A major runway upgrade designed for bigger aircraft and to lure scheduled passenger service to Red Deer Regional Airport is almost done.
Work to widen the main runway to 45 metres from 30 metres has been underway since May and is expected to be completed by the end of the month. While the work was underway smaller planes were able to continue take off and land using the airport’s smaller runway.
The significant improvement allows the airport to handle larger planes, such as 737s, and positions the airport to attract a low-cost air carrier along the lines of Swoop Airlines, Flair Air or Lynx Air. It would also allow larger planes to land cargo, heavy aircraft maintenance businesses and other aviation-related services.
The widening work was part of a $15-million project supported with $7.5 million from the provincial government and $3.75 million each from Red Deer County and City of Red Deer.
New paving planned for the taxiway and apron will be completed next spring. It was hoped to have it done this fall but heavy rain in June and early July pushed back the schedule.
Meanwhile, another important piece of the airport’s makeover, a new $3-million terminal able handle nearly 200 passengers at a time, is up in the air. Airport representatives applied for a federal grant to cover the cost and expect to get word whether it has been approved by the end of the year, said Nancy Paish, airport director of business development and communications.
If funding comes through, construction on the 12,000-square-foot terminal could start next spring.
The airport is also hoping to tap grants from the federal and provincial governments to develop a solar-powered car port in the main parking area that will also provide power to the terminal.
Efforts continue to market nearly 800,000 square metres of prime development land at the north end of the airport.
“We’re still working on that. We’ve had some interest from some companies,” said Paish. “The large aircraft maintenance, mechanics, manufacturing and cargo (businesses) is really our focus for that north-end land development.
“We’re still looking at what companies nationally could come and bring their business here.”
Future projects include upgrading services to serve the north area, including building roads and installing fibre optics. Another future project involves improving runway safety by adding areas for runway overshoots and undershoots.
To make way for upgrades, a two-storey building parts of which date back to the 1930s, will have to be demolished along with a pair of homes once used to house technicians who oversee the navigation equipment in the tower. That will happen in coming weeks.
In a neat piece of detective work, airport staff were able to track down one of the families that lived in the homes, which date to around he 1940s, some time ago and recorded their children’s growth in a door frame. A member of the airport staff who went to go school with a grandchild of the residents provided the critical link to finding them.
“We were able to reconnect them and get them back their growth charts and some other items in the house. That was really fun to connect with them and put it in their houses now.”