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Angry pilot speaks out at Chatham airport ceremony
A ground breaking ceremony at the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport Friday morning became confrontational when an irate citizen spoke out against safety upgrades.
A Chatham glider pilot hijacked the ground breaking event, where $2.5 million worth of runway extensions and safety upgrades were being announced.
“When you respect guidelines, I think safety is not compromised and I think with these improvements safety is being enhanced," says Colin Edwards, senior project developer for Pattern Energy.
Chatham mayor Randy Hope says airport the runway safety improvements are very important.
“We're going to be one of the safest Class 3 airports in all of Canada," says Hope.
Pattern Energy will cover the multi-million dollar cost before the company builds 124 new wind turbines near the already turbine popular airport, but the announcement wasn't good news to everyone.
“Because of poor planning and the city not engaging in dialogue with its users and ignoring the input from those users," says Jeff Pyefinch, a Chatham glider pilot.
Hope allowed Pyefinch to speak his mind. He's concerned that enhancements would eliminate the youth glider flying program, which he says schools over 800 students.
“Unfortunately it's come down to this," says Pyefinch.
The pilot says runway upgrades have been a long standing issue. Adding, the placement of new precision lights makes for unsafe glider conditions.
“It ends the gliding operation that's been going here safely since 1966 for no reason," says Pyefinch.
Hope said he's not familiar with the issue.
"I've been mayor since 2006 and this is the first I've heard of it," says Hope.
The municipality released information Friday afternoon, saying Transport Canada ruled earlier this year the glider operations must cease.
Both the pilot and the mayor met after Friday's ceremony to plan future talks, but the announced upgrades and extensions are already under construction.
“We were told that this was a priority in terms of economic development and safety and those were two important attributes for us and that's why we got behind it,"says Edwards.
Already looming near the airport are the still standing, unaffiliated eight turbines ordered removed by Transport Canada earlier this year due to safety concerns.
Transport Canada says a timeline is still being set for when that will take place.