Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sechelt aims to expand airport

June 15, 2013  
By Christine Wood

Did you know Sechelt has an airport? 

The tiny airstrip atop Field Road in Wilson Creek may be better known for drag races than air travel, but the District of Sechelt’s airport development advisory committee is aiming to change that.

The committee wants to expand the airport and invite larger operators to create scheduled flights between Sechelt and Vancouver. Currently the airport is used by small planes and private operators that don’t offer the sought after flights.

In order to make the change, Sechelt must first expand their runway from 800 to 1,330 metres, upgrade their terminal building and install new lighting, which comes with a price tag of about $4.6 million, according to committee chair Coun. Chris Moore.

“But we’re ready to go. We could start tomorrow if we could write the cheque,” Moore said.

While the idea’s not a new one (many Sechelt councils have put airport expansion on their agenda, but never secured the funds) Moore says things are different this time.

The committee has already compiled a detailed business case and marketing plan as well as a brochure and PowerPoint presentation pitching the benefits of developing the airport. The pitch includes the offer of 61 hectares of airport property that can be developed for specific uses and the right to brand the airport.

The idea is to pursue a public-private partnership (P3) to get the airport expansion done.

“We do touch on that in the business case. There is at least a modest profit to be made,” Moore said, pointing to the airport partnership between Fort Langley and their local Rotary club, which proved profitable. “The strategy is to meet individuals on a P3 level, and we’re prepared to take that anywhere. We’d be in control of the whole thing the whole time. We would get tax benefits, obviously, which would be great, but more importantly, you create job opportunities with well paying jobs and you have regular service to the Sunshine Coast.”

Moore sees a potential partnership as a “win-win,” but his committee is not putting all their eggs in that basket. They’re pushing for grant funding at the provincial level too.

“Our strategy with the provincial politicians has been not just to meet with the politicians, because we didn’t know who was going to win the election, but to meet with the bureaucracy that supported the various ministries, to get our face in front of them on a name-to-name basis and bring our PowerPoint presentation forward and say this is what we want, this is what we have and this is what we ask, and we accomplished that extremely well,” Moore said.

Now that the election is over and the same government is in power Moore noted the committee “will be pursuing that with vigour.”

He sees the expansion of the airport as an important economic stimulus for the Sunshine Coast and a viable form of transportation apart from BC Ferries.

“BC Ferries did a study years ago about what they perceived as the number of individuals who would use aircraft as opposed to ferry and they used four per cent of ridership — that’s a huge number. I think four per cent translated into something like 15 flights a day,” he said. “We’re not operating with anywhere near that kind of optimism but even if it was a half per cent, we just want to get regular scheduled service on an ongoing basis.”

The airport development advisory committee meets every two weeks at the District of Sechelt. Meetings are open to the public. Find their upcoming agendas online at


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