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Red Deer airport unveils terminal expansion plans

Terminal will double in size and be ready for air passenger service in $3.5 million project.
Red Deer Regional Airport has begun work on a $3.5-million expansion to pave the way for the return of scheduled passenger service. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)

Red Deer Regional Airport unveiled on Wednesday a terminal expansion aimed at drawing investors and an ultra-low-cost air carrier.

The $3.5 million project already underway will see the airport add a 10,000-square-foot addition with space for security, baggage pick-up area, future customs area and space to handle the 189 passengers from a full 737-800.

“We’re adding a new wing to our terminal and doubling the size of our terminal,” said airport board chairman Ken Schulzke at an open house to showcase the project. “This will allow us to, hopefully, attract passenger air traffic back to Red Deer.”

Ultra-low-cost carriers have their eye on Red Deer, he said.

“The airline industry is in a state of flux these days. There are lots of new players in the market all looking for an opportunity to offer their passengers lower fares.

“Red Deer Regional Airport, because we’re small, we’re affordable, and we should be very attractive to ultra-low-cost carriers who could come in and service not only Red Deer and central Alberta, but Calgary and Edmonton as well.”

Before they commit, air carriers have made it clear they want to see the necessary infrastructure in place. The terminal expansion is expected to be done by fall 2024.

“We’re hoping that now we’re building it they will come.”

The terminal upgrade is the second phase of the airport’s ambitious plan to create a transportation hub with passenger service and to turn 200 acres of airside land into a centre for aviation-related industries from manufacturing and maintenance to cargo and flight training.

First phase work included widening the runway to allow for 737-sized passenger jets to land. An apron and taxiway were also refurbished.

The airport got a $30 million boost from the provincial government in its April budget.

Over the next two years, the provincial funding will be spent providing services, including fibre optic links to the land next to the airport as well as connecting Airport Drive with an upgraded Township Road 374 linking with C&E Trail to the north to provide a second access.

Red Deer County Coun. Lonny Kennett said a number of Gasoline Alley businesses told him they saw a boost in sales because of July’s airshow. If a two-day event can do that, permanent commercial growth at the airport would be a significant economic driver.

Kennett said the airport offers real opportunity for investors.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere in North America that has an airport at this level with airside (land) availability, hangar space, whatever you need. It’s totally a unique gem in North America I’d say.

“It’s exciting that we have this opportunity and the province has helped out in such a huge financial way, and the city and the county have stepped up too.”

Kennett said he learned to fly at the airport and previously lived in Springbrook.

“It’s such a great place to live and work. It’s going to be excellent when we get everything built out.”

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Red Deer Regional Airport board chair Ken Schulzke and airport CEO Graham Ingram unveiled the designs for the terminal expansion at an open ouse on Wednesday. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)