Likelihood of harm main issue in skydiving club’s turbine battle

skydive-burnabyBy Greg Furminger, The Tribune
If two wind turbines are constructed nearby Skydive Burnaby, it will only be a matter of time before someone from the parachuting club is killed, says a lawyer representing the business in its battle with Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. But the legal team representing turbine stakeholders said Friday that’s sheer speculation, and, as an environmental review tribunal hearing wrapped up at the township’s firefighters memorial hall after three weeks of testimony, that Skydive Burnaby has failed to prove a tragedy will happen.

Lawyer Scott Stoll, representing Tom Rankin-owned Wainfleet Wind Energy and its partner the Loeffen family, said, as an appellant to the project approved by the Environment Ministry, the onus is on Skydive Burnaby to demonstrate the turbines will have a negative impact — not may. During the hearings’ closing arguments Friday, he also said any risk to skydivers would be “abnormal,” basing his statement on appellant testimony that at times referred to turbines being a navigation risk subsequent to a parachute failure.

A turbine cannot be a cause of a collision — it’s a point of impact, he said. Calling Skydive Burnaby an “Internet business” that operates only a few months of the year during daylight hours, and whose members sign waivers acknowledging risks, Stoll said the club can change its flight plans — not unlike for wind conditions — if it deems turbines a risk to its members. Read article

One thought on “Likelihood of harm main issue in skydiving club’s turbine battle

  1. Sorry guys! this is very long! But it is two weeks of trying to stay awake whilst the lawyers drone on…………… 🙁

    My response to this story in the ‘Tribune’ was removed almost as soon as I posted it!
    Wonder why?
    At the Hearing:

    Just FYI – The two IWTs concerned are the closest planned to a skydive operation anywhere in the world. This Burnaby situation is new to both pro and anti participants.
    With agreement from all parties concerned this Hearing was specifically and only required to rule whether or not these two IWTs posed an additional hazard to the skydiving and piloting activities out of Skydive Burnaby

    For Skydive Burnaby:
    1 lawyer,Eric Gillespie, plus two occasional Legal Assistants – Paid for by Skydive(any additional donations very welcome!) 🙂 🙂 🙂

    For Wainfleet Wind Energy, Rankin and the M o Env.:
    Up to 7 lawyers plus their support staff.
    Someone suggested the lead lawyer was probably on $800 per hour…………. 🙂
    All the above to be paid for by your tax dollars in higher hydro rates and tax dollars.

    The ERT Hearing Chair and his staff.
    Again paid for by your tax dollars.

    The expert witnesses for Skydive were all involved in skydiving as instructors and/or pilots and had many thousands of jumps between them – piloting jump aircraft, training, fun jumps, as instructors and as competitors in both national and international competitions.
    Additionally members of this same group included members of the Canadian, UK and US Parachute Associations, one the senior member of the US Safety Committee, another a member of the UK Board who had been asked to advise the UK government on minimum safe set back distances between IWTs and skydiving operations.
    Additionally, members of that same group included PhD and degree engineers and commercial airline pilots who had experienced and also studied the effects of turbulence on parachutes/light aircraft/wide bodied commercial jets and written papers on the subject.
    Additionally one had produced a computer program to forecast safe jump spots within an airfield’s Drop Zone depending on the differing local wind/weather conditions from ground level up to around 15000 feet at any given time. This program, I understand, is now a chosen and widespread skydive planning tool.

    Their evidence concluded that not only would these two IWTs be an additional hazard but that it was only a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ a skydiver/aircraft would be negatively impacted.
    At no time throughout the Hearing did the proponents lawyers get any of the above to retract from the factual and theoretical evidence they presented.

    The expert witnesses for WWE did include skydivers and pilots. The skydiver had not jumped in over a decade and only under the traditional ’round’ parachute. Of those with pilots licences, none were skydivers and none had flown skydive aircraft. The evidence presented was all based on theoretical models and none backed up by any practical experience within the sphere of skydiving operations. The main body of this evidence written by an ‘expert’ who had been directed not to include the skydive operation as a part of his study initially and at least two safety and risk management ‘reports’ dated after the Appeal had been lodged by Skydive Burnaby.

