Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nova Scotia: Debert airport property no place for ATV use, officials say - Glider tow rope could present danger to unsuspecting drivers

 Capt. Doug Keirstead of the Air Cadet Regional Gliding School in Debert is issuing a reminder to off-highway vehicle riders of ongoing glider activity in the area and that the airport property is off limits to ATVs. 

DEBERT - Officials with the air cadet gliding school in Debert are expressing concern with ATV riders who are travelling across the glider landing areas. 

 And one of the concerns is that a rider may have an encounter with the tow rope that is strung out behind a tow plane as it comes into land.

"We are taking this issue very seriously and, as responsible citizens, we will continue to work with the community to ensure OHV (off highway vehicle) riders are aware of the dangers associated with entering the airfield during glider operations," said Capt. Doug Keirstead of the Air Cadet Regional Gliding School.

Gliding is ongoing most days during July and August, from dawn until dusk. Glider tow aircraft land with a 200-foot tow rope - which is used to tow gliders aloft - that has a steel ring attached to the end of it. OHV riders who may think it is safe to cross a landing area, based on their visual perception of a landing aircraft, may not be aware of or be able to see the attached tow rope in time to avoid a dangerous encounter, he said.

"And, you know, we keep a really close eye on this type stuff so whenever we see anybody nearby we go over and speak to them and let them know the dangers and things like this."

But that is not always enough, Keirstead said, and what the riders may not realize, is that the grass strips besides the paved landing strips are where the gliders actually land on

While officials try to keep a close eye on the ATV activity, that is not always enough, Keirstead said.

"We had a group of ATVs actually drive out onto the landing area, which forced the (tow) pilot to abort his landing," he said. "But in this particular case we went over and spoke to that group only to have them return later and drive across the same landing area, forcing the pilot to again abort his landings."

Hazard signs are also posted in the area, but some of those have been vandalized and taken down by suspected ATV riders, he said.

"It's a genuine concern for us," Keirstead said. "If other ATV users come along and that signage has been torn down, they're not able to see that, so we're being very diligent right now to make sure that we are keeping an eye on the signage."

Glider officials are working with the local RCMP and Department of Natural Resources officers to monitor the situation, as well as the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS), to help communicate the concerns to its members.

"We are committed to helping the gliding school deliver this important message to all ATV riders," executive director Barry Barnet said.