Castlegar councillor responds to Trail Airport boast UPDATE

A recent report from the Trail Airport, which was presented to Trail City Council, says that Pacific Coastal Air out of Trail is far more reliable than Air Canada which flies out of Castlegar.

According to the report, in January of this year Trail sat at about 91 per cent reliable service, while Castlegar was at 74 per cent. A month later, Trail reached 83 per cent, while Castlegar sank to 69  per cent.

In an interview with the Castlegar News, Castlegar councillor Russ Hearne questioned the accuracy of the study.

"Trail council put out some statistics that say Pacific Coastal in Trail is far more reliable than Air Canada," he said. "I haven't seen them so I can't really comment on them."

Hearne did say that with both Trail and Castlegar airports being so close they generally share the same weather patterns.

"They're trying to beat the drum for their airport," he said. "Clearly, Pacific Coastal has some passengers so people are using it, but Castlegar and Trail are in the same valley and the weather patterns aren't noticeably different from one place to the other. They're very similar. Trail planes most often have to approach through Castlegar because they don't go into the States."

Hearne says Pacific Coastal probably does land more often, but it's because of Air Canada's stricter policies.

"Air Canada has a stricter policy on ceiling heights and their scheduling," he said.

Hearne also adds that the Castlegar Airport charges a fee for landing, while the Trail Airport if partially funded through regional taxation.

"The Trail taxpayer, when they get their property tax bill, they're paying for part of their airport," he said. "Whether they fly or not. In the city of Castlegar, zero tax dollars go to the airport. The people who use it, the planes that take off and land - they pay. It's completely 100 per cent self-sufficient."

In response to the issue, Pacific Coastal Airlines sent out a press release stating, "The issue of safety is a red herring. Our intention is to address the safety concerns with an honest and direct statement and put the spotlight back on the issues that originally spawned the news stories - reliability."

Spencer Smith, vice-president of commercial services for Pacific Coastal, said that the higher reliability of the Trail service is due to two factors: operations and weather.

"Operations - the flexibility of our operation allows us to delay/hold flight departures for improving weather conditions. Weather - the unique weather conditions at the Trail Airport often allow for safe operations while weather conditions at other airports may restrict operations," he said.

The press release also stated that Pacific Coastal operates to and complies with the same Transport Canada regulations as Air Canada.

"At Pacific Coastal Airlines, safety is, and always will be, our number one priority," said Smith. "We will never compromise safety for reliability."





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