Things are looking up for the busy Red Deer Airport, which seeks to expand its control tower and terminal to start offering ultra-low-cost passenger service.
“It’s looking very, very positive. We’re cautiously optimistic,” said CEO Graham Ingham.
He told Red Deer city council earlier this week that takeoffs and landings at the site near Springbrook have grown by 75 per cent in 2017.
This is mostly due to the Montair Aviation flight school, but Ingham noted oilfield-related charter flights to Fort St. John, B.C., and Grande Prairie have also significantly picked up in 2017 after a slow 2015 and 2016.
He believes this bodes well for Central Alberta’s economic recovery.
In 2018, two new ultra-low-cost passenger carriers — Canada Jetlines, of Vancouver, and Enerjet, of Calgary – are expecting to get final approvals from federal transportation authorities. Ingham said both carriers are interested in flying out of Red Deer.
In fact, Canada Jetlines already put the Red Deer to Abbotsford, B.C., route on its 2019-2020 schedule.
To accommodate the additional airline service (currently only Air Canada offers scheduled regional passenger service from the airport), Red Deer Airport will need a $5 million expansion of some of its facilities.
This includes the terminal building, parking lot and apron. The airport’s runway expansion was already completed, with its official opening held earlier this year.
Ingham said officials from NAV Canada, which provides air-traffic control, have already said Red Deer airport warrants a larger tower, because of the high volume of aircraft movements. But no timeline was provided.
If Canadian Jetlines affirms it wants to operate from the local airport, Ingham will approach the city and county of Red Deer for funding contributions for the terminal and parking lot expansion.
He will also see what federal and provincial grants are available.