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Pemberton expecting big things from airport

Consultant foresees regular passenger service before 2010



A consultant, who was recently re-appointed by the Pemberton airport committee to develop a 10-year plan, is confident a regular passenger aircraft service will be operating out of Pemberton before 2010.

Bill Neale was retained by the airport committee to attract business and funding to the airport and so far Neale says he has only has received positive feedback.

"Whether they are scheduled flights or scheduled charter flights, I think it would be safe to say they will be operating before 2010," Neale said.

"But I think, certainly to begin with, regular flights might be a seasonal thing.

"In the meantime I’d like to see more GA (General Aviation) traffic and private users."

Neale said if the current level of interest is maintained, Pemberton Village Airport will become a centre of economic growth for the town.

"Pemberton and the surrounding areas have tremendous opportunities to benefit from the airport and suffice to say the tourism and recreational activities would figure prominently in all of this as well," he said.

"The challenge is to figure out how to best work the airport in the community’s interest.

"It could be a tremendous asset for a lot of different reasons particularly in times of emergency, which is something I know you guys know about all too well.

"I’ve also been speaking with the provincial government about the fire services and having them stationed on the airport because it certainly would cut their reaction times."

Neale confirmed that one of the biggest challenges the management of the Pemberton airport must work to overcome is the natural terrain.

Pemberton is in a valley that often experiences serious, and unpredictable, storms of varying types and density and this kind of activity can create a number of problems for inbound aircraft.

"This is certainly a large challenge but I think the solution has a lot to do with what kind of aircraft we bring in.

"For GA it’s not a big issue, but certainly if somebody wanted to bring in a 747 that could cause some problems."

Neale, who is a pilot himself, said there were a variety of onboard and ground-based navigation aids available now that could help guide larger aircraft into an airport such as Pemberton.

"GPS equipment is always useful but there’s a lot of precision equipment now that makes things easier and they’re less expensive."

Neale said he did not expect concerns about aircraft guidance equipment to become an issue because of the kinds of operators who were likely to use the airport.

"If you look at the market that comes to this region: the skier, the golfer, the fisherman, you don’t need a large airport initially.

"I would say some 28-seaters like the Dash 8 would be the kinds of aircraft we’d like to see in here."

Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner was upbeat about the airport’s future and certain about its potential to generate economic growth.

"I would be very disappointed if we don’t have schedule services in here by 2010 because it’s the closest airport to Whistler and the Olympics is a large event," Warner said.

"But I think the council is after a more sustainable operation than just looking at a 10-day event."

Warner said it was often difficult to generate revenue in a town such as Pemberton because of the limited tax base. But she was confident the airport could help solve some of these problems.

"We look at this airport as providing a lot of employment as well.

"When the airport’s up and running there will need to be buses working to and from the airport, perhaps a customs office; either way, it should create a lot of jobs."

Warner said she expected the 10-year-plan to be ready within the next couple of weeks.