Trail airport to get operational facelift

Transport Canada audit has led to growing improvements: manager

Securing the landing strip and ensuring staff is up to speed on current practices are only a few points on a growing checklist, according to the Trail Regional Airport‘s manager.

Though business may seem as usual at Trail’s facility, airport manager Don Goulard has been working diligently behind the scenes to rectify findings from a Transport Canada audit that will ultimately modernize the facility and offer more to its patrons. This work is being recorded and the facility’s previous owner, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, will receive the bill for items relating to these findings.

The Process Validation Inspection completed this winter found discrepancies around policies, processes and procedures with respect to quality assurance, airport operator’s obligations, document and records management and training. Goulard has been addressing these issues through a Corrective Action Plan, he assured Trail council during the city’s last regular meeting.

“I knew what I was getting into and I’m happy that I did,” he said of his two busy months of work to date. “I still think this is a great opportunity to take an airport that was really kind of neglected for many years and bring it up to current standards and really make it something that the community can be proud of.”

The audit found that the Trail airport was not in compliance in three “moderate” cases and one “major” finding.

Among these, the report concluded the need of renewing an expired offset approach surface agreement, that training and daily practices and procedures were not being recorded, and that a recent runway construction project was not done to compliance.

Many of these findings are in the midst of being corrected.

-While under ownership of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary 800 feet of pavement was added, lengthening the landing strip with stopways on both ends. It was discovered that the chevrons were incorrectly painted and as a result Goulard has applied black paint and awaits new markings to correct the layout.

-Eliminating runway obstacles led to five trees removed from the south end of the runway in mid-March. An obstacle limitation survey completed by SNC Lavalin has since found that the airport needs to remove up to eight more from the south end and 19 from the north. Goulard has contacted landowners Teck (to the south) and BC Provincial Park (to the north) to carry this out.

-Repairs to the airport’s existing fence have been done but there is a need for something more substantial in future to control wildlife, he continued, noting that securing a fencing contract is of top priority in the coming months.

Living in the Kootenays people hit deer all the time and sometimes the result is fatal. You can imagine what damage could be done to an airplane, he said.

“If you look at the construction of a car it’s made of heavy-gaged metal—it’s got thick bumpers on it, a steel frame, they’re generally pretty heavy—but when you compare an airplane to a car, an airplane is made of very thin material because after all it has to fly so it has to be very light.” he said. “Due to the fact that an airplane travels at a much faster rate than a car and it’s made of lighter material it really should highlight the fact that they’re highly susceptible to damage.”

Goulard has established a hazard registry and over the last few months recorded a few incidents such as responding to geese on the runway when a Pacific Coastal Airlines’ flight was on short final, instruction to pilots to start engines when personnel were within close proximity to propellers and helicopter operations in the zone without communicating on mandatory frequency.

Security checks and balances are also being addressed, according to Goulard, who’s changing out the locks and looking into a new security camera system.

If that wasn’t enough to process on his first leg of work, Goulard has prepared a request for proposal for the architectural design of an airport terminal building.

Though it’s too early to say what this future facility could look like, there is a vision for an open concept, clean facility that is user-friendly and leaves a positive impression on the traveling public.

“The building is really an integral part of the airport itself; no thriving community exists without an airport,” he said. “If we want to develop Trail and attract new people to the community, we need to have a useable airport.

“The thing about a terminal building is it’s the first thing a visitor will see about Trail and it’s the last thing they’ll see when they leave—the primacy and recency effect—we want people to say ‘Wow what a beautiful building and what a beautiful community this is.’”

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