Excitement is building about the travel and economic opportunities that Red Deer Airport’s 600-metre runway extension can provide Central Alberta.
Completed in late 2016, the extension, equal to the length of about six football fields, is already in use and the grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in a hangar at the airport on Friday with about 150 dignitaries and guests in attendance.
“This is the type of event that can change our future, not just for passengers being able to ride a plane, but the economic driver that is going to come from this airport expansion as far as business within the region,” said Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood on Friday.
“Prior to this, big planes were just not able to land with passengers. The runway was not long enough. Now the opportunities are endless. The world is before us.”
The $9.5 million extension project included a new holding bay for larger aircraft and improved drainage and electrical systems along the total length of the 2,250-metre runway.
In 2015, the province announced $6 million in funding over three years for the project. The City of Red Deer and Red Deer County contributed $1.75 million each.
“The 7,500 feet ( 2,250 metres) puts us in a good spot. We could service 737 airbus-type aircraft. We could service most of Canada. So really for us it’s about going on to step two of the project, which is the terminal as well as the apron and parking lot expansion,” airport CEO Graham Ingham said.
“We’ve had some recent announcements of ultra low cost carriers coming into the market place which is great news for Red Deer. We’re strategically positioned to take advantage of those opportunities,” Ingham said.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer called the runway extension a big milestone for Central Alberta, not just Red Deer.
“We have waited for this critical infrastructure funding for many years. There was various times when we were actually turned down for infrastructure funding from provincial and federal orders of government,” Veer said.
She said the project was essential for the city to host the 2019 Canada Winter Games which proved to be a catalyst to secure provincial funds.
“Central Alberta is very important to our government, and we saw that there was a role for us to play so we stepped up,” said Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous, who was Municipal Affairs Minister when he announced the provincial funding.
He said local MLAs were tireless advocates for the airport.
“Our local representatives know best. Our government listens to local MLAs who continue to come forward with ideas and proposals.”