Smithers Airport Modernization Ready for Take Off
Architectural rendering of exterior of new holding room south west view- images courtesy Smithers Airport
Smithers, B.C.- Good news for the Smithers Airport, as Northern Development Initiative Trust has approved $125 thousand in funding for improvements to that airport.
The project has a budget of $8.17 million dollars and Airport Manager Rob Blackburn says it will go to tender soon “We’re hoping to go to tender in April and we are hoping to have shovels in the ground as early as June.”
The 50 year old terminal’s check-in, security, baggage handling, holding room, passenger queuing and cargo storage areas are all at least 50% smaller than recommended standards.
(at right, rendering of interior of hold room with east view)
- The addition of approximately 6,000 square feet of building space.
- Increasing passenger holding room seats from 54 to 125.
- Increasing the size and efficiency of the check in and baggage handling areas.
- Upgrading the fire suppression, fire alarm and electrical systems.
- Updating the boiler and HVAC systems to include energy efficient geothermal options.
- Installing a heating and cooling air supply system for the terminal.
Although the runways can handle larger planes, ( up to 737) the passenger holding area can’t accommodate the number of passengers the larger planes carry “When you have a 120 seat aircraft and a 54 seat holding area, what you have to do is screen passengers and board passengers at the same time, and that has all kinds of logistical problems” says Blackburn “It is possible, but it’s really not the right way to do things.”
Blackburn says he hopes the upgrade will complement services offered at the Prince George Airport “An airport is different than roads in that you just can’t pull over and get some fuel, airplanes need a place to start and a place to go, so we think we can complement places like Prince George and Terrace a lot more than compete with them.”
There is already a short haul flight between Prince George and Smithers ( Central Mountain Air) “Having this airport expansion will certainly make it easier for them (CMA)” says Blackburn “They will have better slot times, they will have ease of flow for the travelling public to come and go through the building, and those customers will all be relaxed and comfortable. Right now, it’s fairly congested going through the building. People are usually a little on edge when they are travelling, and anything we can do to ease that will make a big difference.”
Blackburn says the improvements may also be a boost to Smithers tourism ” Anything we can do to improve the accessibility to Smithers will help and this is one of those projects where people will have a beautiful airport to come to, it’s easy to get through, and it’s not expensive, it just feeds into that whole thing of what Smithers is.”
He says they have worked with the architects to capture the beauty of Smithers, featuring mountain views from as many points as possible.
Completion is expected to be late summer, early fall of 2018.
In addition to the dollars from the NDIT, the modernization project is being funded through a variety of sources:
- $4,000,000 from the Federal Gas Tax Grant
- $3,000,000 from the Airport’s Capital Infrastructure Reserve
- $400,000 from the Regional District of Bulkey-Nechako
- $645,000 from other grants and the town’s Airport Infrastructure Reserve.
There are no plans to raise Airport Improvement Fees to help pay for the project.