Mountain Emergency Strips In Peril

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The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) is calling on pilots to help prevent the Canadian government from plowing up a couple of mountain airstrips that provide critical emergency diversion points for aircraft crossing the Rockies. A 60-day public comment period on a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment of the grass strips at Banff and Jasper, Alberta, began on Sept. 27. COPA President Kevin Psutka is urging pilots (not just Canadians, anyone can write in) to e-mail their support (comments-commentaires@telus.net) to retain the strips, which are on two of the three major mountain-pass routes commonly used by light aircraft. The Canadian government has been threatening to close the airstrips for decades as part of a general policy to eliminate airports in national parks. Banff and Jasper are two of Canada's most famous parks. But Psutka said the policy makes no practical sense since thousands of vehicles and dozens of trains pass right by the airports every day and pose a much greater risk to wildlife and the environment than the small number of planes that use the airstrips. The strips are currently closed to regular traffic but available for emergency and diversionary use in the event of weather or mechanical problems. Psutka said hundreds of pilots have used them for those purposes (including pilots of federal government aircraft) and there's no doubt they've saved lives. Submissions don't have to be lengthy but they should clearly state that the writer supports retention of both the Banff and Jasper airstrips.