Terrace airport poised for record year

In February, 10,536 passenger movements were recorded, more than February 2012

The Northwest Regional Airport outside Terrace is poised to set another passenger record for the fiscal year ending March 31.

129,786 passengers have come through so far, which is 14 per cent higher than last fiscal year, said airport manager Carman Hendry.

The 2012 calendar year also broke the record with 139,193 passengers, a 16 per cent increase over the previous year.

“Every month for the last two years we’ve seen double digit increases,” said Hendry.

For February alone, 10,595 passenger movements were recorded, a thousand-plus more than February 2012’s total of 9,536.

Hendry acknowledges that the increase owes to “a construction bubble that will eventually level off.”

The expansion of the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter in Kitimat is a huge factor bringing workers to the northwest, Hendry said. So is the Red Chris mine, the Northwest Transmission Line and LNG interests, as well as run-of-river projects.

The airport is run by a not-for-profit society and does not receive money from local governments, but it does charge a per-ticket fee and that will be put to good use, said Hendry.

“Any excess that is put away will be there for maintenance and construction,” Hendry he said.

A runway asphalt overlay with a $3 million price tag will be needed in two years, he added, and this summer improvements to airfield lighting will made to a tune of $3.4 million, 85 per cent of which the airport hopes will come from a federal airport assistance program.

In terms of using rising traffic numbers to woo WestJet or other carriers to Terrace, Hendry says the airport is happy with the current three airlines—Central Mountain Air, Air Canada Jazz and Hawkair.

These three are all willing to take on more flights as needed, Hendry said, but added that if other carriers are interested they are most welcome.

While the airport knows who is coming in on all these flights—mainly workers and business people—it doesn’t have a good grasp on where they are coming from. To find out, Hendry has a customer survey planned for a few months from now.