Original Published on Jul 14, 2022 at 09:17
By Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
In August 2020, the Smith family’s lives changed for the worse.
That’s when Grimsby Regional Airport went from a quiet, seldom-used runway into a busy airfield, sending dozens of planes a day over their house.
“They changed our lives in one night,” said Max Smith. “In a few minutes,” added Linda, his wife. Now, the Smiths and other residents around the airfield are petitioning politicians to restrict the runway’s activity and bring peace back into their lives.
Greg Middleton, who lives around two kilometres from the airfield, estimates that before August 2020 there were around 10 flights per week from the airfield in Grimsby.
Now, he says that on some days they pass over every four to five minutes for hours at a time, flying as low as 75 feet above houses.
The Smiths, who live with their daughter less than 500 metres from the end of the runway, say the planes fly as low as 50 feet above their house, which vibrates countertops and shakes the house.
After the planes started flying with more regularity, the family became increasingly distressed by the noise.
“I couldn’t sleep for three weeks,” said Max. “I was going crazy.”
Max and Linda took to wearing hearing protection around the house to drown out the noise, but even that wasn’t enough, and Max was forced to stay inside in the basement. “We’re hostages in our own home,” he said. “It’s torture.”
Eventually, he became so unwell that he went to the doctor who gave him medication to treat anxiety.
A plane flying low over a house
Max and Linda Smith say the planes fly so low over their house that the noise shakes the building | Max Smith photo
Gary Plummer, airport manager at Grimsby Airport, defended the airport’s procedures and said they’re trying to work with the community to resolve any issues.
“We’re here to try and get along with the neighbours,” he said. “We’re not trying to make it difficult for them by any stretch of the imagination.”
He estimated that depending on headwinds, the planes would be at around 200 to 300 feet high by the time they pass over the street where the Smiths live, and could be even higher.
Grimsby Airport rules were changed in winter last year to forbid any pilots from using the runway unless they received prior permission. They also asked any pilots wanting to fly at night to use a different airport.
Plummer encouraged any residents affected by the noise to contact him directly when there’s an issue but admits that he won’t accept abuse, which he claimed he has been subjected to from irate callers.
He added that if residents didn’t want to listen to aircraft noises, they shouldn’t have moved next to the airport, which has been there for nearly 50 years.
“You have to take care of your own research before you buy a place,” he said.
For the residents, the noise got so bad that Middleton started a community group, representing 43 residents, to petition politicians to change the rules to lower the noise from the airfield.
The group wants a change in policy to force private airfields like the one in Grimsby to have a minimum clearance of 1000 feet from properties during the takeoff and landing phases of flights.
If that’s not possible, they have requested for other avenues to be explored to heavily restrict the number of planes that use the runway.
They have sent a letter petitioning MP Dean Allison to advocate for the changes, and the group claims that the documents were forwarded to the Ministry of Transportation a couple of weeks ago, but they haven’t heard anything back yet.
Fortunately, the level of activity has died down recently, which is due to a combination of rising fuel costs and the flight school at the location being sold.
But Middleton and the Smiths don’t expect the peace to last. “We’re not going to let up,” said Middleton.
This item reprinted with permission from Grimsby Lincoln News, Grimsby, Ontario