Low-flying aircraft posing problem for Cordova Bay

Residents say Vancouver and Victoria harbour-bound aircraft have been flying too close over their homes

Saanich is looking into an ongoing report of low-flying aircraft that have been particularly bothersome for the residents of Worthington Road in Cordova Bay.

Since 2012, Dorothy Pearson of Walema Avenue has gathered a petition of 53 residents from the immediate area who say Vancouver and Victoria harbour-bound aircraft have been flying too close over their homes, roads and properties.

“Our houses actually shake, especially with [helicopters], it’s very loud,” Pearson said. “It interrupts your speech, and there’s so many during the rush hour times, you can’t have a barbecue in the summer, it affects your quality of life.”

Pearson said about 30 to 40 aircraft come through on a busy day right now and as many as 100 would come through during busy summer days over the past three years. She’s lived there since 2001 and recalls hardly any aircraft to speak of prior to September 2012.

Jonathan Bagg, manager of public affairs for Nav Canada, said the regulation of routes is a broad one, and wasn’t able to speak specifically to the Worthington area directly.

“It’s a busy region, [this] part of B.C. has a lot of airports, a lot of flights, and it’s normal to have aircraft over different areas. Aircraft can fly on different routes.”

However, Bagg did say there’s been no changes to the area since 2007. Both Bagg and Transport Canada said they’ll look further into the flight paths of the area.

Pearson and a trio of neighbours brought the issue to council as a delegation on Nov. 16 and were met with a positive response. Council recognized the issue as similar to one in 2006, in which the Healthy Saanich advisory committee helped a group of citizens from Saanich, Central Saanich and North Saanich to redirect “low flying” float planes and helicopters away from densely populated ares of Saanich and Victoria.

Council passed a motion (forwarded by Coun. Judy Brownoff) to follow the same steps it did in 2006.

In that case, decibel levels reached 65 to 80 but in this case Pearson says it doesn’t matter. There are designated flight paths to follow. The Victoria bound map shows a southbound flight path along the Pat Bay Highway which Pearson says is often deviated from. And she says no one will share the northbound routes from Victoria to Vancouver with her.

“I would like to find out who’s behind it, that there’s no one to answer, why can’t they fly on their routes. It’s almost like they don’t want to fly over Elk Lake.”

One of the problems is that the homes are in a virtual no man’s land between the air spaces governed by both the Victoria Airport and the Victoria Harbour Aerodrome.

Because the air traffic is harbour-to-harbour, Pearson and the company looked for answers from the Victoria Harbour Aerodrome, learning it exists in virtual ‘theory’ only, said another Worthington homeowner, David Gerrior.

“As far as we can tell, a Victoria Harbour Authority doesn’t exist,” Gerrior told council,

Pearson did however manage to contact and work with MLA Lana Popham, MP Elizabeth May, Nav Can, Transport Canada, Helijet, Harbour Air and more.

But after three years, she’s left wondering if there’s some sort of conspiracy behind it all.

“I was told we’d have a meeting by several people only to have them cancelled or put off with no word of a rescheduling. Do you know how hard it is to get 30 neighbours to commit to a meeting?” Pearson said.

“I talked to Victoria tower control but the more people I talk to it doesn’t matter. It’s actually a very, very complicated issue.”

reporter@saanichnews.com