BY ANDREW BAILEY, WESTERLY NEWS JUNE 28, 2012
About 362 kilograms (800 lbs) of garbage was removed from Radar Beach recently thanks to the efforts of a locally owned and operated airline in Tofino.
Each of the five pilots who fly with Atleo Air must complete a set amount of training hours annually. Due to the company’s recent leasing of a helicopter, the pilots were required to participate in slinging exercises.
“We thought instead of just lifting something for exercises, why not do something useful at the same time,” Atleo owner Jason Bertin tells the Westerly News.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve granted an operating permit for one hour for the operation.The isolated location of the beach means an accumulation of garbage that can’t be removed without a helicopter.
“I’ve been here for 14 years and there’s always been a big pile of garbage there,” he says. “It’s very difficult to access so what happens over the years, it just ends up being a bigger and bigger pile.” The helicopter, a Bell 206 B jet ranger is a first for Atleo and Bertin is hoping it will open doors for business diversification.
“It brings versatility to the company and allows us to access areas that were unable to be accessed before by just float plane,” he says. “It allows us to get into different type of things. We’ll be offering alpine activities along with our regular scenic flights and actually doing remote island drop offs.”
It will also allow Atleo’s business to spill out of the West Coast’s 90-day tourist season and into local construction and development through its slinging capabilities, according to Bertin.He also plans to use the company’s new machine to clean up more of the West Coast.While areas like Chesterman Beach, Cox Bay, and Long Beach can be cleaned by truck, Bertin says a lot of the coastline is inaccessible.
While the helicopter offers access and the pride of the company’s pilots offers desire, funding for these types of garbage clearing initiatives is an issue.
“We’ve been trying to get support from areas like Environment Canada and both B.C. and federal parks,” says Bertin. “We’ve had a lot of interest, but unfortunately with a lot of government cutbacks nobody really has the immediate funding.”Atleo is currently leasing the $550,000 helicopter and Bertin says if it proves successful, it may be a direction the company moves towards.”It’s a trial that we’re pretty excited about because we’re a bunch of airplane geeks and to get a new toy to play with is amazing. So we’re just very amped.” -email@example.com
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