Pilot has access to runway 'blocked' by Walkerton, Ont. airport
WALKERTON, ONT. -- Phil Englishman would love to be soaring above midwestern Ontario, but he isn’t, because officials with the Saugeen Municipal Airport put a stone block in front of his hangar on Feb. 20.
“They decided to cease my access to the airport and put this rock in front of my hangar, dumped snow on top of it, so I can’t get my aircraft out,” says Englishman.
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.
The incident happened back in August. Since then, Transport Canada determined there was no violation, and the complaint didn’t even warrant an investigation.
“This is not the first time. They’ve made several complaints in the past Transport Canada haven’t even bothered to investigate because there’s nothing to investigate,” says Englishman.
The airport believes they’ve done nothing wrong, and feel it’s their legal responsibility to protect pilots and the public that use their runway.
“We have a potential liability for anything that happens at our airport. So basically, that means that a third party, such as the commission, can be held liable if there is an incident that we should have been aware of, and did nothing about. So, the commission has a responsibility to all pilots at the airport, and pilots across Ontario who fly into this airport,” says Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission Chair Dan Gieruszak.
Englishman has the support of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA).
Director for COPA Southern Ontario, Doug Ronan says, “I am extremely disappointed that a long-time customer and more importantly, a rabid supporter of the Hanover Airport and aviation in general, is being treated this way.”
“I bought this hangar. This is my hangar. This is my home. It’s been my home for the past 26-27 years,” says a frustrated Englishman.
On Friday, March 5, the stone and snow blocking Englishman’s hangar were removed. But a pending trespassing charge filed by the airport has Englishman wondering if it is indeed, safe to fly again.
“I feel trapped. I feel like a trapped animal,” he says.