    Throughout, neither the Skydive Burnaby nor the WWE and MoE representatives disagreed that these two IWTs would be an additional and potential hazard to skydivers/aircraft.

    The proponents argument was that the potential hazard was too small to be of importance…!!!

    They claimed’:

    Their expert concluded that the possibility of a catastrophic event was ‘rare’.
    i.e. the ‘rare’ death of a skydiver is acceptable.
    (NOTE: There has only been one recorded death so far. A women skydiver in Germany was killed when she hit an IWT 4 kms from the Landing Zone.) So, ‘rare’? Yes! ‘acceptable’? ???!
    Their experts claimed that Skydive Burnaby could change the pattern of operations they have been flying and jumping for the past 40 years to avoid the IWTs whenever necessary.
    They claimed that both skydivers and aircraft should be able to fly ‘around’ the IWTs to avoid them.

    Both sides accepted that there was a 10 in 1000 chance of a jump suffering a ‘malfunction’.
    Both sides accepted that of those 10 possible ‘malfunctions’ the overwhelming majority are corrected by the individual jumper in flight and that a safe landing is the outcome. This was a part of the proponents Risk Management evidence that concluded that that ‘rare’ death was OK!

    WWE lawyer, not an expert on skydiving, used the RM study to suggest that after every single jump the risk factor returned to zero – the number of jumps made wouldn’t necessarily increase the probability of a a catastrophic incident!
    Whilst I recognize the point he is trying to make my hazy old mathematical skills makes me think that from a statistical and risk management perspective that it is not quite as simple as that?
    He claimed that as there were already recognized hazards around Skydive Burnaby the addition of 2 x 500 foot high IWTs were no more of a hazard than a 50 foot tree or a 20 foot barn!
    He claimed that if an IWT was in place then it would be entirely the fault of a skydiver or aircraft if they hit it.
    His example was of a skydiver jumping without a parachute clear of the IWT…!!! The IWT was still there but could not be ‘blamed’ for the skydiver falling straight down and killing himself.
    He also introduced a new and totally bizarre argument – trespass…!!! 🙂
    He stated that as WWE owned the property on which these two IWTs are planned they also ‘owned’ the airspace above it…??? He seemed to be suggesting that if these two IWTs are built and if Skydive Burnaby remains a viable business and continues their skydiving operations then WWE would be able to sue them for trespass every time an aircraft or skydiver crossed their ‘airspace’……………….. ?

    I know this ERT is not about the usual Tribunal topics we discuss but because of the extremely restricted nature of the Hearing it could be very important!
    It is not just about one private company suing another private company.
    Although the past months of ERTs don’t give any of us cause for optimism the very specific nature of this Appeal should, I repeat, should, make it impossible for this ERT Chair to avoid contrasting the evidence submitted and ruling accordingly.
    Even as biased as I am I cannot see him finding any rational and credible reason for not upholding the Appeal.
    The saddest part of all, I am still not ‘holding my breath’!
    Even if he does uphold the appeal, and rule the two IWTs cannot be erected there, we know that WWE will appeal against that decision. I don’t think Skydive Burnaby have a chance of financing fighting that Appeal!

    But if the Appeal is upheld it would be the first time, I think, that the approval for IWTs has been withdrawn for such restricted and site specific parameters?
    (You can’t build ‘Blanding’s Turtles’ walls, roads and gates in mid air………!!!)

    Rankin and WWE have already shown their disdain for West Lincoln residents and that has yet to be resolved. One cannot tell if the same company showing the same disdain for Wainfleet residents might not make it easier for an ERT Chair to question their motives a little more closely this time around?

    My humble apologies for this being so long! All the comments and opinions are mine and mine alone as are any errors and omissions!
    Andrew Watts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *