Photo by Ray Hudson

by Ray Hudson

Delta: On Wednesday of last week, another major milestone was realized in the growth of Boundary Bay Airport (CZBB) in becoming an even stronger player in the aviation industry in the lower mainland. Mayor Lois Jackson and Alpha Aviation CEO, Fred Kaiser, cut the ribbon to put the extension to runway 12/30 and apron improvements into service at one of Canada’s busiest airports.

From left, Heather Braun, Airport General Manager, Safety Officer Navdeep Kaur and Brandon Walker-Shaw, Operations Supervisor stand by the ticket counter, decorated for the season. Photo: Ray Hudson
From left, Heather Braun, Airport General Manager, Safety Officer Navdeep Kaur and Brandon Walker-Shaw, Operations Supervisor stand by the ticket counter, decorated for the season.
Photo: Ray Hudson

“It’s an important segment of Delta’s economy,” said Heather Braun, General Manager of the airport, “as a result of the airport, five hundred people are employed here, with 300 in Heli-One alone. We estimate the value to Delta Municipality to be about $90 million annually, $2 million going to Delta in the form of taxes. The region’s growth presents significant opportunities for the airport. There is significant opportunity to be had by expanding the capacity even further.”

This is a good thing as the airport sees about 200,000 training landings and take-offs (touch and go’s) annually and an additional sixty-six thousand non-training flights, which places us 7th in the country.

The 12/30 runway expansion project, which cost $1.84 million, the northwest/southeast runway was extended by 656 feet, to 4,406 feet, to allow for a better landing approach, greater length for larger aircraft and offers an alternative to the 5,600 foot 7/25, which is oriented east/west.

This past summer the airport completed the reconstruction of the apron, repairing concrete panels, then applying new overlay. A new LED lighting system, the first airport in BC with a completely LED lit runway, was installed. The other runway, 7/ 25 is still lit with standard runway lights which are 27 years old. Replacement parts are not available, so the runway lights from 12/30 were recovered and will be used to maintain that system until it can be replaced. With respect to the airport lighting system, it can be turned on by pilots who wish to use the airport during the overnight period, when the control tower is closed

It was another step upgrading the airport to attract another level of aviation customer. At the same time, development of the area around it, the Boundary Bay Industrial Park, is proceeding as well and is trending to becoming an economic jewel in Delta’s crown with both major business and a general aviation hub easily accessible to people who currently use YVR, which is becoming increasingly busy. More on the Industrial park later.

“Our aim is to be able to offer first class service at greater convenience and less cost,” said Mark Duncan, of AeroEdge Consulting, Alpha Aviation’s Business Development Consultant. “The way we are structured, we can offer a number of economies that simply aren’t there for other airports. If you go to YVR for example, you’ll go to Landmark Aviation, which is run by Shell Oil, or Avitat run by ESSO. You have to pay them for their services, you have to pay the airport a landing fee, you have to pay a fueler to fuel your plane, pay to park your plane and pay to park the car you got there in. I think there’s a real opportunity to offer a one stop service at a reduced price because we control all of these things. It costs about half what you would pay at other airports to park your plane. Our fuel costs are slightly less, there are no landing fees and vehicle parking at the airport is free. Basically it’s an integrated fee.”

Duncan offered there aren’t many airports where you can park your car, walk across a street, through the terminal and be in your plane and in the air in fifteen minutes. There are no parking machines to feed, no line ups at security, no line ups to taxi, so you can’t help but think that the fuel costs you would save by not waiting to taxi and take off would be a lot less than sitting for a few extra minutes in the terminal. For pilots who are arriving from the US, Boundary Bay Airport can offer Customs Services as well.

He cited the advantage of the airport’s location, outside of the morning and afternoon rush, it’s 35 minutes to Vancouver, 20 minutes to YVR, 15 minutes to the US Border, and likely less to the Vancouver Island ferry terminal at Tsawwassen. Unfortunately, he also cited the transportation mess around the Massey tunnel as a major impediment to attracting new clientele.

Another challenge to the staus quo and the prominence of flight training at the airport, Duncan expressed concerns that with the aging population, a lot of pilots are retiring, as it’s becoming a more expensive sport.

“The actual growth of general aviation in Canada is dropping,” said Duncan, “but there is movement into fractional ownership of jets, London Air for example, and we’d like to get somebody based here with their fractional jet operation. We would also like to target more corporate jet traffic up to and including the Q400 aircraft. Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen until the tunnel replacement bridge happens. But when it does, we’re going to be like a part of Richmond, and getting here will be almost as fast and easy as getting to the south side of YVR. Likewise getting to Delta from the South Fraser without having to deal with the rush hour gridlock will also make the difference.

“That will change the feel of this airport almost over night,” said Braun, “and what we’re trying to do is plan to be ready for that.”

“Alpha Aviation Inc. took over the Boundary Bay Airport at the end of 2004,” said Duncan. The first project was the extension of the East-West runway, the new terminal was built, and with Delta we did a land use plan and identified some industrial use areas, which led to the development of the Boundary Bay Industrial Park, including the 780,000 square foot Dayhu Development which will be the TJ Maxx, Winners, HomeSense and Marshall’s Distribution Centre for Western Canada.”

Boundary Bay Airport

According to Duncan, Delta rezoned certain areas as commercial and already BC Fresh has located there. Businesses that are aviation compatible, and that was achieved about four years ago. Property adjacent to the airport proper was assessed for direct access to the air-side which was kept for aircraft and aviation related development. Everything else was designated as commercial. The Corporation of Delta provides many of the services necessary for the development and operation of the airport and the industrial park. At the intersection of 80th Street and Churchill, they are preloading before building a new fire hall and emergency operations centre to service the park and the airport.

“It’s an exciting place and there’s a lot to see and do,” said Braun. “The Delta Air show will be held on July 23, and you can always come out and enjoy the food at the Skyhawk Restaurant in the new terminal.”

Breakfast is on all day, there’s a band on Friday nights, and Wednesday night is wings night. Pun intended.

For more information, check out czbb.com