Red Deer Airport has been around for eighty years, yet it still has tremendous potential for growth. The ANJ team recently travelled to Springbrook, near the city of Red Deer, about halfway between Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta, to find out more about this airport.
The Red Deer Airport story began in the mid-1930s, when Canada’s Department of Transport began constructing dozens of airfields across the country. By 1939, the airfield was operational in a limited capacity. Then, in September that year, the Second World War began. Most of the world found itself thoroughly unprepared for large scale warfare. Britain realized that, although it had the industrial capacity to increase combat aircraft production, it would struggle to produce enough aircrews to operate these aircraft.
About four months after war had been declared, a conference was held in Ottawa, where the challenge was addressed. An agreement was reached in which 50 000 pilots, observers, navigators, bombardiers, radio operators and aerial gunners would be trained in Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and later South Africa. The plan was referred to as the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS), or simply 'The Plan'.
In support of this training initiative, the airfield at Red Deer was developed for military flight training. By 1941, No. 36 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) had been established at the airfield. Equipped with Airspeed Oxfords, the school provided advanced flight and navigation training. The school operated until 1944, when the need for additional aircrews became less urgent. By then, almost 1,300 pilots had been trained at No.36 SFTS.
As a matter of interest, most of the BCATP aircrews were trained in Canada, which was ideally situated to provide training to Commonwealth aircrews, given its distance from European and Pacific threats, its capacity to build training aircraft and access to fuel. No less than 104 000 Canadians were employed to train aircrews in all of Canada's provinces, excepts Newfoundland and Labrador, which did not form part of the country at the time. The programme included 107 schools, and 184 ancillary units, as well as almost 11 000 aircraft. By 1945, when the war had come to an end, about 132 000 pilots and other aircrew members had been trained in Canada.
Over the next few years, the airfield at Red Deer was used to store surplus Avro Lancaster bombers. The airfield was licenced for civilian operations in 1950. Meanwhile, as the Cold War heated up, Canada offered to train North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries’ aircrews. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) almost immediately began preparing the airfield, which had been designated RCAF Station Penhold, for flight training operations. North American Harvard training aircraft became a common sight at Penhold, which was later renamed ‘Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Penhold. In 1965, airfield operations were taken over by the city of Red Deer, which changed its name to ‘Red Deer Industrial Airport’.
Several civilian aviation companies moved to Red Deer, encouraging airport expansion. Later, in 1980, the main runway was extended to 5,528 ft. Then, in 1999, ownership of the airport was transferred from the Province of Alberta to the Red Deer Regional Airport Authority, with the City of Red Deer and Red Deer County as stakeholders. In 2011, the name of the airport was changed simply to ‘Red Deer Airport’.
(For further information on the history of the airport, please visit www.penholdbase.ca)
The way forward
Today, Red Deer Airport is home to nineteen companies, offering a variety of specialist and general services, ranging from aircraft maintenance and aerial wildfire suppression, to charter flights and pilot training.
About 250 people work at the airport, which generates a considerable economic impact in its area. Last year, Red Deer Airport was the fourth busiest airport in Alberta. In terms of aircraft movements, by November this year, the record for all previous years had been broken (about 70 000).
Red Deer Airport CEO Graham Ingham started out as an electronics technician with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the 1980s. By the time he left the military, he had earned a commercial pilot’s licence. Later, he flew a Citation 500 for investment bankers, before moving on to other companies, where he flew turboprop aircraft and regional airliners. He then flew Airbus A320s and A330s for Skyservice Airlines for more than a decade. Ingham then worked for another airline as director of flight operations, before altering his career path somewhat, to serve as director of product management and sales support in a different company. Then, two years ago, Ingham became CEO of Red Deer Airport, a position which could benefit from his years of experience in the industry.
Driving around the airport with Graham Ingham and Director of Aircraft Operations Derwin Hein, it became quite obvious that the airport has a considerable amount of land available for future development, which would attract more tenants, and in turn provide additional jobs to the region.
Red Deer Airport has never reached its full potential, but it seems that will soon change. “We honestly think that the opportunity with the ultra low-cost carriers is the future of the airport, in addition to the great businesses that we have here,” Ingham said. “We are excited about the future and confident that we are going to be able to transform this airport into something pretty exciting within the next couple of years.”
Earlier this year, the airport hosted a tremendously successful ‘Show ‘n’ Shine’ which served as a fundraiser for the Red Deer Food Bank. According to Director of Marketing and Communications Nicole Holinaty, who began working at the airport about a year and a half ago, the team had low expectations. “We thought, if 200 people showed up and we raised $1,000, that would be a great day.” Instead, several thousand enthusiasts attended the event. “Every food truck on site was sold out, donations exceeded $4,000 and thousands of pounds of food in a matter of four hours, so we have to do it again!” said Holinaty. “It definitely defied all expectations,” Ingham added. “We’re really hoping to double it next year.”
For further information, please visit www.flyreddeer.com
This article was originally published in the January-February 2018 issue of Aviation News Journal.
Over the past two decades, Abbotsford Airport has grown tremendously in terms of passenger traffic, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Let us take a look at the remarkable history and exciting future of this bustling British Columbian airport.
