NORTHWEST Regional Airport keeps setting passenger records with April being the second month in a row to pass the 20,000 mark.
April’s 20,586 passenger total and March’s 21,996 – the highest two months on record – contributed to a passenger count of 78,177 for the first four months of this year.
And that’s fully more than 30,000 over the 78,177 recorded for the equivalent period in 2013.
Airport manager Carman Hendry says there’s no apparent sign of growth slowing down.
“It’s getting hard to believe the numbers. People in the [airport services] industry we speak to are really wondering,” he said.
A concerted effort to finish Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat smelter rebuilding project and continued work by companies connected with the region’s potential liquefied natural gas industry are at the core of the passenger traffic growth.
The continuing growth means the addition of more parking spots, making 800 spaces in all, can’t come fast enough, said Hendry.
Work on the parking area expansion began earlier this year and is being financially aided by the airport being able to crush rock found on its property.
Crushed rock is also being used to rebuild a road at the airport.
At the same time, the airport has announced plans to add a third aircraft parking spot on the asphalt apron in front of its terminal building.
That means being able to handle three passenger loads at the same time and avoid some of the crowding now going on, said Hendry.
A $250,000 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust will help pay for the approximate $1 million cost of the third parking stand and associated work.
“We got into the black three years ago and in 2012 began to build a capital projects reserve,” said Hendry of the rest of the project financing.
Hendry expects the parking spot, which consists of a specially-engineered 30-inch deep concrete pad designed to hold the weight of an aircraft, passengers and fuel, to be finished by the end of October.
Asphalt is not a good base on which to park aircraft because their weight will create grooves during warmer weather period and the asphalt will erode over time because of minor fuel and other leaks, he said.
In the meantime, Hendry said the busy nature of the airport means passengers need to arrive at least one hour before their flights and to have gone through security at least 45 minutes before departure.
“And check your bags right away when you’ve finished at the ticket counter. Don’t have a coffee first,” he said.