Takeoffs and landings at Red Deer Airport are expected to double in 2017 with its new tenant Montair Aviation.
Red Deer Airport CEO Graham Ingham said Montair Aviation, based in Pitt Meadows, B.C., specializes in commercial pilot training and is one of the only companies in Canada certified to provide training on behalf of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
“They were looking to expand their business so they set up shop here at the airport. We’ve got about 100 Chinese students on the field right now in various stages of their commercial pilot training,” said Ingham who spoke at the airport’s annual public meeting on Thursday.
He said last year the airport had about 42,000 aircraft movements, takeoffs and landings, and this year it is forecast to reach 85,000.
“That actually puts us at #22 in Canada. We’re one spot behind Halifax, and we’re fourth busiest in Alberta, behind Calgary, Edmonton, and Springbank. Just to put it in perspective, Edmonton does 123,000 movements a year.”
Ingham said 2017 is off to a good start with the return of some regular charter traffic, and Air Canada traffic was holding steady after a prolonged decline.
The airport completed a $9.5-million runway expansion project in 2016 and a public grand opening will be held at the airport on May 12, at 11 a.m., with Alberta Minister of Economic Development & Trade Deron Bilous.
“For us that really represents the first step in our strategic business plan. By completing the runway extension, we’re in the position to actually have meaningful discussions with the carriers about increasing the level of service here in Red Deer.”
He said last November the airport met with two potential ultra low cost carriers Enerjet and Canada Jetlines.
“Both are very, very interested in Red Deer. If you want to operate an ultra low cost carrier, than you want to operate in and out of ultra low cost airports. Red Deer is strategically located. We have access to about three million people within an hour and a half if you look at Calgary and Edmonton.”
Terminal, apron and parking lot expansion are some of the next steps for the airport. Right now its departure area can only hold 35 people. Another big project will be to create a land development strategy for the airport which has over 900 acres, Ingham said.
“Airports generate revenue either by people and planes, or through industrial-type businesses. We want to develop a strategy this year as to how we’re going to develop that available land, what businesses we want to target, so we can drive additional sources of revenue.”