Vanderhoof Airport will expand its apron by 50 feet and has received approval from the Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund Society (NKDF), British Columbia Air Access Program (BCAAP) and the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) to do so.
The first grant for the project from NKDF was received on May 26, 2018 for the amount of $54, 787 following which the District applied for further funding and were approved for an additional $50,000 on Dec. 10, 2018. The total amount received from the NKDF is $104,787.
The BCAAP provided $203,448 in funding. The NDIT has approved it and the district has requested $30,000, which will be reimbursed once the apron expansion is completed. The District of Vanderhoof will invest $50,000.
The approximate budget for the expansion is $440,000 and the District is waiting for additional funding from BCAAP to cover any contingency or additional funding requirement, said Zoe Dhillion, special projects coordinator for the District of Vanderhoof.
She said the District has a tender, but is undecided on whether to make use of the current tender or re-tender it.
The apron extension means roughly about 50 more feet of parking space on the ramp, so the current parking area won’t be so narrow, said Brian Frenkel, Vanderhoof councillor and person in-charge of the airport.
“This project is in its nascent stage and it is to expand aviation-related business, but at the same time, we have a users’ group out there that is growing. We should look at the users and say – what would you like to see done? And we have engaged with them. There is a list they have given us [for further development] and we can’t get it all done overnight. It will be a five- to 10-year plan that we keep continuing to improve the airport,” Frenkel said.
Even though the project was proposed to start last year after the District got approval from BCAAP, Frenkel said it got too late in the season. He said the plan is to have it completed this year.
The Vanderhoof Airport Development Society said the funding is great news, but a lot more needs to be done to make the airport viable for business.
“The apron expansion is great, but it is not just the apron that needs work. The taxiways need work. A couple of things – you need to have a runway, taxiways, apron and you got to have fuel. Without those, you don’t have an airport. You just have an asset that can’t be used,” said society president Paul Collard.
Meanwhile, Collard said the district hasn’t renewed the Memorandum of Understanding with VADS, after it expired this year. The document, signed in 2016, sets forth roles of the district and how it would relate to the society’s role in advising and assisting with the airport development.
“We had our AGM last night [Jan. 24] and our members were quite upset about that. So now we are in a difficult situation because we have no status with the District and we would like to know very much why the MOU wasn’t renewed,” he said.
Frenkel said in an interview Jan. 30, there isn’t any reason for not renewing the MOU.
“VADS as a society is still a society that will report the activities of the airport, what’s going on, the conditions of the airport – it could be runways, etc. I think it is still an important part of the airport having VADS as a society. We will probably talk to the group here in the future,” he said.
“We have gotten past a few things that opened in the town recently – like the pool and all the other things – as we go into budget we can go into all facets of the community, airport included.”
He said VADS will continue to have a status with the district, and after reading their minutes from their AGM, he said he will take their points to the council to deliberate what budget items will go forward. Frenkel said the society is a crucial step in the development of the Vanderhoof airport.
Frenkel said that one key development would be getting municipally owned fuel service at the airport.
”So if you look immediately the two things that could be in front of us, the apron expansion and looking at how we get fuel out there that isn’t a private enterprise anymore and is maybe a municipal function or maybe it is a VADS function.”
“If VADS did their homework and said Burns Lake sold a quarter million dollars of fuel last year, maybe that is something VADS takes on themselves. And then they make the money and it’s something they would take a look at and then the profits go to them. And then they can continue on some of their improvements. But we haven’t gotten to that point to discuss that but we will,” he said.
There have also been no Medevac flights in Vanderhoof since Christmas, possibly due to the runway conditions.
According to the AGM report by VADS, it was suggested that a study is needed to determine the number of patients who have been taken by ambulance to Prince George airport due to poor runway conditions in Vanderhoof.
“This can create a serious time and stress factor for patients and significantly reduce positive outcomes in the first ‘golden hour’ following an emergency,” stated the report.
Collard said having an airport manager would solve many of their ongoing problems.
Said Royce Schaff, owner and operator of RDS Aviation: “The apron expansion is a great idea. It’s way too small the way it is and it’s a matter of time something happens that’s not good.”
“As far as something else to get done, I would love to see a float ditch put in. It’s a water strip and planes currently land on the grass and it is completely acceptable to do that, it’s just that a lot of airplanes don’t come here because of it… It would also be better if we have water and sewer around here.”