A little work would go a long way to making the Osoyoos Airport accessible to larger aircraft that could bring more visitors to the community during slow and shoulder seasons, Osoyoos Council heard this morning.
“There is not an expectation or desire to see WestJet or Air Canada landing in Osoyoos,” Glen Harris, representing the Osoyoos Airport Development Society, told Council. “We’d like to promote air access to this community so that charter flights could come in.”
Those flights, he added, could each deliver between 12 and 20 passengers to Osoyoos and waiting hotel and resort rooms, restaurants and other visitor-related services in the community.
“There’s even one plane — the Dash 7 — that can bring over 40 (passengers) — with a 3,000-foot airstrip.”
A 500-foot runway extension is just one part of the short-term vision included in a draft Osoyoos Airport Strategic Plan tabled before Council in early July and finalized this morning.
The plan identifies potential airport development opportunities and establishes immediate, short-and long-term timeframes for reaching strategic goals.
“In terms of immediate short-term and medium-term, I think this group working with the Town would like to get to a point where we’ve got a safe airport, which means it has to be fenced and secure,” said Mr. Harris. “We’d (also) like it to have places where folks can leave their airplane overnight so they’ll stay longer.”
The society in August learned it was among 23 provincial airports to receive funding through the B.C. Air Access Program (BCAAP).
That will provide it with about $90,000 to help with a runway extension and to make improvements to its apron — the area of the airport where aircraft are parked.
Earlier, the society received a $60,000 grant to erect perimeter fencing and do some site clearing work.
The third necessity for an improved air facility would be the extended runway. The airport currently has a 2,500-foot runway, but some of the work necessary to add an additional 500 feet is already complete.
“All the work that (was) done in the past — all those rocks that extend to the south of the current runway — that is the 500 feet,” he explained. “There’s no additional big earthworks required to achieve that goal.”
Locally, the Oliver Airport already offers a 3,200-foot runway and has hangars, fuel service and maintenance facilities.
Short-term improvements, the strategic plan suggests, would bring similar facilities and amenities to the Osoyoos airport.
And, said Mr. Harris, visitors targeting the Osoyoos community will want to fly into an airport closer to Osoyoos.
“If you’re bringing a charter group in — and they’re going to stay at Spirit Ridge or Watermark or Walnut (Beach) or some combination — that extra 20 minutes makes a difference,” he said. “They’d rather fly right in here.”