Pacific Coastal Airlines touched down at YZZ early Tuesday while workers were finishing up landscaping projects. (Guy Bertrand photo)

Kootenay weather takes a toll on airport stats

As summer nears, the Trail airport is prepping for fueling operations with the Southeast Fire Centre

The wacky winter continues to plague the wherewithal at Trail Regional Airport (YZZ).

Passenger counts are 11 per cent below the five-year average after weather tanked YZZ landing rates during the first four months of 2018.

By the end of May, the commuter tally was down by 1,915. The trend is alarming because for each seat sold, the city charges Pacific Coastal Airlines $13 to help cover operating costs.

“If these numbers persist for the remainder of 2018, revenue from passenger fees would be $25,000 to $30,000 under budget,” Manager Robert Baker advised council at the Monday governance meeting.

Baker revealed that only 57 per cent of flights landed in January. February improved with 86 per cent of planes landing and after that, the rate grew to 90 per cent or higher.

Overall the landing rate to-date for Trail is 85 per cent.

That number still exceeds the collective landing success in Castlegar to date, which Baker noted to be 69 per cent. (Comparatively, Baker says only 42 per cent of planes landed at West Kootenay Regional Airport in January, and the only time the value hit the 90th percentile was in May)

While there’s not much to be done about weather conditions and direct impacts on airport business, Mayor Mike Martin did voice concern over Baker’s stats.

“The one explanation we have at this point is the landing rates were lower this year than they have been in prior years during the time period we are looking at,” he told the Times.

“So we are going to do some further investigation to see if that is the mitigating factor. We just really need to understand what might be happening,” Martin said.

“And we are also going to be having some discussions with Pacific Coastal.”

With summer on the horizon, Baker’s focus has switched from winter woes to the trickle down of too much heat across the region over the next few months.

“The airport is preparing for heavy usage during the upcoming fire season for re-fueling operations,” he explained.

“An agreement will be signed with the Southeast Fire Centre to determine a fuel price, and staff will develop plans to deal with conflicting aircraft which will all be trying to use the same small apron.”

An Apron Management Plan was developed in early 2018 to help guide on site decision-making by YZZ staff.

Additionally, the city recently submitted a request to Transport Canada to extend the runway. The new declared runway distances will increase the weight capacity for takeoff, which is an issue during summer months.

Baker says an upcoming priority will include publishing the new declared runway distances as well as the development of safe work procedures for fueling and equipment operation.

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