Increased flight service to the Trail Airport may attract more riders but the regional district is now taking the conservative route when it comes to budgeting for airport improvements this year.
The East End Services Committee has decided to phase in a hefty increase to its $90,000 airport budget, cutting an initial 140 per cent hike ($126,000) in half ($64,000) this week after re-examining goals which include implementing a full-time employee as well as paving a stopway beside the runway.
It was decided at Wednesday’s meeting that the potential for a staffer won’t play out until the fall – saving about $40,000 in an anticipated salary – and that ridership will likely stay or climb from last year’s approximate 18,000 customers, rather than the 16,000 originally included in its draft budget (a savings of approximately $14,000).
Trail councillor Robert Cacchioni said he was the only member on the committee who voted against adjusting the draft budget, which will be finalized at the end of the month.
“I’m excited about the fact that the service is increasing,” he said, adding that he doesn’t need a study to tell him the airport’s impact to the economic condition of the area. “We’re hopefully going to hit 30,000 passengers a year.”
Service upgrades for the volunteer-run airport were already a hot topic at the round table prior to Pacific Coastal announcing its schedule improvements Wednesday.
The Richmond-based airline will run an evening trip to and from Vancouver Sunday through Friday and add an additional Saturday flight starting April 10, which coincides with the six-year anniversary of operation at the local facility.
The new spring/summer schedule will offer the latest departure time (just after 6 p.m. Sunday-Friday) in the region.
“I think it’s great, all of the airport attendees are very happy with the news,” said airport volunteer Don Nutini.
“I think that our biggest concern is that we have to do something there to be able to handle that increase in traffic and not necessarily for Pacific Coastal, we have an increase in traffic even now with the medivacs that are coming in and out of there,” he said.
Nutini is one of the five volunteers who help run the airport and while it is a passion for these hard working retirees, he feels a paid position is needed in the future.
“That’s not going to be my lifestyle forever,” he said. “I mean I enjoy every minute of it because of the challenges with it but eventually they’re going to have to have a full-time person there and that’s going to be good even for the airport because then there will be a continuity and that stimulates other things to happen.”