Float plane pilot trainees have a new long-term home in Northwestern Ontario.
After a summer of controversy on Eva Lake in 2013, Confederation College students were welcomed Tuesday with open arms in Kenora, where the instructional program will relocate for the foreseeable future.
Paul de Oude, chairman of the college’s School of Aviation, on Wednesday said the process to find a new home for the float-plane program took several months to complete, but it will assure the program will be able to continue.
“One of the great things about the location we chose was the inclusivity of all the members of the community, the municipality and all the community stakeholders and their enthusiasm,” he said.
It’s a far cry from the mood at Eva Lake last summer, where cottagers complained about frequent landings and take-offs that disturbed the tranquility of the area.
The College moved the program’s training operations from Lake Shebandowan to Eva Lake last spring, adding to the noise produced by a private float-plane operator already flying out of the area.
Residents said they were not consulted about the six-day-a-week program, which began flying at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
Confederation College did hold an open house surrounding the move last May 25.
Weeks later Wayne Miller, one of 72 property owners at Eva Lake, estimated there were more than 30 takeoffs and landing on June 8, 2013 alone.
Kenora Mayor David Canfield greeted the news that River Air Limited’s proposal to bring the program to his community in partnership with the college was welcomed with open arms.
“Float planes are part of our heritage. The float planes on the Kenora harbour-front provide an experience that is unique to Kenora,” Canfield said in a release.
“This project is a great fit with Kenora’s brand direction as North America’s premier boating destination and also with our goals of enhancing post-secondary opportunities in the community.”
The program will run from May 1 to Sept. 30 each year, bringing up to 45 students and their instructors to Kenora each year.
About 10 to 15 students will be in the city at any given time.
“This project brings up to 45 people here and exposes them to everything Kenora and Lake of the Woods has to offer. We think that’s fantastic from both a business and tourism perspective,” said Mort Goss of the Habourtown Business Improvement Zone.
“This project could also help us attract new populations to the community.”
De Oude said the successful community had to have nearby lakes suitable for takeoffs and landings.
“The float rating is very much about the taking off and the landing portion of the flight. Once you’re in the air it doesn’t make a lot of difference anymore,” he said. “To have adjacent lakes that also sustain our operation and reduce our footprint, that’s very important to us.”
The site was chosen through an extensive request for proposal process initiated by the college.