The City of Trail, B.C. recognizes the economic importance of a modern airport. In fact, it was so committed to the idea of upgrading local air infrastructure that it purchased the Trail Regional Airport from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary for $1.28 million in 2014.
As the new owner, the city is focusing on major improvements, including a new terminal building and upgrades to the runway to make it compliant with the most recent Transport Canada regulations.
The airport is located just south of the city. It accommodates nearly 30,000 passengers each year, primarily through commercial carrier Pacific Coastal Airlines and is also an important hub for Medevac medical services.
Following a vigorous application effort, the city received $4.6 million from Transport Canada's Airports Capital Assistance Program, which targets regional airport projects. The award for the YZZ Airside Pavement Rehabilitation Project covers 100 per cent of the cost of upgrading the runway.
The airport's smaller size made the upgrades easier, says Robert Baker, Trail Regional Airport manager.
"The fifth edition of TP312 Aerodromes Standards and Recommended Practices involved changes to lighting, runway markings and signage," he says. "We're a small regional airport with less infrastructure, so we don't have as many hurdles to overcome to comply with these new rules."
The airport was initially established in the 1930s to serve the needs of resource exploration. It was first paved in the 1970s and while the asphalt pavement has been maintained, it has never been fully resurfaced.
"We're addressing some drainage issues with some low spots between the runway and taxiway," says Baker. "We are repaving the runway, and resurveying where our markings are, to bring ourselves into compliance. We're also widening the taxiway so that we can accommodate larger aircraft. With any luck over the next few years we'll be widening the taxiway by another 25 feet to a final width of 100 feet and we should be looking pretty good."
In the past, the characteristics of the airport determined which aircraft could land there. Under the new standards, the performance capabilities of each aircraft determine where it can land.
It's a subtle distinction, but allows the airport to adjust its infrastructure to accommodate a greater range of craft. Improvements to the runway, taxiway and apron will result in longer take-off and landing distances of 300 to 500 feet, allowing for increased weight capacities for aircraft using the runway.
WSP is the owner's project manager for the runway rehabilitation project. The contract for design of the project was awarded to transportation specialist CIMA+. The paving contract was awarded to local contractor Selkirk Paving Ltd. of Crescent Valley.
A new terminal building and enhanced parking facilities are also currently under construction on a budget of $4.25 million. The Government of British Columbia is providing $1.18 million in BC Air Access Program funding to support the upgrades. WSP is managing the project and the construction contract was awarded to Hil-Tech Contracting Limited of Trail, which began work in May 2017.
"One of our challenges is that when Pacific Coastal Airlines began to operate here, they needed a building," says Baker. "They began to operate out of the local flying club. It's one of those places with a pool table and historic photos of pilots on the wall. Thanks to the generosity of the club, it allowed Coastal to operate while it developed a market in Trail."
The new, larger terminal building is located closer to parking and will have the capacity to better handle peak crowds.
"We were happy to award the construction contracts for both of these projects to local companies," says Baker. "The majority of the money spent on the projects will remain in the community."
Both the runway rehabilitation project and the new terminal building are scheduled for simultaneous completion with a hoped-for grand opening ceremony in October.
"The flying club will also be delighted to get their building back," says Baker.