Sechelt council’s committee of the whole is recommending approval of a six-event schedule for the Sunshine Coast Drag Racing Association’s (SCDRA) coming season at the Sechelt Airport.
The airport has to be closed to air traffic while the SCDRA is using the runway, and the closure hours are passed on to aviators in a Transport Canada notice.
A report from airport manager Greg Caple noted the while the SCDRA events have caused few problems over the years, there continue to be so-called “incursions” by pilots unaware of the closures and “other hiccups on the part of the event participants and public [such as] unapproved drone usage over the aerodrome during the races.”
Caple recommended against the SCDRA’s request to extend the time slots by one hour for “test and tune” events and two hours for full race days.
“As demonstrated over the years, the time allotted per day for these events is workable and logical,” Caple’s report said. “I do not believe that time extensions will be helpful to the overall relationship between drag racing and aircraft movements. Added times will create more logistical and legal difficulties around aircraft movements on and into the aerodrome, by both private and commercial aviation users.”
He also asked council to consider the proposed September date as a backup to be used only if the August race has to be cancelled because of weather.
District of Sechelt staff, however, recommended granting the SCDRA permits for all six dates and times requested.
SCDRA representative Richard Austin told the committee that the request for extra time came out of a situation last season when the timing system malfunctioned.
“There were some computer challenges and in trying to get all the vehicles through we ended up running out of time,” Austin explained. “We’re hoping to extend that to give us a bit of a buffer, so should it happen in the future we’d have some ability to finish off all the races, because it ends up everyone goes home disappointed.”
Austin said the association has checked and tested the timing computers and the system has been working fine, but he also noted that upgrading to a new system would cost between $15,000 and $20,000, which is more than the SCDRA can afford.
Coun. Alton Toth supported the time extension.
“This group is definitely showing marked improvement on their process every year. The number of incursions is down, the cleanup time is better, security is getting better,” Toth said. “I’m OK if they want a little bit of extra time, but I don’t know if they need two extra hours [on race days].”
Coun. Matt McLean also supported the extra time, as long as the SCDRA treats it strictly as a buffer. “I think the general direction is, don’t expand the scope of the event with the time extensions and just keep the scope as is and try to get the airport open earlier if possible, but you have that flex time if needed.”
The committee voted unanimously to recommend the following dates and times for 2019:
• Saturday, May 25 (1 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
• Sunday, May 26 (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
• Saturday, June 22 (4 p.m. to 9 p.m. or as a May 26 rain date from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
• Saturday, July 13 (4 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
• Sunday, Aug. 11 (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
• Saturday, Sept. 7 (1 p.m. to 6 p.m. or as an Aug. 11 rain date from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Full council was scheduled to vote on the recommendation at the Dec. 5 regular meeting.