In 1940, a few months after World War II had begun, the Royal Canadian Air Force (rcaf) purchased the land on which the airport now stands. By 1943, three runways had been constructed and the airport had become home to a flight training school, equipped with Fairchild PT-19 Cornells, as well as an operational training unit with Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers. Flight training was conducted as part of the enormous wartime British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
After the war, the rcaf stopped using the airport and it was closed for most of the 1950s. During this time, it was used for other purposes, such as drag racing and housing for refugees. In 1958, the airport was transferred to the Department of Transport, with one of the hangars converted into a terminal building with offices for administration and facilities for customs and immigration. Two years later, a control tower became operational to manage ifr traffic diverted from Vancouver International Airport.
The first Abbotsford Airshow took place in 1962, with 15 000 spectators attending the show over two days. Over the next few years, the airshow gained considerable momentum, becoming more popular and featuring military jets and formation teams. In 1969, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau opened the airshow and Conair Aviation Limited established its base of operations at the airport. Today, it continues to operate from Abbotsford Airport as one of the largest aerial firefighting aircraft operators in the world.
Not quite aviation related, but in September 1984 the airport made news headlines, when Pope John Paul ii used it as a location to address more than 200 000 people. January 1997 marked the beginning of a new chapter for the airport, when ownership was transferred from the Department of Transport to the City of Abbotsford for the sum of $10.
Later that year, Abbotsford Airport became a jet passenger airport, with WestJet completing its inaugural flight to Abbotsford. About 3 000 passengers made use of the airport that year prior to WestJet launching service from Abbotsford. The arrival of airlines, such as WestJet, sparked the tremendous growth at Abbotsford Airport which has continued over the past twenty years. A new terminal building was constructed in 1997 and expanded again in 2001 respectively, with runway 07-25 extended to 9 600 ft in 2005. During the following year, more than half a million passengers made use of the airport. More recently, in 2011, significant upgrades to the value of $30 million were completed.
Abbotsford Airport certainly has an eventful history, but what does the future hold and what is the secret to its growth? Parm Sidhu has been employed at the airport since 2001 and has served as airport manager from 2015. According to Sidhu, Abbotsford Airport is an economic enabler, providing its partners with a competitive platform. Referring to airlines and partners that operate from the airport, he said, “Their growth really builds our brand and builds our airport. As they grow, we grow. We give them a platform from which they can grow.”
Several of Abbotsford’s partners, such as Cascade Aerospace, Conair Aviation, Chinook Helicopters, Alpine Aerotech, Campbell Helicopters, Marshall Aerospace and Coastal Pacific Aviation, are significant role-players in bc’s aerospace industry, providing about 1 500 jobs in the industry. “Their success is our success,” Sidhu emphasized. Needless to say, the airport has a tremendous local and regional economic impact.
Despite the increase in airlines choosing to make use of the airport, it continues to have a remarkably diverse range of aircraft and operators. “Everyone has a home here, including general aviation, flight training and the annual airshow,” said Sidhu. “We are open to all sectors of aviation.”
In terms of fixed-wing or helicopter flight training, there are several benefits to choosing Abbotsford Airport. “You are gaining experience from elements ranging from long runways to parallel taxiways, to military and commercial aircraft. You are receiving a diverse education here,” he said. “The training area is one of the higher standard ones because of the complexity of the airspace.”
In 2017, more than 650,000 passengers passed through the airport terminal, and it is estimated that more than a million passengers per year could be making use of Abbotsford Airport by 2020. As a result, travellers will see significant changes taking place at the airport during 2018. Two boarding gates will be added to the three currently in use, while seating in the secure area will be increased from 300 to 600. Meanwhile, a significant amount of new hangar space will be made available to operators.
To those at Abbotsford, 2018 will no doubt be one of the most exciting and noteworthy years in the history of this unique airport.
This article was originally published in the September-October 2017 issue of Aviation News Journal
As any vehicle licence plate from British Columbia will tell you, Canada’s westernmost province is indeed a beautiful region. Chilliwack Airport is located in the scenic Fraser Valley, which is currently experiencing considerable economic growth. The airport has always been well-liked as a flying destination, but will it be able to adequately serve and promote the economic and commercial growth of the City of Chilliwack?
Home to more than twenty aviation businesses, Chilliwack Airport is clearly an attractive airport to companies in the aviation industry. Its proximity to Vancouver and the US border are important factors, but so is comparatively affordable house prices in the area, which allow companies to attract employees to Chilliwack. As an ‘uncontrolled airport’, Chilliwack Airport is essentially always open and aircraft operators have no need to worry about expensive landing fees. Companies based at the airport enjoy highly competitive rates, high quality hangars and facilities, easy accessibility by highway, as well as comparatively mild winters. These companies include fixed-wing and helicopter maintenance organizations, as well as specialists in avionics, aircraft interiors and structures. Business owners considering relocating to Chilliwack could benefit from assistance from the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (cepco), the economic development agency for Chilliwack. cepco is responsible for attracting and facilitating economic growth in the community and can be particularly helpful to anyone thinking about moving a business to Chilliwack.
