Capt. Joe Konkin

Drill helps prepare for heliport

NANAIMO – Helijet preparing site at cruise ship terminal for flights to the Lower Mainland.

An emergency exercise at Nanaimo Port Authority’s cruise ship terminal will help push a heliport one step closer to Transport Canada certification.

A Helijet flight crew and company representatives landed at the cruise ship terminal where they joined emergency first responders, Nanaimo Port Authority staff and Pacific Heliport Services staff for a mock aircraft emergency drill Thursday.

The drill was hosted to get firefighters and other emergency crews acquainted with the Helijet aircraft that will be landing at the Nanaimo Harbour Heliport being created near the terminal’s parking lot.

The exercise is also part of the process to gain the heliport’s Transport Canada flight operations certification.

Ed Dahlgren, Nanaimo Port Authority director of operations and harbour master, said the exercise would  demonstrate to Transport Canada that sufficient emergency resources, security and other requirements ensuring passenger safety, are available in Nanaimo to meet Transport Canada safety standards.

Thursday’s exercise also served as part of the port authority’s annual transport certification test for harbour operations.

“Upstairs we’re running our yearly certification, so we’ve got members from the coast guard, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, we’ve got the military,” Dahlgren said. “We’re doing a full simulation of an aircraft in distress and so, what we’ve got here is the first responders getting familiar with the aircraft and they’re asking questions about the kind of information they’re going to need to take back to their units.”

Dahlgren said the certification process for the heliport is more rigorous because it will be a common heliport used by multiple users including commercial passenger, emergency and military air services.

The heliport will be managed by Pacific Heliport Services, which is owned by Helijet, but operates as a separate company that specializes in managing heliports.

“There will actually be a couple of staging sites so we can move the aircraft off the pad, so that you can cycle other aircraft in out and then bring it back,” Dahlgren said.

Daniel Sitnam, Helijet president and chief executive officer, said the company has been working with the port authority to set up the heliport for about six months.

“Right now we’re trying to see if we can put all the dots together by January,” Sitnam said.

Lighting fixtures and other hardware have yet to be installed and operational details still have to be worked out.

“Nav Canada, which controls the airspace, is working with us to approve us on routes to get from Vancouver to here, specifically at night and during instrument flight operations,” Sitnam said.

Helijet will offer six or seven flights a day, Monday though Friday, when it begins operations.

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