Craig Roy, a helicopter pilot based in Terrace, has more than 15 years flying experience in the northwest and is unhappy with the helicopter traffic because no northwest-based pilots are working for industry in the area.
Spectra Energy, the company proposing a pipeline that will travel in close proximity to the Skeena River and terminate on the B.C. coast near Kitimat, has helicopters in the air in the northwest constantly to support its project research.
Roy has to travel to Alberta weeks at a time for work and wants an opportunity closer to home.
“You’d think with the growth in the northwest and all the helicopters overhead we would not have to leave town to go to work,” Roy said.
Roy has kept informed of what industry says it brings to the northwest as well.
“I came across an illustrated page the other day about a $25 billion dollar investment and 16,000 jobs in the northwest in the year 2012,” Roy said.
“The brochure fails to mention who is doing these jobs.”
On top of the financial consequences Roy points to what he thinks is the most startling problem.
“I have been present when both Spectra Energy and TransCanada pipelines have given a speech about how important safety and having skilled workers is to them,” Roy said.
“Spectra brought a helicopter company into town and it shortly crashed in the mountains killing the three people aboard and they continued using the same company until their next accident.”
Following the first crash, 14 kilometres west of Terrace near Sleeping Beauty Mountain in June 2012, Spectra refused to hire local machines or pilots, Roy said.
“Unfortunately the only work I or another local operator will attain is when one or perhaps more aircraft will crash, we will then be able to bring out the bodies and wrecked aircraft,” he added.
Roy compares this to Enbridge putting most of the safety of super-tankers on the B.C. coast from Kitimat to the open ocean on local tug boat captains and crew.
“A pilot’s experience is usually very specialized,” Roy said.
The companies that Spectra has hired are based out of Fort St. John, while TransCanada, the company that would build the Northern Gateway pipeline has a federally-owned company hired.
“They are not locally owned nor do they supply local pilots,” Roy said.
“It’s sad I have to leave for work while the inexperienced pilots from abroad are busy flying every day over my house.
“I have a hard time seeing the advantage of such projects.”
Representatives from TransCanada nor Spectra did not return calls before press time.