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Blue skies at Terrace airport for anniversary celebration

On a cloudless day representatives from the provincial, federal and regional governments gathered at the Terrace airport to celebrate the Terrace-Kitimat airport society’s 15th year.

Planes kept touching down throughout the March 28 meeting and tour, and this celebration of recent success was marked by a sense of urgency, as airport manager Carman Hendry said that upgrades to the aprons and access will be necessary if all of the major mining and LNG projects get approved in the area.

Despite growing demand, not all funding applications have been accepted, said Hendry.

Companies have been slow to let the airport know if their projects are going through, and need to provide “solid information,” said Hendry.

Shell, for instance, keeps telling them their workers will be coming in droves, but can’t supply solid numbers, said airport society president Ron Burnett.

“We’re not going to build all this stuff just to be left with it at the end of the bubble,” said Hendry.

This surge in passengers­, driven by the expansion of major northern projects like the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter upgrade in Kitimat, Red Chris mine, the Northwest Transmission Line and others are driving traffic up.

In February 2010 the   airport sold $800,000 in ticket sales. Compare that to $2.4 million this February and the growth is obvious, said Hendry.

The airport is run by a not-for-profit society, and judging by the statistics thrown around during the meeting and tour, the board has been successful at improving the airport’s reputation.

It used to be the Terrace-Kitimat airport shared the dubious distinction of being the county’s most difficult airport to land in, along with Castlegar.

In 2001 Terrace turned away 221 flights. In 2012 that number was reduced to 23.

Installation of new land-sky navigation technology has gone a long way toward bringing that number down, said Hendry.

Recent additions to the airport include new bathrooms and a fourth airplane stand, said Hendry.

Hawkair manager Rod Howard underlined the importance of the airport to the local economy, saying he cuts cheques for $180,000 to employees living in the district.

Burnett said one addition the society hopes to see in the future is a Canadian border service so international visitors can fly straight in, which would promote tourism.

 

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