Edmonton·Video

Float plane pilot calls riverside sculpture in downtown Fort McMurray a flight hazard

A pilot is worried an art monument being installed near the Snye River in downtown Fort McMurray will be a hazard for float planes.

'I don't want to be responsible for someone losing their life'

A pilot is worried a sculpture near the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray will be a flight hazard for float plane pilots. (Creative commons/ RMWB)

A pilot is worried an art monument being installed near the Snye River in downtown Fort McMurray will be a hazard for float planes.

"[Many] aircraft accidents occur at or just after take-off," says Paul Hunt, who operates the Fort McMurray Water Aerodrome.

Two planes are based at the aerodrome, which uses the Snye River as a runway, but others fly in and out for repairs.

Hunt is worried the sculpture, which will be installed in the fall, will pose a hazard to float planes during emergencies.

"If you lose your power after take-off and with a 23-foot structure right in your flight path, you probably won't get away from that."
A pilot is worried an art monument being installed near the Snye River in downtown Fort McMurray will be a hazard for float planes. "[Many] aircraft accidents occur at or just after take-off," says Peter Hunt, who operates the Fort McMurray Water Aerodrome. 1:34

The two-storey sculpture, called Reflections on the River, is being installed on the causeway that takes motorists to the city's recreational centre, MacDonald Island Park.

"The road is roughly 50 feet higher than the water," Hunt said. "To put a 23-foot statue on top of it right in the dead centre of the flight way, it does introduce a safety concern and I don't want to be responsible for someone losing their life."

With the Athabasca and Snye rivers as a back drop, the $375,000 sculpture features a person paddling a canoe on top of a curved piece of steel.
(CBC Graphics)

Hunt said he has advocated for a better location for the sculpture for years. The municipality said the site was selected after several surveys and public meetings dating back to 2015.

Hunt has suggested clearing trees next to the monument, but the municipality won't commit to doing that.

Adam Hardiman, spokesperson for the municipality, said a number of site visits and consultations with Transport Canada and Nav Canada determined the location is a safe spot for the installation.

"We take our marching orders from Nav Canada and Transport Canada and we have full approval from those government bodies," Hardiman said.

Paul Hunt operates Fort McMurray's water aerodrome. (David Thurton/ CBC)

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook and Twitter, or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca

About the Author

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.

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