Bruce County pilot 'blocked' from flying out of own hangar
In February of this year, Phil Englishman had blocks put at the entrance to his hangar by the Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission.
“They’re still here. It’s been about eight months, so far. They took them away for a day or so, but they’re back,” says the Walkerton area pilot.
A pilot for over 25 years, Englishman says he had his access to the airport’s taxiways and runway blocked following an alleged “safety violation” complaint lodged by Saugeen Municipal Airport officials.
After Transport Canada cleared him, the blocks remained because he was told he hadn’t paid his annual fees, although he had, and was consequently charged with trespassing when he tried to fly is plane. That charge was dismissed by a court in July, yet the blocks remained, sparking involvement from the country’s pilots association.
“The block wasn’t removed after the ruling. They just find another reason, and they’re going to keep doing that, and that’s not OK,” says Christine Gervais, President of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA).
But, the local COPA 54 Flight Captain Barry Tschirhart, sides with the Saugeen Airport Commission, suggesting Englishman just needs to sign a new “access agreement” to use the airport runway, and the blocks will be removed.
“The issue at the airport is an individual that has some concerns over the access agreement, which in my estimation, is no different than the five other people that have signed it. There should be no issue with it, and let’s move forward and make the airport a viable airport again,” says Tschirhart.
In a written statement to CTV News, Dan Gieruszak, chair of the Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission, says, “Since the termination of Mr. Englishman’s 2017 Access Agreement in March of this year, we have worked toward establishing a new agreement that would permit his use of aircraft as originally intended. Although all other holders of Access Agreements, except one other, signed new Access Agreements in 2020. We have proposed Mr. Englishman resign his 2017 Access Agreement with the updated Rules, Regulations and Code of Conduct. All other pilots abide by these rules, regs and Code of Conduct. We have not received any indication from Mr. Englishman as to what concerns he might have with this proposal.”
According to Englishman, the amended access agreement is not signable.
“Among other things, I can’t sue the airport, past or present, for anything that’s been done. No. I’ve spent a small fortune on a court case defending myself, and then they want to give me an agreement that says I can’t blame them for anything. No,” says Englishman.
He has since moved his plane to the Kincardine airport where he says he plans to sue the Saugeen Municipal Airport, located near Hanover, to ultimately get the blocks removed from out front of his hangar.
“They’re not being up front about what’s happening, and they are definitely letting their personal feelings interfere in a professional matter,” says COPA President, Gervais.
“I don’t think the Airport Commission and Mr. Englishman are very far apart. We would like to see the airport go back to some form of normalcy without all the hoopla,” says Local COPA Flight Captain, Tschirhart.
“Right now, I just want to fly. Leave me alone,” says Englishman.