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Money found for airport study

Whistler-Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler front $20,000 for Brandywine airport study

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Whistler-Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler have stepped up to the plate to fund a study which will determine once and for all if an airport is viable in the Brandywine area.

Each organization will put up $10,000 for the study.

The move comes after Whistler council twice rejected requests to spend the money on the airport study. The first request came from municipal staff and the second from Councillor Nick Davies.

"The problem is the municipal council, who is supposed to represent the best interests of the community, has let that study fall out of their hands, and now it’s in the hands of private business," said Davies.

"I think the long-term ramifications (of letting the private sector do the study) aren’t particularly bad because there are still environmental studies, zoning considerations, that sort of thing. Certainly the municipality will have a fair amount of control, but it is extremely short-sighted to not be sitting at the table from the get-go."

Municipal staff first pitched the idea of doing the $20,000 study in the Brandywine area after an earlier municipal study determined an airport was not a viable option in the Callaghan Valley.

The Brandywine site, north of Daisy Lake and east of Highway 99, could support a runway. What remains to be seen is if RNP (required navigational procedure) technology is feasible in the Brandywine area. If it isn’t there can be no airport. The $20,000 study is intended to determine once and for all whether an airport is technically feasible.

"The idea here is… whether an airport can be put in that location from a technical aviation perspective," explained Davies. "In other words, is there enough room for the runway, will the approaches work, will the departures work, are the mountains too close, what about overshoots, missed approaches. Those are the least expensive questions. That’s what this $20,000 study will answer. Those are what we call threshold questions."

He added that all the other questions about the environment and whether or not the community wants an airport at Brandywine will come after the technical study.

"I find the public is much more receptive to these sorts of initiatives when there is firm knowledge out there," said Davies. "At the moment there’s a vacuum of fear that needs to be filled."

Dave Brownlie, executive vice president and chief operating officer with Whistler-Blackcomb, said the study was a great idea, which is why the company agreed to put up half the funding.

"We would like to see the study done so we can see if it’s technically feasible and then we can… start the long and costly and community (engagement) process that we would need to do," he said.

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