The Minerals North 2013 conference and peaking construction projects have sent April passenger numbers at Terrace’s Northwest Regional Airport soaring by almost 3,000 compared to April 2012, according to the latest passenger statistics.
The 20 per cent increase from the 10,939 passengers in April 2012 to 13,150 this April sets a record dating back to 1997 when the airport’s governing body, the Terrace-Kitimat Airport Society, began keeping track, says facility manager Carmen Hendry, adding that he expects to maintain this level of growth until November.
Airport statistics have become the bellwether for an area surging with billions of dollars of proposed investment into mining, natural gas and the infrastructure needed to maintain it.
Right now most new arrivals are here to work on the Forrest Kerr run-of-river hydro dam on the Iskut River being built by Calgary’s AltaGas, the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter modernization project in Kitimat and the Northwest Transmission Line that runs 344 kilometres from the Skeena substation near Terrace north to Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North, he said.
“It reflects directly on us. When things are happening in the area it shows up in the numbers,” he said.
The airport has been keeping pace with increasing traffic by improvements to the runway area, navigation systems and larger bathroom facilities, a project that is currently underway with mid-July set as a completion date. For now there is a portable trailer with washrooms outside.
Hendry said the airport is also waiting to hear if an application for a federal grant for new approach lighting and runway lights is successful. That project would cost more than $3 million.
In addition to more flights between Terrace and Vancouver, Hawkair and Central Mountain Airlines are to start a Terrace to Calgary service via Prince George in June. The service will take under three hours, said Hendry.
The Northwest Regional Airport handles 52 per cent of passenger movement in the northwest and 53 per cent of aircraft movements. The airports in Prince Rupert and Smithers are responsible for the remainder.