Alpine Aviation Gets Bullied By City Officials
Advocacy Update written by Jason J. Baker — Those who follow Alpine Aviation on Facebook may have seen that there are some rather dark clouds in paradise which hold the potential to take yet another highly regarded float plane operation out of business and further, may impact aviation safety and flight planning for transient pilots. Alpine Aviation is currently having a very hard time due to capricious and arbitrary actions and behavior by officials and decision-makers representing the City of Whitehorse.
Operating successfully and with a comparatively high level of appreciation from local residents and businesses, the company began operating on Schwatka Lake in 1997. First reports of fairly funky actions by the city reach back to 2015, when the city decided on a 400% hike on dock fees. In 2015 the city came up with the idea to adopt an area plan that would have provided for more dock space for seaplanes. The fees came – the dock-space expansions never materialized. The city later (2018) went after buildings and structures and it was then when I personally first began to wonder if there could possibly be a larger, less noble agenda at play, to get rid of the seaplane operation. City officials appear to remain stone-faced and unwilling to at least consider a more productive and balanced way of collaboration.
The city appears largely ignorant to the touristic benefits Alpine brings to this wilderness area, which boasts its friendliness and open-mindedness all over it’s website. Common sense would dictate to seek common ground with local businesses and employers (incidentally taxes get collected), but I for one can’t help but arrive at the conclusion that someone in power at the city has some beef with Mannsperger and the horse he rode into town.
Opportunity To Listen To Mannsperger Yesterday
Gerd Mannsperger reached out to me by phone on 9/3/2019 and briefed me on the subject matter. After discussing the issue with him on the phone yesterday, I know that there would never be a closed door if someone of power within the City decided that it was time for open and honest dialog and finding long term solutions.
Mannsperger points out that city employees at lower levels are rather supportive and genuinely interested in finding solutions – however the stonewalling appears to happen further up in city government. This smells of individual personal bias, especially when the Development Officer assigned to Alpine Aviation supports Anti Alpine propaganda by giving thumbs up (naturally occurring, tree-huggers are everywhere) on almost every comment aimed at damaging Alpine, generated on social media.
Janet Sanders and Gerd Mannsperger have reached out to the city to provide a more stable and solid environment for the company in the past, however the newest goal seems to be to take Dock 11 away from the operator, supposedly to make room for other individuals on a waiting list. Seeking publicity is the non status quo way of responding to chicanery, from what I understand COPA is involved in helping and lots of residents, customers and acquaintances are rightfully concerned to see the team throw in the towel. Such would affect transient pilots, have an impact on aviation safety and further limit available landing and parking spaces for pilots trying to navigate already thinly spread seaplane bases in Canada.
Mannsperger said that in previous years, he was pressured by the city to bid for space at the north end of the lake, which is owned by the city. It was previously operated by Blacksheep Aviation, and now Alkan Air. “Alkan Air has a much bigger company than us; how can we bid on that?” Mannsperger asked. “They bought the base because it’s really important for their operation; I just can’t go and backstab my colleagues.” Mannsperger said he was advised by the city that “all his problems would go away” if he went for Alkan Air’s newly leased area. However, the Alkan Air base is a more industrial installation, with a hangar for storing large equipment, and not appropriate for Alpine. ~ Source: White Horse Daily Star
The City of Whitehorse responded to Alpine’s claims, however the finding of common ground solutions seems to be a fairly strange concept for the city, at least in the perception of this writer. The city scheduled an “inspection” of the dock situation and later cancelled the appointment in response to Sanders putting out a call to action for local residents to take part and show presence during the appointment. The reason? Buckle up! Citing concerns about safety due to the “lack of parking space” (the City itself caused the parking issue by remaining inactive on it’s 2015 development plans!). The city backed out – when in fact it appears as if the City primarily felt concerned about negative feedback from locals who do not agree with bullying from officials. A unsolicited tip for politicians and public servants in Whitehorse: One should NEVER EVER feel afraid of stepping right in front of a whole theater full of constituents and citizens! Show some guts, face the music, engage with “these people”!
How Can The Seaplane Community Help?
A good first step would be to help make fellow seaplane pilots, owners and advocacy organizations AWARE of the issues at hand. Things like this can and will happen in your backyard. The Whitehorse Daily has done a pretty amazing job at providing a very transparent picture for people to read up and inform themselves upon. A second good thing to do would be to (tactfully and in a friendly manner!) reach out to the City of Whitehorse and provide feedback on the importance of the seaplane docks for transient pilots and longer distance travelers who depend on landing and docking space to deal with weather and technical challenges. The city may need reminding that the ultimate goal of making Alpine Aviation’s business go away, isn’t conductive to business or tourism. Alpine enjoys unusual support from local residents and businesses, why would the city not sit down and calmly hash out how things can be done in a mutually beneficial and acceptable manner, rather than increasing the pressure and beatings in hopes to see morale improve.
Gerd and Janet are doing our entire industry (worldwide, not just in Canada) a tremendous service by at least trying to keep their stake and access to Schwatka Lake and not letting go of a 20 year old successful business that has transported thousands and thousands of people safely, while improving the tourism and traveling industry in their area. As I have stated in the past, an inch lost is an inch never to be gained back for our industry. All the more reason to appeal to city officials to bury the battle ax and let common sense, reason, style and common courtesy return to the table. Comments are more than welcome (from both sides) – however language is closely monitored.
Jason Baker works as a freelance writer and marketing/ advertising and public relations consultant. He holds a commercial pilot certificate (SEL/SES/MEL), instrument rating as well as advanced & instrument ground instructor certificates. Jason is the owner & managing editor of Seaplanemagazine.com. For more information about consulting services offered, click on Consulting & Services. Advertising spots for 2019 are no longer available.