Red Deer Regional Airport CEO Graham Ingam, with a rebranded sign. (Contributed photo by Nicole Holinaty).

Red Deer airport CEO hopes some passenger service can lift off by next summer

Perhaps there’s enough demand for tourist flights to B.C., says Graham Ingham.

Red Deer Regional Airport CEO Graham Ingham will spend the first quarter of the New Year trying to see if some passenger service can take-off by next summer.

This time, he wants to ensure it’s feasible and sustainable over the long run.

The airport has been “down this road before, with a somewhat poor track record,” he said referring to a couple of efforts that were each discontinued after a few years because they weren’t money makers.

This time, he plans to confer with regional carriers about whether it could be workable to establish seasonal passenger runs from Red Deer to Kelowna, Abbotsford and Comox, B.C.

He expects to know by April about whether some passenger service can be established by June.

Ingham hopes at least limited flights will be possible at the height of summer tourist season, if there isn’t enough business for other times.

“I’m not ruling out year-round service… I just can’t say (service) will be Monday-through-Friday, for 50 weeks of the year…”

Connections between Red Deer airport and Calgary or Edmonton will not be re-established next year, so central Albertans who are travelling from the two large airports will have to continue driving to them, he added.

“High-level” discussions are, meanwhile, continuing with several ultra-low-cost carriers about starting up service from Red Deer Airport. Ingham said there’s ongoing interest in potentially having access to three million Albertans from this central location, so he remains optimistic about future partnerships.

But the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max planes, which many of these airlines depend on, has delayed the launch date of potential partners, such as Enerjet.

His other effort is to continue selling the prospect of locating at Red Deer airport to companies around North America.

A new, expanded marketing campaign will begin next month, said Ingham, who noted the campaign will stress the opportunities of locating in this corridor, midway between Alberta’s largest cities.

With Tucana’s executive flight centre now at the airport to serve the needs of charter companies, Ingham is hopeful that more of the 900 sq metres of available land will be leased out by next spring.

There were 80, ooo takeoffs and landings at Alberta’s fourth largest airport in 2019 and no incidents or accidents because safety is always the main focus, he said.

A back-up generator was installed at the airport earlier this year, and refurbishment of the backup runway is planned in 2020 — starting in the spring and taking eight weeks to complete.

Ingham said the airport has been working towards a goal of being sustainable since Air Canada pulled passenger service in 2017, and has reduced expenditures by $300,000, or 15 per cent.

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(Advocate file photo).

Red Deer Regional Airport CEO Graham Ingham. (Advocate file photo).

(Advocate file photo.)

Red Deer Regional Airport sign (Contributed photo)

Red Deer Regional Airport’s sign. (Contributed photo).

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