News » Whistler

Seattle company moves into Pemberton Airport



Prime Air-Galvin Flying Service partnership may lead to charter service

Prime Air in Pemberton and a Seattle based company, Galvin Flying Service, have formalized an agreement to expand the services of Pemberton Airport in a bid to accommodate a regular charter service.

The management of both companies see this as a step forward in the process of developing Pemberton Airport and the services it could provide to tourists and business travellers in the lead up to the 2010 Olympics.

Prime Air owns a 10,000 square foot terminal at Pemberton Airport and the company has been working on the development of the airport for more than 15 years.

CEO of Prime Air Blaine Haug said that he was "trying to build a strong team."

"Galvin is one of the best FBO (Fixed Based Operations) operators in the U.S.," Haug said.

"They’re qualified to handle ground operations for private jets and all kinds of charter aircraft, so to have them here is really a great thing."

Haug said Prime and Galvin were planning to conduct a pilot project in the summer to gauge the public’s interest.

But in the long-term Hauge was confident the Olympics would help drive development at Pemberton Airport.

"It’s great that we’ve been able to bring in a quality player to help make this work," he said.

"But there’s no doubt we need more infrastructure."

Haug said Prime and Galvin were focussed on promoting chartered services with a long-term goal of organizing regular passenger services.

"This is a critical step on our path to ultimately providing Seattle/Whistler charter Dash 7 air service.

"We’ve invited Alaskan Airlines to talk and we hope to talk with a bunch of others, like WestJet, as well.

"We still need all the landing light systems, GPS systems and a longer runway but I think it can be done.

"The technologies are there, it just needs to be developed."

The other factor in any discussion about flying into Pemberton is the terrain.

Mountains often create dangerous and extremely unpredictable weather patterns and passenger aircraft would need a variety of systems to safely navigate in and out of this region.

Haug demonstrated that factors relating to terrain and weather had already been discussed at length.

"At Aspen (airport) they complete 87 per cent of their flights in winter, that’s all," Haug said.

"We think we could get 90 to 91 per cent of flights in here (Pemberton) without visual aids, but if they (the village of Pemberton) wanted to spend the money we believe we could get 95 per cent of flights in.

"But Sun Valley and Aspen started 25 years ago and it’s evolved for them and I think this airport’s going to evolve in the same kind of way.

"What a lot of people don’t understand is that Vail and Aspen only have one way in, one way out runways – we would have a much safer way of doing it here."

Anderson from Galvin described the air service as the only "weak link" in the Whistler experience and affirmed that he no longer wanted to wait for a carrier to move to Pemberton.

"We wanted to get up there (Pemberton), to put the sign on the door to let people know we’re here to help," Anderson said.

"Rather than wait for a carrier to move in, we thought we’d put in our piece to the puzzle first."

Anderson said Prime and Galvin first started talking seven years ago.

"Now Whistler is not only a world class resort but a leader in many ways because it’s now a winter and summer destination and there’s very short down periods," he said.

"But the only way most people can get there is by bus or by vehicle from Vancouver, and that can be challenging.

"Pemberton is much closer to everything and the roads are steep, but they could certainly handle an amount of traffic."

Anderson was also adamant that the Olympics would "crystalize" the development of Pemberton airport and that these developments would create jobs for locals and boost economic growth in the community.

"We’ve been in this business for 35 years and we’ve listened and watched a lot of things that have happened up there (Pemberton/Whistler) and I think it’s one of those ‘if you build it, they will come’ situations."