The reliability of Castlegar’s airport doesn’t look like it will improve any time soon after a meeting between two Kootenay MPs and Air Canada officials.
BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko and Kootenay-Columbia representative David Wilks met with airline vice-president Derek Vanstone and afterward wrote a joint open letter.
Atamanenko believed joining forces with a member of another party would further emphasize how important the airport’s reliability is to the area. The fact Wilks is well-acquainted with Mayor Lawrence Chernoff also helped bring him into the fold.
“What we found out,” Atamanenko said, “was not only does Air Canada demand an approach, they need to be assured that they have the visibility for take-off. I didn’t know that. David and I were told Air Canada needs a developed RNP system for departure as well as for landing before even considering sending their Q400 to Castlegar.”
RNP is short for required navigation performance. It’s a type of performance-based navigation that allows an aircraft to fly a specific path between two 3D-defined points in space.
Required navigation performance approaches allow aircraft to follow these precise three-dimensional curved flight paths through congested airspace, around noise-sensitive areas, or through difficult terrain.
This system could effectively halve the required visibility threshold, reducing it from 3,000 feet to just 1,500 or so.
Atamanenko said having a system like this — which currently is not available — would still not satisfy guidelines set by Air Canada. This proposed take-off assistance software would need to be successful in several more established airports before they would consider bringing it to Castlegar.
“It’s not just a matter of equipping one plane. They have to train pilots, and ensure the equipment is maintained and so on,” he said.
The MP said it’s much more complicated than he and many others originally thought.
Currently the involved parties are hoping to get another meeting on the books, involving both Air and Nav Canada, in hopes something may come up or at the very least make things clearer.
The letter from the two MPs reads: “As you are aware, technology currently exists to improve the reliability of airports such as our airport in Castlegar. British Columbia and all West Kootenay communities would benefit if flights into Castlegar could be predictable during the winter … The economic benefits to our region and to Air Canada would be tremendous …
“It is important also for you to understand that together, we represent the current federal government as well as the official opposition. In the interest of the citizens of the West Kootenay region, we have chosen to collaborate on this important issue.
“We strongly urge you to cooperate with all stakeholders in order to ensure that the West Kootenay Regional Airport has access to the Q-400 aircraft as of the fall of 2015.”
The letter to Air Canada listed many more reasons why the area needs such equipment on their aircraft and was backed by several other signatories, including Nelson Mayor, Deb Kozak, Castlegar District Chamber of Commerce director Tammy Verigin-Burk and MLA Katrine Conroy.