Trans North Helicopters’ building on Range Road in Whitehorse on April 9, 2019. Both Trans North and the City of Whitehorse are looking to find a solution after realizing that a new access road planned by the city may inhibit the helicopter company from using its landing pad. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse company left ‘scrambling’ over potential new access road

Trans North would be prevented from flying from its property if road proceeds as it’s proposed

The City of Whitehorse has no intention of preventing Trans North Helicopters from flying out of its Range Road location.

That’s the word from Peter O’Blenes, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations, as the city plans for a private access road for city vehicles to the new operations building being built off of Range Road.

It was recently learned that the current plans to build the road would result in Trans North Helicopters being unable to meet federal requirements to take off from its Range Road property.

As Trans North Helicopters general manager James Rose explained in an April 8 interview, regulations outline certain slope requirements for takeoff and are clear helicopters must be a minimum of 1,000 feet above any road traffic.

If the city goes ahead with the access road, as proposed, it will be impossible for Trans North to meet those regulations.

Rose said officials with Trans North became aware of the issue recently during an open house where the plans for the access road were outlined.

“(I was) pretty shocked to be honest,” Rose said.

The situation has left Trans North “scrambling” to find a solution or an alternative location if the plans go ahead.

The company is looking at “every possible option,” Rose said. He added the next step is to come up with a document within the next couple of weeks for the city showing the land use of the property.

Though the company is looking at all options as a precautionary move, Rose added discussions with the city have gone well and he’s hopeful a resolution will be found.

As O’Blenes emphasized, the city does not want to prevent Trans North from operating as it has from the site for years.

He said it’s not clear why the issue was missed months earlier when other governing bodies like the territorial government and Nav Canada also looked at it. Now that the city is aware, it is working to come up with a resolution, O’Blenes said.

He would not get into specifics on what sort of solutions are being looked at, stating officials want to continue talks with Trans North before discussing possibilities more publicly.

“There are different options,” he said. “There could be another route we could take.”

The plan for the private access road came about in light of the territory’s planned extension to Range Road later this year.

The city’s access road would run parallel with the Alaska Highway behind the new Whitehorse Toyota dealership, turning right to reach Range Road where heavy city vehicles would then move into road traffic.

The general public would continue to access the operations building via the roadway already in place.

O’Blenes explained the proposed roadway is planned for safety reasons as it would keep heavy equipment separate from general traffic turning in and out of the operations building.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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