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Trees encroaching on Campbell River airport create training opportunity

The need to thin trees alongside the Campbell River Airport runway created a logger training opportunity.

The need to thin trees alongside the Campbell River Airport runway created a training opportunity.

When it was learned that YBL needed select tree and brush removal adjacent to the runway areas, a connection was made between City Airport Manager Dennis Brodie and BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC) course trainer John Jacobsen. A plan emerged that saw the Falling Supervisor course being hosted at the Campbell River Airport, and it has proven to be a win-win for safety.

One critical aspect of airport safety is maintaining clear sightlines and airspace surrounding the runway. Pilots rely on clear sightlines during take-off and landing, and airport staff need unobstructed views to safely manage aircraft movements and monitor runways

For some airports, encroaching development is the challenge but in the case of the City of Campbell River Airport (YBL), it’s all about maintaining and improving safety by reducing encroaching forest growth. Building heights can be planned to ensure they stay below the regulatory threshold set by Transport Canada, but when a forest surrounds the airport, trees must be managed to ensure they don’t grow too tall.

BCFSC requires standing timber in a forested setting during two field days of training, where various manual tree-falling-related activities are demonstrated. In his role as an experienced tree faller and trainer, Jacobsen worked with Brodie to develop a falling safety plan that allowed course participants to spend the field days in areas in need of improved sightlines for approaching aircraft outside the fences at the airport.

The City of Campbell River receives tree falling and bucking services provided at no charge, alongside a small amount of merchantable timber, and the BCFSC receives a field site to train in.The result proved so successful that BCFSC returned for another two sessions of falling supervisor training at YBL, the most recent taking place in April 2024.

Kermit Dahl, Campbell River Mayor, said, “Campbell River has a deep connection with the coastal forest industry, and this partnership with BCFSC supports that work while also furthering the city’s commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

For BCFSC, the convenience of the location is a key benefit. But it isn’t the only one. Most of the time, manual tree fallers are found working in active logging areas but because of the unique setting of the airport property, trainers and participants alike were able to experience a more unique workplace setting that broadened their safety knowledge and experience.

“At YBL, where the coast connects, we’re focused on providing safe, quick and convenient connections between the Strathcona and Discovery Islands region of Northern Vancouver Island and the rest of the world. This partnership gives forestry workers in the field the safety training they need, while simultaneously advancing aircraft safety,” Brodie said.

“It’s been a great experience working with Dennis and his staff as they have been very supportive of our training,” Jacobsen said. “The site offered so close to town has been beneficial in allowing less time travelling and more time for the participants to practice their skills in faller supervision.”