ABOVE: Gas flares from the proposed biodigester could create significant low-level turbulence

Plans to build a biodigester plant only forty metres from the centre of Easter Airfield’s runway are being resisted by the airfield’s owner, the CAA’s Airfield Advisory Team and local residents. The proposed plans call for the ‘Erection and operation of an anaerobic digestion plant and ancillary infrastructure’ in a southern corner of the former RNAS Fearn site, which adjoins Easter Airfield (near Inverness). Acorn Bioenergy would operate the plant, which includes – significantly – a gas flare.

The CAA’s Airfield Advisory Team commented “It is understood that the proposed site will require to vent gas and/or flare at times. The timing, frequency and heat energy produced by such functions is not understood and therefore cannot yet be assessed. This is an important consideration for aviators as rising heat can impact aircraft in flight causing turbulence and, potentially, aircraft control challenges and engine power changes. With the proposed development so close to the aerodrome, such phenomena could occur when aircraft are in flight at low level and low speeds. These are the most critical phases of flight.”

The CAA also commented on the “significant and unpleasant smell emanating from both the anaerobic digestion sites local to Inverness Airport” and pointed out that both features are likely to attract wildlife, including large birds of prey. These can be hazardous to aircraft. Easter Airfield’s David Munro told Pilot: “As you can imagine we were horrified at the thought of a methane gas plant being built so close to our runway. We immediately alerted the CAA and all aviation related organisations in the hope that they will support us in objecting to Highland Regional Council Planning department as soon as possible.”