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Why it took so long to clear trees from Penticton airport last fall

Transport Canada worked quickly with the cooperation of the Penticton Indian Band to rectify issues with overhanging trees and the airport's navigation system last November, documents show.
February 08, 2017 - 6:30 PM

PENTICTON - Back in October and November, airlines serving Penticton cancelled evening flights forcing passengers of both WestJet and Jazz Airlines to reroute through Kelowna, or reschedule alternative flights over the four-day period because of a sight-line hazard created by tall trees bordering the airstrip.

Documents obtained by iNFOnews.ca shows why it took four days to complete the seemingly simple task of clearing them.

Tree branches were discovered partially obscuring some of the airport's navigation aids, resulting in the sudden loss of night time commercial flight service to and from the airport between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3, 2016.

Documents containing emails exchanged by Transport Canada officials over the issue were released following a Freedom of Information request by iNFOnews.ca.

Penticton Regional Airport manager Torin Domay advanced what was to be an afternoon meeting with Transport Canada officials on Oct. 31 to discuss the issue of tree cover interference on Penticton Indian Band land after hearing of the problem on Oct. 29, documents say.

Problems arose when the owner (whose name was redacted from the emails) of some Skaha Beach property wanted the trees in question trimmed rather than cut down. The top clipping of the trees was beyond the scope of Transport Canada crews, so Millar Tree Care was called in to do the job, the cost of which was not revealed in the documents.

The problematic trees apparently surrounded the airport, according to the documents, as Transport Canada notified not only beach property owners, but also the Sun Leisure Mobile Home Park to the east of the runway and Greenwood Forest Products and P&E Lumber to the north.

On Nov. 1, Transport Canada officials received word one of the property owners wished to cut down the trees himself, the cost of which was also not revealed in the documents.

Transport Canada officials told Domay Nov. 1 they had retained Millar’s services and, with the cooperation of the Penticton Indian Band’s lands manager, put together a work schedule, to be carried out Nov. 2.

Although there was some concerns expressed at that time that topping the trees would not be sufficient to allow flights to resume, that fear appears to have been unfounded.

A member of the Penticton Indian Band’s Natural Resources crew was hired to monitor the tree cutting at a cost of $450 per day and a two week permit was also procured at a cost of $200.

An email sent Nov. 4 by Domay in response to a query regarding the completion of the tree removals expressed thanks to the Penticton Indian Band for the "quick response and support to correct the intrusions into the Obstacle Limitation Service.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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