On Sunday a plane crashed at the Duncan Airport just before noon. The crash caused no serious injuries or fatalities, but emergency responders and police had the scene cordoned off for a while.
The runway was back open for pilots soon after, but Duncan Flying Club President Art Reitsma says that this crash could be a symptom of a larger issue dealing with the size of the runway at the Duncan Airport.
“It was a pilot from out of the area, not a familiar pilot. He never landed there before. I don’t know if he landed hot, but he landed long and couldn’t get it stopped in time,” says Reitsma.
At 1,494 feet long, Duncan’s runway is one of the shorter on the Island. For reference, the Port Alberni, Tofino, Nanaimo, and Port Hardy airports all at around 5-thousand feet in length. The Qualicum Beach airport has a shorter runway, but it’s 3,564 foot long takeoff is still more than double of Duncan’s.
He adds that this shouldn’t be a question of whether or not there should be an airport in Duncan, but one of having the right airport in Duncan.
“We would like to build another airport, but nobody wants one in their neighbourhood,” Reitsma says adding that his group has come up with similar noise complaint issues to the recent attempted expansion of the Vancouver Island Race Circuit. He says that this issue is different, and stems from an essential and emergency services need.
“Emergency preparedness would say that we should have an airport after a couple of weeks ago when we couldn’t get out of the Valley,” says Reitsma. “We’re not going to be able to supply the groceries for this valley through the Salt Spring Island Ferry. Building an airport in the valley would be a good thing, it’s just that we need to have some buy in from the local government.”
On if a longer runway would have prevented this accident from occurring, Reitsma says, “That’s very possible. This is very short, it’s 15-hundred feet instead of 35-hundred or almost 4-thousand feet.”
Reitsma says that going over 4-thousand feet in length changes a lot of the regulations around how airports operate which would make adding a runway much less attractive to taxpayers. For example, adding an on-site fire department. So his group isn’t interested in going beyond that, but longer would be better.
“We get that. We don’t want to add that kind of expense,” says Reitsma. “But Hope has a grass runway which is proving to be very valuable with this whole flooding thing – it’s [3960 feet] – to get around [those length regulations].”
He says their club isn’t the only one who use the airport. HeliJet also uses the Duncan airport during bad weather when transporting patients in and out of the area because it has runway lights which allow for reference when taking off which is not possible when taking off from the hospital in the fog.