Last month, results from the Golden Area Initiatives’ recent Business Retention and Expansion survey revealed that participants were not pleased with the town’s access to airport facilities.
Sixty per cent of the respondents (who were made up of 114 business owners and operators in Golden) rated Golden’s access to airport facilities as poor or fair, while just 16 per cent rated access as good or excellent. Twenty-five per cent of respondents felt that airport access was not applicable to their business.
With this information in mind, it is interesting to wonder what can be done to improve Golden’s airport access. Unfortunately, the cities of Calgary and Cranbrook and their airport facilities are unlikely to move closer anytime soon, meaning Golden’s problems will have to be fixed internally.
The first thing to note is that Golden’s current airport has actually drawn some rave reviews from at least one very noteworthy name in the field of aviation. West Jet co-founder Don Bell, who served as the chair on the airport committee, had glowing reviews for the town’s airport.
“[Bell] is on record with saying that this is a real gem of an airport. Who am I to say that Don Bell doesn’t know what he’s talking about?” laughed Town CAO Jon Wilsgard, who also served on the airport committee.
With Revelstoke’s airport undergoing various upgrades, and at least one entrepreneur considering bringing in regular chartered service, it is timely to wonder whether Golden could get the same treatment to accommodate commercial flights. Adding regular passenger service, however, is no small task.
“There are those that say we should be getting charter flights here or regular flights. When you get into that mode, where you actually have regular flights or you reach a point where charter flights are coming in on a regular basis, the obligations to bring your airport up to a certain federal standard kick in. They can be incredibly expensive,” said Wilsgard.
In contrast with the Revelstoke airport, which is owned and operated by the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District (CSRD), Golden’s airport is run by the Town.
The CSRD and the Town split maintenance and upkeep costs fairly evenly, although as it stands right now the Town is 100 per cent responsible for any major capital upgrades that might be needed.
That could become an obstacle for the Town if it ever wishes to pursue the idea of commercial flights, but it could have even more damaging effects if it was ever decided that the airport required other upgrades, such as a new runway surface, a project that would come with a potential seven figure price tag.
“It’s a tough way to have a partnership, but I think that if anything major had to happen I’d be pretty interested in trying to find a way to do it,” said CSRD Area A Director Garry Habart.
Given the potential requirement for major upgrades, Wilsgard was asked if he believed the airport would be financially viable in 20 years if nothing were to change with its funding structure.
“No. The runway is not going to last that long. You can only crack and seal for so long,” he said.
The Town will know more about the state of the airport when its runway condition assessment is completed next year. Without some help coming from somewhere, it is hard to imagine the Town being able to foot the bill for any large scale upgrades.
If no help were to arrive it would be fair to wonder if the airport could be in jeopardy at some point in the future, which would be a major step backwards for Golden’s access to airport facilities, an aspect that has many business owners griping already.