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Air show takes wind out of club's sails
Great Slave Sailing Club planned to host course on Back Bay

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Friday, July 7, 2017

The Great Slave Sailing Club says a course it is offering this weekend is being disrupted by a Northern air show taking place at the same time.

NNSL photograph

A space in Back Bay where Sunday's air show is set to take place, indicated here by a box, will be off-limits to watercraft during the approximately two-hour performance, according to Nancy McClure, executive director of the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour. - map courtesy of Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour

The Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour is hosting a free air show Sunday afternoon during the Midnight Sun Fly In and is warning that no watercrafts will be allowed in Back Bay for the approximately two-hour show that includes a special CF-18 fighter jet. According to the tour's executive director, Nancy McClure, Transport Canada requires that no one is in the "box" of space underneath the air show performance for safety reasons.

John Carr, vice-commodore of the Great Slave Sailing Club, said that presents a challenge for his group.

The club already has five participants registered for a sailing course in that area of Great Slave Lake from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

"We've had it planned for months and we use that area that they're going to be shutting down," Carr said, adding the sailing club was informed by email about the air show last week. "In effect, they're going to prevent us from being able to carry on our sailing course activities."

Carr said the restricted area extends north in Back Bay and cuts off the lake's navigation channel from the Giant Mine boat launch to the north end of Latham Island.

"No one will be able to come in or out of the Giant Mine boat launch either," Carr said. "We would possibly be able to transit over to the other side of Latham Island, but we would have to do that before the air show begins."

McClure said the Yellowknife liaison for the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour reached out to local stakeholders, including the city, and other groups were okay with working around her air show.

"The city has been a strong supporter since we first started speaking to them," she explained. "The float plane festival organizers have been very receptive, co-operative in sharing their event with us."

McClure said she called the sailing club to try to work together on a solution, suggesting adjusting the sailing course's lunch break, for example.

But Carr said his concern is there was "no consultation" ahead of time.

"We weren't involved in any discussions early on in the planning stages and when we did raise the concerns we had and asked them if they could move their air show area to allow us to continue with our sailing course, they said it's a very long process with the approval," Carr said.

McClure said she wants to reach out to the club again when she lands in Yellowknife this weekend to talk things over and that she is remaining optimistic about the event.

"The way that we measure everything is based on safety," she said. "We would never put anyone - and certainly that includes members of the sailing club - in harm's way."

She said the air show is involved with all levels of emergency services in Yellowknife to make sure the show runs safely and that the coast guard is taking the lead on water safety.

"Our motivation is simply to provide entertainment and the opportunity to connect with the pilots that we feel are of interest to young people," McClure said. "We do not want to impose on the sailing club. Our goal would be to work together."

The Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour's stop in Yellowknife is one of 97 air shows it is holding across the Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, northern Quebec and Labrador as part of this year's Canada 150 celebrations.

Safety concerns are not unwarranted. In July 1982, a man was killed in a late-night crash between a 16-foot sailboat and a Cessna 185 on Yellowknife Bay.

That tragedy prompted an agreement between boaters and float plane pilots the following year to mount a strobe light on the Pilot's Monument rock, to be activated by pilots making their final approach.

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