By Christopher Gooding
SPRINGHILL - The pilot of a small engine airplane walked away shaken but uninjured yesterday morning after what he described as a "hard landing" in town limits.
Mark Capone was at the controls of his personal aircraft and attempting to land on an airstrip he built on his property in Springhill Wed. morning when the aircraft veered off course and came to a stop in some nearby bushes. Citizens near the area witnessed the plane entering town limits from the Southwest, heading over the Herrett Road during its decent and flying what some described as precariously low, as it came in for a landing.
"It was just clipping over the tree tops," said one witness.
Neighbours in the area are concerned about the airstrip being near homes and yesterday's mishap didn't do much to assuage their concerns. A small crowd of onlookers and neighbours gathered near the plane while the pilot was taking a breather in his nearby Church Street home. The landing, some indicated, was the first attempt Capone made since developing the airstrip over the summer. Its construction has been a hotly debated issue but one the Town of Springhill hasn't any say in.
"We never heard one way or another what the status of the strip was," Deputy Mayor Doug Dobson said shortly after reviewing the scene. "It's up to aviation to decide if it's allowed."
Without bylaws to the contrary, town hall was not involved in approving the landing strip, which would tentatively see aircraft flying between two Victoria Street homes and quite possibly over a third on take off. Repeated calls of concern, however, were received by town hall and even more yesterday after the botched landing.
Steve Bone, Communications Officer with Transport Canada, did not offer any details when asked if the airstrip in question received Transport Canada's approval prior to its use nor answered questions regarding what considerations and stipulations are expected by the government for airstrips near residential areas.
Neighbours in the area were hesitant to speak on the record against Capone's airstrip but one neighbour, speaking under the condition of anonymity, wasn't surprised everyone's worse fears occurred during the suspected inaugural use of the airstrip.
"I thought it was a possibility," she said. "I didn't see it happen but I heard it. It was a big crash. I was surprised. What if he hit someone's home?"
Capone, who had no comment for the press immediately following the incident, only describing the incident as a "hard landing." He later told media the landing strip is only temporary until he can secure a location outside of town limits.
The plane was later reported disassembled and removed from the scene.
Owners are responsible for private airstrips, Transport Canada says
Transport Canada says it is the responsibility of the owner to make sure the private airstrip, known in the industry as an aerodrome, is up to code.
Communications officer Steve Bone says Transport Canada does not approve or disapprove private aerodromes. The one in question in Springhill drew the ire of neighbours during its construction because of its close proximity to homes in a residential area but so long as the owner, Church Street resident Mark Capone, is following the rules of the federal Aeronautics Act the aerodrome is okay.
"There isn't [a governing body] for private aerodromes," Bones explained Thursday. "It's incumbent on the owner to comply with the Aeronautics Act."
With the responsibility ultimately on the landowner's shoulders, Bone's says, anyone with enough space could build a private aerodrome or heliport in their backyard.
"That's my understanding," Bones said.
All aircraft are required to be registered with Transport Canada and comply with their rules and regulations. The aircraft in Wednesday's mishap, Bones says, had all the required registrations prior to the incident.
Incidents involving aircrafts move from Transport Canada's table to that of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, who decides what level of investigation is necessary. According to the safety board's website a reportable incident includes accidents where an aircraft sustains damage or failure that affects the structural strength of the aircraft.
Within the Aeronautics Act, there are provisions concerning aerodromes. In summary, Part III of the act states where low-flying in the vicinity of an aerodrome are likely to be hazardous to pedestrian or vehicular traffic, the operator of the aerodrome shall immediately post notices warning of the hazard on any public way (road, path or sidewalk) that is adjacent to the maneuvering area; or where such a public way is not owned or controlled by the operator, inform the authorities responsible for placing markings on the public way that there is a hazard.