Reservations, Please

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They say parks are for people, but private floatplane pilots may need a reservation to visit some of British Columbia's most spectacular places. Provincial parks officials in northwestern B.C. are proposing that non-commercial floatplane operators be required to give six months' notice of the lakes they intend to visit and the days they intend to visit them in the more than 5 million acres within the park boundaries. Commercial operators can land anywhere with the purchase of a yearly permit. Naturally, the BCFA and the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) are opposing the plan, not just because they say it discriminates against floatplane pilots, but because it's impractical. "How can you plan that far in advance?" said Brenda Matas, a floatplane operator from Vancouver Island. "A lot of people visiting those parks are Americans. How are they supposed to do that?" And, although the parks are in untracked wilderness that is home to bears, cougars and other wildlife, pilots won't be able to carry firearms with them.

NOTE: The full text of the park plan is more than 200 pages and the aviation section starts on page 76.

...Environmental Issues Challenged...

Matas said the draft plan by B.C. Parks Stikine Region suggests floatplanes are an environmental hazard, but she said that view doesn't hold water. She said floatplanes are the only means of transportation that leave no permanent marks on the land. Trucks, all-terrain vehicles and even hikers need trails to get to the lakes. Aircraft make some noise on departure but it only lasts a minute or so, she said. Besides, if noise is the issue, she wonders why commercial floatplanes, snowmobiling and the use of motorboats are allowed on many park lakes. "Certainly, we don't want to be banned from areas where people are allowed to take a motorboat." The BCFA and COPA will be meeting with B.C. Parks Minister Joyce Murray this week to discuss the issue.

...Banff, Jasper Strips Threatened

Meanwhile, any pilot that has ever sought refuge, because of weather or other problems, and landed at the airstrips in Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta is asked to drop COPA a line. Parks Canada has been trying to close the strips for years but COPA managed to get a court ruling requiring a comprehensive environmental study on the strips. The consultant doing the study wants more information on the safety impact of the proposed closure. COPA wants anyone who has headed for Banff or Jasper in an emergency or just because they didn't like the look of the weather ahead to write the experience down and send it to bkirkby@copanational.org. Banff and Jasper are at the entrance to two of the most popular mountain passes used by VFR flights to cross the Rockies. And don't worry if the experience was embarrassing or a little outside the regulations. COPA will make sure your identity can't be traced. COPA has gathered accident and weather data on both areas to prepare for the safety study.