Shown is the tie-down that is under debate between the Vanderhoof Airport Development Society and the District of Vanderhoof. The tie-downs are currently protruding upwards by approximately three inches in one thaw season. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)

District and Airport development society in disagreement over new apron

User group says there are safety hazards, and the district of Vanderhoof says otherwise.

Vanderhoof Airport Development Society and the District of Vanderhoof are in disagreement on the quality of a new apron on the municipal airport.

Last year the district expanded the old apron on-site and spent $405,000 for the project.

An apron is the area of the airport where the aircrafts’ are parked, loaded or unloaded, refilled or boarded.

There are two main issues amongst many others as per Jim Mitchell and Paul Collard, from the Vanderhoof Airport Development Society (VADS).

Mitchell has construction background and worked as part of the Public Works crew for the district years ago, and Collard is an active member of the flying club and promotes development on the municipal airport through VADS.

The first issue is in regard to tie-downs that have been set up on the new apron.

Mitchell said the problem with the tie-downs is that they are a “protruding obstacle” that should be removed immediately.

“They are also a maintenance hazard for snowplows and other airport tarmac equipment just after their first season. They also don’t meet building code practices and will further heave every freeze thaw season, and continue upward.”

Collard said currently there are only tie downs for five aircrafts’, in comparison to the ten that are needed. “This has led to aircraft being tied down on the old places in the middle of the apron.”

“The new tie downs are being forced out of the surface by frost action. They are absolutely a hazard to propellers already, as they are protruding three inches in one season of freeze/thaw. This will continue every season. The engineering of these is totally wrong,” he added.

Another concern for Collard is the Vanderhoof Airshow being affected by both the “defective” tie-downs and their lack, in particular.

“We can’t host the Snowbirds again until this is fixed,” he said.

Brian Frenkel, municipal councillor told the Express that the tie-downs are not an engineering issue and are more a maintenance related problem. He said its not a safety issue which is opposite from what the user group believes.

“The District of Vanderhoof put those in after the project was done. That was separate, and that was our staff doing it. Not contractor A and B, who did the paving and everything else,” Frenkel said.

He said the Vanderhoof Flying Club had specified the kind of tie-downs they want.

Frenkel confirmed that frosting is causing them to protrude upwards, but said it is more a maintenance issue and not a safety issue, as that is where the aircraft park. Instead of the tie-downs, Frenkel said the taxiways are more of a concern.

The second issue for Mitchell is that the engineering on the new apron is flawed.

Mitchell got a different engineer to have a look at the original engineering of the new apron. In that report, it was found that there is no place for the water to drain, which is causing pools of water on the apron, that freeze into large ice patches in the winter.

“The provided engineering report explains, water control played a non- existing role in the design. At the time of construction all construction concerns were brought forward to staff, with return comments that said – this is a District Project and there is no need for a second engineer report,” Mitchell said.

Frenkel disagrees with that statement, saying there is a ‘low area’ purposefully constructed on the apron, to drain the water. He agrees that it is a “degree out, and holds a bit of water.”

“All user groups will want to be involved in the development of something new, just like the Prince George Fire Hall, all firefighters wanted to be involved in the designing of the fire hall, that’s not going to happen all the time,” Frenkel said in regard to inputs from the Vanderhoof Airport Development Society.

In terms of development, for this year, Frenkel said the district wants to focus on the “major cracks” on the old apron, which is dependent on funding. “We will be doing the alpha and bravo taxiways, and then the old apron.”

“These cracks on the old apron, when the first frost was coming out of the ground, they bled water across. The new apron was the flying club’s number one priority. I would have re-done the old apron first and then added the new one next year. And there is a whole story behind why they (user group) wanted that,” he said.

On the other hand, Mitchell said, “as the apron sits, it is holding water under the older existing apron and thus will destroy all of its material base. This is going to be another half a million needed to repair.”

READ MORE: Vanderhoof airport receives funding for apron expansion

Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

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