and resourceful people setting up commercial air services and crashing aircraft. The book is full of the author's collection of many dozens of photos of airplane wrecks. In most parts of the book you can't thumb four pages without seeing a crash photo. In many ways this is unavoidable, as early commercial aviation had an abysmal safety record and a complete history, like this book, cannot ignore that aspect of the story or gloss it over.

The book covers in great detail and lyrical narrative the endeavours of air services such as British Yukon Navigation Company, White Pass Airways, North Airways, North Canada Air Express, United Air Transport and of course Yukon Southern Air Transport, that became part of Canadian Pacific, flying aircraft like the Fairchild FC-2W2 and 82, the Keystone-Loening Commuter flying boat, the Buhl AC-6 Airsedan, the Lockheed 10A Electra, the Ford Trimotor, the tubby American 100 Pilgrim, the Bellanca 66-776 Aircruiser, Curtiss Condor, cabin WACOs and of course the stalwart Fokker Universal and Super Universal. Cameron delves into the fierce competition of the inter-war years, the rate wars, but also the cooperation between companies, especially when aircraft went missing or were stranded in a remote location, unservicable.

Cameron seems to have always had a personal interest in Yukon aviation history, having grown up surrounded by it. He started collecting stories and photos, but also used his time bush flying to visit old wreck sites and eventually collected the remains of three Fokker Super Universals in the 1970s, a type dear to his heart and one of which no examples remained. The huge one piece wooden wings of the "Super" had a very limited lifespan, especially in the north bush and none survived. After 18 years of painstaking restoration by Calgary pilots and engineers Clark Seaborn and Don McLean one "Super" flew again from the remains of the wrecks Cameron had saved. CF-AAM was flown around North America and even won a "Judge's Choice" award at Oshkosh in 1999. It now resides at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada (formerly the Western Canada Aviation Museum) in Winnipeg.

The author received a grant from the Yukon Foundation's Doris Stenbraten Fund to write the book. Of note Doris Stenbraten was the author's high school English teacher! The book was actually printed in China and the publisher, Frontenac House of Calgary, is supported by both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Government of Alberta.

Yukon Wings is a very complete, well written and profusely illustrated work, it would make an excellent addition to any aviation enthusiast or history buff's book shelf.

External links

03 April 2015

New AIM is out!

The 02 April 2015 copy of the Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual is now available for free download as a 40 MB sized PDF!

Transport Canada doesn't give a lot of stuff away for free, so get your free AIM today

01 April 2015

Book Review: Fling Wing

  • Fling Wing - The New Age Bush Pilots with Adventures From a Pilot's Log
  • by Jack Schofield
  • Published by Coast Dog Press, Mayne Island, BC
  • 8.25" X 8.25" softcover
  • 148 pages
  • No price imprinted, but some booksellers have listed it for $24.95

This book is a recent offering from Jack Schofield, long time west coast pilot, journalist, writer and founder of Canadian Aviator magazine, originally called West Coast Aviator. The book first came off the presses in 2012.

This is a lavish, full-colour work, in a small, square book format, with an emphasis on photographs illustrating selected parts of the history of the Canadian west coast helicopter business. The book follows two approaches to the story. The first 42 pages chronicle a general history in pictures of BC helicopter civil flying, while the balance of the book tells the story of Peter Barratt, the founder of West Coast Helicopters in photos and narrative.

Part one starts at the beginning, with the story of the founding of Okanagan Helicopters by Carl Agar, Barney Bent and Alf Stringer in 1948, starting with a single open cockpit Bell 47-B3. The photos and text follow the company through to its absorption into Craig Dobbin's Canadian Helicopters in 1987. It touches on the founding of Vancouver Island Helicopters in 1955 by Ted and Lynn Henson, including Ted's death in a 1957 helicopter accident. The book also has brief chapters on helicopter maintenance and heli-logging, including its phase-out in recent years for economic reasons.

The second part of the book details episodes from Peter Barratt's 45 year helicopter flying career, from his immigration from the UK as a child, through his time as an RCN Sea King helicopter pilot, to his civil flying career, starting with Okanagan Helicopters on Bell 2006s and S-61s. After he became the Okanagan base manager at Port McNeill, BC, Barratt became involved with the Nimmo Bay resort, a fly-in fishing lodge that he helped construct, hauling loads on the Jet Ranger's hook. He later became an investor in the resort, which allowed him to pursue his other love in life, fishing. Barratt later switched to flying for Highland Helicopters, then back to Okanagan, which became part of the Canadian Helicopters empire and later founded his own company, West Coast Helicopters.

The book's publishing company, Coast Dog Press, represents five different authors who all live on Mayne Island, BC. The company website gives the feeling that it is more of a co-op, as the site explains, "publishing these days is a mugs game, and writers must now market as well as write their books. There are so many people who now deem themselves to be writers that traditional publishers receive about 1000 unsolicited manuscripts per year and rejection slips are flying out there like snowfall on Mount Baker." Coast Dog Press seems to be this group's solution, allowing them an umbrella to do their own writing and marketing. It is worth noting that Fling Wing at least seems to have been published without government assistance, a rarity in Canadian aviation book publishing these days.

Fling Wing is a fun read and certainly will appeal to aviators young or old and also as a good book to share with a non-flyer on a day when the fog socks Tofino in down to the shoreline and the only flying being done is "hangar flying".

External links