Monday, May 18, 2009

Airport runway expansion

This one was for the Business Examiner, where I put together a roundup of business news every issue called "Movers and Shakers" as well as do the event calendar. I also do some writing for them and it's always fun.

Victoria airport extension key to cruise ship growth

By Greg Pratt

Blue skying about a runway extension for Victoria has turned to hard calculation with the slow materializiation of the federal-provincial stimulus plan.
The proposed 1,400-ft. extension to the existing 7,000-ft. strip would bring bigger planes, more tourists and, crucially for the cruise industry’s hopes (see “Snaring the next-gen cruise ships,” page 1), the ability to have heavily-laden international charters land and take off in Victoria.
“It is very safe to say we’re in support [of lengthening the runway],” says Bruce Carter, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. “It does a number of things for our economy. The first is that it will allow for access for international charters, particularly from Europe and other places far away. That will be good for both our conference and tourism business and will provide a platform to allow us to attract a cruise ship to home port in Victoria.”
Carter, who says this would also help out the high-tech sector, adds that if bigger runways persuaded cruise lines to make Victoria their home base for Alaska cruises, it would substantially benefit the tourism and hotel sectors of the local economy.
“People normally arrive a day prior to their cruise,” says Carter. “So for each of those turns you’d get 300 or 400 hotel-room nights and the associated spending with spending a day in Victoria, as opposed to the current spending somewhere between four and six hours in Victoria and moving on. The economic impact of that is significant.”
A longer runway would accommodate planes that the current runway can not, such as the wide-bodied aircraft that are able to get to Europe in one jump from here, like the Boeing 767, the airbus equivalent, the 330,or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Carter believes that cruise lines would make Victoria their home base only if their passengers could fly here directly.
Richard Paquette, president and CEO of the Greater Victoria Airport Authority, says that the project will take an estimated $41.2 million to complete; they are proposing a three-way partnership with the provincial and federal governments. (In related news, Nanaimo’s airport is going ahead with a $9.1-million runway extension and upgrade, with phase-one work scheduled for completion in November.)
“This would be beyond the capacity of the Airport Authority to go this alone,” he says. “This is an opportunity for partnership, an opportunity for a project that offers some long-term benefits to the community, and certainly short-term stimulus, too.”
And while money is one obstacle, there are other logistic concerns in regards to doing this, even though the airport has the space on its grounds to do so.
“There certainly will be challenges,” says Paquette.
“Although it costs money to build runways and extend them, it’s relatively easy,” says Carter. “It’s a matter of sorting out what to do with the runway lighting, which is not a huge thing but needs to be addressed.
“My understanding around that is it probably either needs to go towards Sidney, into the municipality, or out into the water.”
“It’s been on our master plan for some time,” concludes Paquette. “We’ve been seriously talking about it for about two years. At this point, it’s still talk, there’s still work to be done, evaluations to be completed, but there’s a new urgency on this. If this is going to be part of the stimulus program for the Canadian and British Columbian government, then we have to get on with it right away,” he says, adding, “We are among the major airports in the country; we have the shortest runway.”

No comments:

Post a Comment