LETTER: Skeptical about Castlegar airport study

From retired Captain Ross Shears...

In response to Questions about the Castlegar airport study” in your November 23 edition, I could not agree with you more. I believe it is a huge waste of public money to redo what has already been done.

I reference the published study completed by Nav Canada and Jeppesen Corporation in 2014.

I would like to know who sold Mayor Chernoff and the Columbia Basin Trust on the probability that an expensive re-study would somehow discover something that would lead to better dispatch reliability for the Castlegar airport.

If the re-study fails, then, for the public’s benefit, decision accountability should be examined.

What has changed since completion of the 2014 study? The rules that have been established by Nav Canada as limits and margins of safety that govern approach, landing and departure criteria have not changed.

Jeppesen is one of the highest standard, rules-based, aviation data and mapping companies in the world. They can, and will, customize approaches for an airline.

We had a special company procedure for the old localizer approach into Castlegar that reduced the ceiling and visibility requirements for landing and departure, but only slightly.

It was aircraft-type and navigational equipment specific.

It was company specific as it was vetted according to our training standards. It was compliant with the rules governing the safety margins and criteria in force at that time for aircraft operational standards as set out and approved by the governing agency the Ministry of Transport. Their rules are considered absolute and not open to interpretation.

I can understand the frustration that Mayor Chernoff must feel as the other southern interior mayors kick proverbial “runway sand” in his face as their communities enjoy almost all-weather, 24-hour aircraft service capability and as such may have driven him to this decision of spending more public funds on this latest assessment.

It is just a guess but perhaps he has requested that Jeppesen attack the problem from the other end and fund a study of what could be done if the rules were changed, the safety margins shaved, or if a specific high performance and technology-compliant aircraft were used.

Will the governing bodies change or modify the rules and limits? Will they grant a one-off exemption for Castlegar? Again, at huge expense, we will get an answer.

I have been retired for three and a half years and as such am no longer current with the latest technology, aircraft performance or the integration of the two. But what I have is the experience of a long and safe career of 33.5 years.

It was achieved equally from the training and standards that my airline set and the rules, regulations and limits that were developed and enforced by the governing agencies, Nav Canada and Transport Canada. Safety, when applied to flying, is paramount and must not be compromised.

I, like everyone else, await the publication of this latest study to see if the public got value for their money.

Captain Ross Shears (retired)

Riondel

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