Chilliwack Airport is owned by the City of Chilliwack and managed by Magnum Management Inc, the head lease holder of the airport. With Garry Atkins as airport manager, Magnum Management and the City of Chilliwack have an excellent working relationship. As a result, in recent years, the airport has made great strides in being a well-organized municipal airport. An improved terminal building, upgraded runway lighting system and added pilot facilities are only some of the examples of progress at the airport, in addition to the fact that it has been brought to compliance with all safety and regulatory requirements of Transport Canada.
Next year, Chilliwack Airport’s runway will be extended by 1 000 ft to a length of 5 000 ft. An additional 500 ft will then be added on each end of the extended runway, to serve as stopways, in case of aborted take-offs or landings. The extended runway will enable executive jets to land at the airport, meeting the needs of numerous large corporations based in Chilliwack. Incorporating various new airport safety measures, a new FBO (Fixed Base Operator) and the construction of a new row of hangars are also in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, Chilliwack Aviation Park (CAP) was developed at the west end of the airport to meet the needs of aircraft owners and aviation related businesses. It is not surprising that the variety of T-hangars and cube hangars have proven to be popular with recreational pilots and business owners alike, considering all the advantages of being based at Chilliwack Airport, as well as the fact that the fully-insulated hangars are high quality and well-built. Construction of the third phase of buildings, consisting of six cube hangars and eight aircraft parking lots has already begun. As with existing hangars in the aviation park, these new hangars will have insulated walls and ceilings, individual gas and hydro meters, rough plumbing, base heating and lighting, with access to onsite washrooms. The entire aviation park is secure, with remote controlled gate entry and onsite vehicle parking areas. Keith Hodsall, a former Royal Air Force pilot with extensive experience in airport management, is serving as Chilliwack Aviation Park’s administrator. He is working with Chilliwack Airport Manager Garry Atkins to ensure that the airport will not only keep up with the growth of the City of Chilliwack, but actually continue to promote and empower economical growth in the area.
This article was originally published in the July-August 2017 issue of Aviation News Journal.
Langley Regional Airport, in British Columbia, arguably has the largest concentration of helicopters in Canada. Why is it that this airport in particular seems so attractive to helicopter operators and maintenance companies?
Langley Regional Airport was built in 1938 and was purchased by the Township of Langley in 1967. Over the years, it has grown into a busy general aviation and rotary-wing airport, with tens of thousands of aircraft movements per year.
The idea of turning Langley Airport into an ideal location for helicopter companies was originally developed by well-known Aviation Hall of Fame pilot George Miller. After serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force (rcaf) as CF-104 fighter pilot, Golden Hawks display pilot, and leader of the Snowbirds demonstration team, George Miller became manager of Langley Airport in 1991.
While simultaneously serving as chairman of the British Columbia Aviation Counsel (bcac), he realised that Langley Airport was ideally suited for helicopter operations. Therefore, he decided to actively market the airport to helicopter companies. In 2000, he was awarded the bcac Airport Management Award for his work at the airport.
While George Miller certainly laid a solid foundation for Langley Airport to be associated with helicopters, his son Guy Miller would later take the airport to the next level. The younger Miller flew CF-18 Hornets with the rcaf, and Boeing 747-400s with Cathay Pacific, before being appointed as Langley’s deputy airport manager in 2006. In 2013, he successfully applied for the position of airport manager, replacing his father at the helm of the airport.
Why the focus on helicopters? Langley Airport is located in an increasingly populated area, so the sound of jet aircraft taking off and landing would not be popular. Also, with a focus on accommodating helicopters, runways would not have to be extended. That said, the airport’s two paved runways are sufficient for maintenance companies to be able to maintain fixed wing aircraft as large as King Airs or Beechcraft 1900s. The central location, in close proximity to Vancouver, Abbotsford, the us border and the mountains, has made the airport an ideal base of operations for helicopter flying schools, fire-fighting and medevac companies, not to mention the rcmp Air Services. A variety of mro (maintenance, repair and overhaul) facilities, such as Vector Aerospace, as well as strong airport infrastructure, easy access by highway, comparatively affordable housing for employees, and competitive commercial lease rates, are all contributing factors to the airport’s popularity. As a result, Langley Airport makes a tremendous contribution to the local economy. According to Guy Miller, it is of vital importance for the airport to have companies that bring jobs to the region. “For us, it’s about aviation jobs, not just the plane and the pilot,” he remarked. “It’s about all the businesses that support aviation.”
Langley Regional Airport has seen and continues to see tremendous growth, no doubt in part due to an efficient governance model, in which Miller reports directly to the chief administrative officer of the Township of Langley, who in turn reports to the mayor. Forty new hangars, all of which have been sold, are being built for general and recreational aviation, while older buildings will be replaced in the near future. Also, additional helipads, as well as a new control tower and terminal building are being built. The latter will house Nav Canada, airport management offices, a flight planning centre and offices for companies that support aviation. It is exciting to see Langley Regional Airport progress, not only as an airport, but also in terms of its remarkable contribution to the community and the aviation industry in British Columbia.