In praise of our airport

Resident stands behind the activities occurring at the Vernon airport

A recent letter to the editor (Concerns take flight) was so full of inaccuracies, innuendo and falsehoods, that I feel I must respond.

To the point about poor or no revenue from the airport. By definition, regional airports do not make money but they contribute to the local economy. However, Vernon operates close to the break-even point. In 2014, revenues were $1,161,000 while expenses were $1,177,000. It cost the taxpayer $16,000. This equates to less than half a cup of coffee per taxpayer per year. That is a small price to pay considering the benefits of an airport at your city.

No charges for tie-downs? Hogwash.  Airport income consists of fees for fuel sales, land lease, tie-down lease, overnight parking and landing fees. These fees are consistent with those charged at other regional airports and are reviewed annually to ensure they are accurate.

No-charge airport improvements?  Not so. The airport does not repair, maintain or improve any private hangars or businesses. This is the responsibility of the individual owner, the same as in the private sector. The airport does maintain the grounds, runway, aprons and associated equipment the same way the City of Vernon maintains the roads that cars use. Taxpayer money does not go to private businesses or uses.

Get rid of the airport to provide access to the waterfront? Many tourists already use the airport to access our water and attractions, such as Silver Star, Sparkling Hills, local wineries, etc. Summer and winter, we have aircraft that bring in people to enjoy our area, some short-term and some longer.

Pesky helicopter wake-up calls at 4:30 a.m. Tsk, tsk. Those aircraft were involved in saving a multi-million-dollar cherry crop from total loss. The local farmers contract helicopters to blow water off the ripening cherries, without which local owners and seasonal workers would lose their incomes. The noise generated by that enterprise is a small price to pay knowing that our local neighbours are able to bring their crops to market and be able to feed their families and their workers can take care of theirs.

Free-for-all at the airport? Not half.  The Vernon airport is a certified airport and meets all of the requirements of Transport Canada to hold an operating certificate, including all regulatory requirements and recommended practices.

Airport for the privileged few? Don’t you believe it. Most of the users are hardworking, everyday people with a passion for aviation.

They are local electricians, plumbers, doctors, airline pilots, housewives, accountants and retired folks like me living in a trailer court. They use the airport because of their love of flying. This is their hobby, no different than those who have classic cars, RVs, quads or boats.

Listed below is a short list of the few uses of the airport. This includes 19 businesses that employ 101 people making a decent living out of this airport, most of whom are local families.

Vernon airport uses:

Air ambulance – helicopter and airplane; Air medical services – Hope Air:  free medical flight to hospitals/doctors for those who can afford to purchase a ticket; Education – Okanagan College maintenance program, local flight school; RCMP – prisoner transfers, surveillance, etc; Local business – attached aviation component; Tourism – Skydive, charter – rotary and fixed wing, sight-seeing, aircraft from all over come to Vernon for vacation, trips, family, and tourist attractions; Search and Rescue and so on.

The airport does make noise, and it has done so since 1947. I reiterate: it is an airport; if you are noise sensitive, a modicum of due diligence would dictate buying a home other than near an airport.

I bought my home because it abutted the airport — noise and all.

John Swallow

Vernon