A group of Okotoks residents who live beside a runway are voicing their support for a recently opened flight school.
From the front yards, the community of Air Ranch in Okotoks looks like any other suburban neighbourhood. But many of the houses back onto an airport runway and some homes have private hangars.
The community is home to the Okotoks Air Ranch Airport, which has a runway that runs through it.
“We lived about a mile west on a golf course and we got tired of being pelted with golf balls. We thought it would be a lot safer to live on an airport,” said Tom Beale who has lived in Air Ranch for over three years.
Some Air Ranch residents have started a petition in support of the new flying school that opened in January. They hope to counter recent opposition to the Calgary-Okotoks Flying School.
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said there has been increased noise since the school opened and a number of residents are upset about it. Robertson said the town can’t do much because Transport Canada regulates the operations at the Okotoks airport.
He’s in the process of organizing a meeting with all stakeholders. Robertson said the flying school helps sustain the small airport.
“The revenues from the flight school add to the viability of the long-term sustainability of the Okotoks aerodrome.”
Air Ranch resident Chris Morgan moved to the neighbourhood just so he could live by the runway and he doesn’t want to lose it.
“We have no neighbours through here,” said Morgan of his home that backs onto the runway.
“We just have the runway and we get to watch the planes come and go and the helicopters. It’s just relaxing for me.
“The concern for me is that if this flight school is shut down and the other businesses operating out of this operation, then this property could potentially be rezoned for housing or for a strip mall.”
In August, a plane made a crash landing at Okotoks Air Ranch Airport. Neither the instructor nor the student were injured, but the incident elevated safety concerns from some people living in nearby Drake Landing.
They’ve written letters to the town asking for regulations limiting the times the flight school can fly. Tim Ulmer, Calgary-Okotoks Flying School owner, said they have flights every hour from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. six days a week and the school has been “booked solid” since it opened.
Supporters of the flying school will bring their petition to Okotoks council on Sept. 23.