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October 27, 2017 6:23 pm

Smithers Airport Modernization Ready for Take Off

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 5:56 AM

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  modernization  project will see:

  • 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.



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