The Pemberton Regional Airport Authority’s plans to expand their airport are inching ahead, as the authority recently released its “strategic plan” and issued a request for proposals to continue to assess development scenarios.
The report, compiled by InterVISTAS Consulting Inc., found that the airport, which is owned by the Village of Pemberton, gets most of its revenue from airport and leasing fees. But these payments are insufficient to cover annual operation costs, like maintenance, insurance and administration, resulting in net losses in 2005 and 2006.
The report concludes the airport is underutilized, presenting a significant lost opportunity cost, and recommends seeking new sources of revenue.
David MacKenzie, president of the airport authority board, says they want to change that.
“The reality is we already have an airport, it’s there, there are people using it, and it’s costing the taxpayer money,” said MacKenzie.
“…We want to, at the very least, be able to operate this with some cost recovery.”
But InterVISTAS’ report doesn’t make a conclusive recommendation to the authority; it outlines three possible scenarios.
The first, maintaining the status quo, would mean no development would be undertaken, and the airport would continue to be underutilized and operate at a cost to the village.
The second scenario would see the airport undergo some capital improvements, like fencing, gravel parking, a new terminal, and possible runway extension. This option would require “significantly increased spending,” but wouldn’t increase revenue much, and probably wouldn’t attract grants from provincial or federal government, as it doesn’t have a strong economic impact benefit.
Finally, the third scenario would see the airport expanded to support year-round service from a major air carrier, which would require an engineering analysis and subsequent extension of the runway, a new terminal, expanded apron, and installation of navigational aids.
With these improvements, the airport could attract up to six
scheduled flights per day from major North American cities, which would provide
a revenue stream and access to new markets. The report states that this option
has a greater potential to stimulate the local economy, and would therefore be
more likely to attract government capital grants.
InterVISTAS also noted that because of the 2010 Olympics, Pemberton is in a good position to attract government funding, but this support is expected to decline after the Games.
During the public consultation process, residents expressed concern over potential noise, air navigation, and potential First Nations land issues.
Ultimately, the report suggests that the village proceed by getting a project definition report, which would define optimum structures, systems and operations to allow the airport to support major air carriers.