Why there's more helicopter traffic in Penticton this year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Why there's more helicopter traffic in Penticton this year

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/facebook.com/PentictonSAR

The war in Ukraine and preparation for another summer of wildfires is causing more helicopters to be hovering over Penticton this year.

But those helicopters can seem out of place when they create disruptions while flying near residential areas, and sometimes at night. 

Penticton resident Klee Otto Rogers noticed the frequency of helicopters flying close to residential areas seems to have increased in recent months. He said helicopters have caused his whole house to shake at the north end of the city, and he has also found them to be disruptive while spending time with friends near Skaha Lake.

“Our neighbours were asking, ‘could you hear that?’ I said, ‘How could you not hear that,’” Rogers said.

He realizes helicopter training schools operate out of the Penticton Airport, but he would prefer if they didn’t practice so close to residential areas.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Too close for comfort: Helicopter hovers near homes in Kamloops

Ian Jassman, general manager of Topflight Elite Training in Penticton, said there is usually a slowdown during this time of the year, however training schedules have remained steady since the fall. He attributed two factors for the increased demand for helicopters training – the B.C. Wildfire Service is getting its pilots better prepared for the upcoming summer, and more members of the Royal Canadian Air Force are being trained amid rising tensions with Russia.

“The CAF wants to get their new wing grads up and going,” he said. “They want to keep them busy and get them to the point of deployment.”

Jassman said lessons occasionally involve pilots flying over residential areas at night to teach pilots how to use night-vision goggles. Pilots are also trained on how to use night vision goggles in the darkness of remote areas but they need to understand how they function in both environments.

He realizes the sounds of helicopters can be disruptive when they’re close to homes at night, especially in a community with so many retirees. He said Topflight makes efforts to mitigate the impact night flights have on the public by staggering out the schedule.

“I don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s frustration. That’s not what I’m here for, I don’t want to make people mad,” Jassman said.

“If there’s a helicopter up in the air it’s there for a good reason and we’re not just flying around willy nilly."

The Penticton Airport and Topflight have both been around for over 70 years, and he points out that “airports are going to be busy.”

Beyond training exercises, helicopters are sometimes deployed for rescue missions. Last October, Jassman was involved in a rescue at Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park – an area that is within Penticton’s city limits.

READ MOREExpect to hear the thrum of Canadian military helicopters in the Okanagan

When the Penticton and District Search and Rescue team is called upon, they utilize helicopters from Topflight and Eclipse Helicopters, which both operate out of the Penticton Airport.

Derek Robinson has been the owner and president of Eclipse for the past eight years and been flying in the area for over 20 years. He said he’s only noticed a little more helicopter activity since last fall.

“It has not increased it to the point where it’s gone crazy,” he said.

Robinson reminds the public about the many community organizations that benefit from the helicopter services offered in Penticton, such as B.C. Wildfire Services, the local Search and Rescue, as well as regional governments which control mosquito populations.

“Me and Ian are really working hard to be part of our community,” he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton 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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