The Brandon Municipal Airport has flown to the top of the city’s infrastructure priorities list as concept designs outlining a major overhaul to the airport were released by city officials yesterday.
"Since securing scheduled passenger air service from WestJet in 2013, we’ve known that the city’s airport terminal needed improvement to better meet the airline’s current needs and also prepare us for future growth," city manager Scott Hildebrand said.
The project, which is estimated to cost between $7.3 to $8.3 million, is proposed under the three-way cost shared system within the Building Canada Fund.
The project already has received commitments from the municipal and provincial governments, and now awaits final approval from the federal government.
Hildebrand said the project is "shovel ready" and could be completed in a 12 to 18-month timeline following the green light.
"It’s a priority from an economic development standpoint and it really puts Brandon on the map," he said.
The city will begin collecting an Airport Improvement Fee in August. The fee, which is set at $5.35 in 2014, will be used for capital improvements, such as the redevelopment plans.
Expanding the airport has been more than a priority, it’s been a necessity since landing air service in September 2013. Almost immediately the terminal showed signs of flaws and limitations.
While some of those concerns have been addressed as best as possible, the new design will not only meet requirements but could pave the way for additional flights out of Brandon.
In Calgary yesterday, WestJet announced it secured five more orders for Bombadier Q400 NextGen aircraft, the same turboprop plane currently flying in and out of Brandon daily to and from Calgary.
The first of the five will arrive as early as June 2015. The company didn’t say which markets the planes will fly to, but there is optimism a flight from Brandon to Eastern Canada, potentially to Toronto through Thunder Bay could be a possibility.
"These aircrafts will serve new markets, increase frequencies between existing cities, and strengthen our network by creating new connections between existing markets and optimizing capacity by time-of-day," WestJet Encore president Ferio Pugliese said.
WestJet spokesperson Robert Palmer said the company is "pleased with the design plans ... The upgrades will make a big difference in terms of guest experience and we’re very much looking forward to seeing it completed."
A flight from Brandon directly to Toronto would require a 737 jet, according to Palmer.
"One would have to ask whether there would be sufficient demand to fill that large an aircraft every day," Palmer said. "We always say ‘never say never’ but at this point, it isn’t on our radar."
Tim Sanderson, director of transportation services for the city, said the new design will mark a return to operating capabilities from more than four decades ago.
In 1971, the airport and runways were upgraded to facilitate the landing of a 737 jet.
However, as safety regulations became more stringent and started to carve out larger and larger sections in existing airports, Sanderson said the existing airport no longer met requirements. The design plan will restore Brandon’s ability to have a 737 jet land in the city.
The city worked closely with Nav Canada, Transport Canada and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to meet requirements, mindful the entire time of who their biggest customer is.
"WestJet is the key stakeholder in the development and we dealt with them the whole way," Sanderson said.
When complete, the terminal will be approximately 300 per cent larger than the current building’s footprint.
"The next step is awesome and it’s exciting to be able to provide the right level of service that people need to get in and out of the city," Sanderson said.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
• A dedicated check-in area that can accommodate self check-in kiosks.
• Additional security queuing area; with improved baggage flow to baggage handling area and additional space for repack.
• A spacious boarding lounge, complete with a concession area, proper washroom facilities, seating for 104 individuals, and the ability to accommodate a 737 aircraft.
• A separate arrivals area, complete with a new baggage carousel.
• A baggage handling process which allows for improved connectivity for both departing and arriving baggage.
• Improved network connectivity via a fibre optic installation project.
» Brandon Sun