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Three major projects underway at West Kootenay Regional Airport

Expanded runway, apron, terminal on the way at Castlegar’s airport
The West Kootenay Regional Airport terminal will be getting a major renovation. Photo: Betsy Kline

Multiple projects are moving forward at the West Kootenay Regional Airport.

After spending most of 2023 in the design phase, an apron expansion project is poised to go out to tender this month.

The City of Castlegar received a $2.35-million Transport Canada grant to expand the taxiway and apron in order to accommodate more air traffic.

Once Air Canada began flying the larger 78-passenger Q-400s instead of 56-passenger Q300s out of Castlegar in June 2022, it became evident that accommodating more than one plane on the ground at a time was difficult.

Airport manager Maciej Habrych says the tight fit has the potential to cause problems and delays.

“There was clearly an operational and safety concern because it ties up a runway, especially if the fire centre was active,” said Habrych.

Construction on the project is expected to begin once temperatures warm in the spring.

It will be phased in a manner that will avoid closures and should not affect airlines, according to Habrych.

Terminal renovation

Meanwhile, a multi-million dollar terminal renovation and expansion project is in the planning stage.

Habrych says capacity issues in the terminal are already evident whenever there is a full flight at the airport.

With future plans to see increased flights in and out of the airport, Habrych says the time to improve the terminal is now.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities agreed and awarded the city a $6-million grant for the project from their strategic priorities fund and the federal community-building fund.

“The intent is to provide a modern facility, looking 25 years ahead and modelling what a peak time would look like at the airport with two or three Q-400s on the ground at once,” said Habrych.

He says the goal is a terminal that will function properly in a way that modern travellers expect and it will include amenities like upgraded washrooms and food options.

The airport has secured a project manager to guide the large-scale project.

Internal discussions on how to deliver a project of this scope are also underway.

“Once we have a solid foundation we will look at public consultation, architecture, conceptual design and then detailed design,” said Habrych. “This will eventually lead to a funding piece and what that will look like in dollars and cents.”

The project is expected to cost at least $13 million and funding for the remaining portion will need to be found.

Habrych hopes that by spring 2025 there will be shovels in the ground.

RNP application

WKRA’s long-awaited Required Navigation Performance (RNP) application is still in the hands of regulators at Transport Canada.

RNP is the computer-based procedure that the city has been hanging its reliability improvement hopes on for the past six years. It is a set of navigation specifications that use GPS along a precise flight path to create a high level of accuracy, offering significant safety benefits over traditional approaches. RNPs are used in airports worldwide.

“We’ve submitted a package, made some revisions, received some industry support,” said Habrych.

“Given how complex this approach is …, there are certain criteria and exemptions we have to work through with airline partners and Transport Canada to make sure it is safe and efficient.”

Since it is in the regulator’s hands, there is not an implementation timeline at this point.

“We are waiting on correspondence with next steps,” said Habrych.

Once the RNP is approved, next steps will include carrier agreements and pilot training. After that, the carrier also has to get approval from Transport Canada to fly it.

Habrych says that worldwide staff shortages across the aviation industry may be playing a role in the length of time it is taking to get the procedure, submitted to regulators in November 2021, approved.

But he is confident it will eventually get approved.

“We have a strong case for what we have applied for. It serves a great purpose, providing a regional service and more air accessibility.”

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Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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