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Practice runs over Chilliwack produce noise complaints

Some people love the practice runs Super Dave Mathieson makes, others can
Some people love the practice runs Super Dave Mathieson makes, others can't stand the noise.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE

Some don't seem to mind the roar of aircraft soaring over Chilliwack, others can't tolerate it.

High performance planes doing practice runs over Chilliwack skies this week have garnered a few complaints into the Chilliwack airport management.

Since pilot Dave 'Super Dave' Mathieson made the Chilliwack Airport his home base a couple of years ago, when summer rolls around, he starts conducting twice daily practice flights.

The debate exploded on social media as commentators were divided over whether they could tolerate, or even enjoy the sound of high performance planes or not.

Many said they loved the free show Super Dave is offering everyone for a few minutes a day, while others said they were quite disturbed by it.

Chilliwack resident Bob Janzen called The Progress to say he doesn't understand why Super Dave can't do his manoeuvres and routines elsewhere — not over Chilliwack, for example.

"I appreciate that he has to practice. My concern is the noise. Why can't he fly 10 kilometres outside the city?"

Janzen said his patio faces the hospital, and he's concerned it could impact patients as well.

"I phoned around but can't seem to get any satisfaction about this."

But Ray Firkus of the Chilliwack Flight Fest Society said he hopes people will understand.

Super Dave obtained all the necessary federal aviation permits to do these flights, and he has to practise regularly to keep them.

"They might find it a little noisy, but this airport is a lot less congested than say the one in Vancouver. It's just that the one in Chilliwack is in the middle of town."

It's true there has been slightly more traffic in the skies over Chilliwack than usual lately.

Super Dave and other pilots like him, and those in training have been flying in the skies over Chilliwack to get hours logged for safety reasons. Some are being assessed for air shows by competency evaluators.

"These planes all sound so loud because they're high performance planes," he said.

It's also definitely a business incidentally for show pilots like Super Dave, not a hobby, as some have suggested.

"It's a matter of trying to practise their business craft and do it safely."

And only for 15 minutes at a time. He wants folks to understand that Super Dave can't just go elsewhere to practise. Keep in mind he is choreographing "a dance in the sky."

The professional pilot use the Chilliwack Airport runways as his specific training markers.

"He's got to hit those marks."

The pilot uses them as visual cues to aid in timing.

It's crucial to practise the rolls and hair-raising flips that require split-second timing.

Aerobatic pilots also have to get their "g tolerance" built up every season to withstand the effects of acceleration from the stupendous stunts.

"It's like any other muscle, if you don't exercise it, you go downhill fast," said Firkus.

Super Dave has to stay in tip-top form to perform every year in air shows like the Chilliwack Flight Fest.

"Air show performers take an inherent risk when they do an air show - but the public does not," he explained.

The pilots fly with a cap of 800 feet, which gives them an "aerobatic box" to keep them safely away from the crowd. That requires hours of practice.

There's also an economic argument to be made. Pilots like Mathieson purchase airport hangar space or get their planes serviced here and it means tens of thousands in spinoffs.

One pilot coming in from Arizona will be spending $60,000 to get his plane worked on here, because he'll be working with the local pilot.

"These are just two outfits over the last two months. Dave is showcasing what we can do here in Chilliwack. If he wasn't here, that business would go elsewhere."

The airport is actively trying to attract new business to Chilliwack.

Magnum Management officials who manage the airport operations just set up a way for the public to communicate with them, since many were trying to phone in noise complaints. Anyone with concerns can email to: commentsandcomplaints@chilliwackairport.ca

Find out more and see a video of Super Dave.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

*This version of the story has been modified from the original one with a corrected email address for the airport

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