Air safety, reliability concern councillor

Enhancements to West Kootenay Regional Airport can't come too soon for Kevin Chernoff

Councillor Kevin Chernoff is closely following airport infrastructure developments

With mid-summer slowdown symptoms having wide ranging effects, (city council holding no formal meeting between July 14 and August 11, for example) council members maintain their opinions and concerns.

Councillor Kevin Chernoff, for one, counts airport-related matters among his top-of-mind issues and spoke about them when contacted on July 25 by the Castlegar News.

The call was an exploratory probe and Chernoff indicated the airport is an ongoing concern as it is for many in this area.

He mentioned that the issue had been raised by members of the public during the federal Conservative party nomination event at the Sandman Inn on July 24.

Councillor Chernoff said the public was assured by each of the would-be nominees (eventual winner Marshall Neufeld, Stephen Hill and Rick DeJong) that improvements in reliability and frequency of service would result if they were to gain the parliamentary seat in the next election.

For its part, the City of Castlegar has waded in to the process of technical airport upgrades in a significant way. Looking back a year and a half or so when the WestJet carrot was dangling in front of us, civic officials had promised enhancements to navigational capability (to properly equipped planes) at the airport to the tune of about $300,000. The proposed improvements, they said, would enable take-offs and landings in a greater range of weather conditions.

Councillor Chernoff expressed frustration at what has transpired since then, with various other levels of government and agencies apparently getting in on the process.

“For us, we’ve committed to that (upgraded equipment) regardless,” said Chernoff. “But obviously, if the province is going to tell us they’ll help us, maybe give us some money, we wouldn’t turn it down. At one point we were ready to do it ourselves, then Transport Canada said, ‘We’re going to do it and we’re going to pay for it.’ The only problem with that is it’s not on our timetable, but theirs.”

The equipment the councillor refers to is involved with the tracking of aircraft from the Castlegar airport, and again, individual planes must be correspondingly equipped for the updated system to work.

“We’ve been working all along on getting Air Canada to either switch some of the planes they have that are capable, to this route.”

A best case scenario, as Chernoff explained, would be for one of Air Canada’s properly equipped Bombardier Q-400s

to be deployed for Castlegar service from October to April, the relatively high cancellation time of year.”

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