The vision for Red Deer Airport’s success is getting a little clearer.
Last week, design drawings for a new terminal were received, another step toward providing crucial infrastructure, including a bigger apron, to attract scheduled passenger service, said board chairman Ben Antifaiff on Thursday.
“Our terminal in its current state is not of sufficient size to attract any scheduled passenger carriers,” Antifaiff said.
“Right now, we can’t de-plane an aircraft. We need to build that capability,” he said after the airport’s annual general meeting.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Air Canada came back if we had the facilities. It’s not a matter of that they left, it’s when will they come back.
“I think it’s reasonable to think air service will begin in our region in the next 18 months, so we have to be just ahead of that.”
The terminal and apron will be multimillion-dollar projects. The airport is still looking at whether another building can be retrofitted into a terminal or a new structure is needed.
Expanding the existing terminal has been ruled out, although it may be suitable as a base for a charter air carrier. Antifaiff was not putting a dollar amount on it Thursday.
Meanwhile, efforts to market Red Deer Airport to investors have been stepped up with the hiring of an Ontario-based development company.
Rice Group, based in Markham, will help market about 200 acres of vacant land available around the north end of the airport at Springbrook.
Antifaiff said the partnership with Rice has been in the works for about a year and is part of the airport’s effort to become more self-sustaining, while creating economic prosperity by developing land and luring scheduled passenger service back.
Developing the land around the airport is a big part of the future vision. Calgary developer EFC Developments is also involved.
“What the Rice Group can bring to us as a community is strong development experience. They also have experience working in the aviation industry and have done land development for a number of other airports around the country.”
Rice Group president and CEO Michael Rice said his company focuses on job-producing properties. When working on projects at Toronto’s airport, his company saw a demand for aviation-related properties, especially in connection with cargo businesses.
“Red Deer is one that fits, like a Hamilton or an Abbotsford, which we are involved in, because it’s adjacent to large cities, but partially undeveloped, and (there’s) a lot of opportunity for development for new cargo facilities and that kind of stuff.”
Red Deer offers a “strategic location” at reasonable cost, he said.
“In an airplane, whether you land in Red Deer, Edmonton or Calgary, it doesn’t really make any difference.”
Enerjet is one of the companies that is looking at Red Deer for scheduled passenger service.
“Enerjet fully intends to be providing scheduled passenger service to many points across Canada, easily within the next 12 months,” said Darcy Morgan, one of the company’s founders.
“We look forward to the potential for providing that kind of service to Red Deer, once the proper infrastructure is in place to handle the kind of aircraft that we’ll be flying.”