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This article was published 12/4/2012 (3397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Plans for a $1.5-million retrofit of the Brandon Municipal Airport are drawn and ready to implement, should the city secure regional air service from a national airline, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said Thursday morning.
The proposal, released at a breakfast meeting at the airport terminal, calls for a baggage carousel, an improved arrivals hall, a secured passenger holding area with washroom facilities as well as new ticket counters. Other upgrades include runway lights and other mechanical or lighting systems.
"We could start air service here tomorrow," Decter Hirst said. "We’ve been tucking money away in the airport reserve in case we are given the green light by an air carrier. However, we will need partnerships with the province and the federal government to do this work."
New fire trucks are also part of the planned upgrade, though Tim Sanderson, the city’s director of transportation services, said the existing fire trucks and equipment can handle fire suppression for the time being.
Decter Hirst said the work could be done "on a very short turnaround" because the basic infrastructure is already in place. She noted $1 million has already been earmarked for the improvements.
The current terminal building was constructed approximately 40 years ago, according to a city press release, and is 5,800 square feet. Since construction, the building has had relatively few upgrades.
"In terms of upgrades, we have to meet all of the current security standards," Decter Hirst said.
"You want to be able to move passengers efficiently both in and out and so when this airport was designed, those weren’t the same considerations we have now in terms of security, baggage handling and those kinds of things.
"We have to think about how traffic flows in and out of here because it’s going to be Westman’s regional airport."
Decter Hirst said while some of those upgrades will be mandated by Transport Canada, others will improve the passenger handling capabilities of the facility to make it more attractive to airlines that choose to land here. However, she noted that the money won’t be spent until an airline, whether it is WestJet, Air Canada or Porter Airlines, commits to adding Brandon to its list of destinations and lands planes here.
"At the end of the day, the real reason we need regular air service is business travel," Decter Hirst said. "We have the burgeoning oilpatch activity. We have (CFB) Shilo, who are busing hundreds of people in and out of Winnipeg all the time. We have the business community with a need to get their people in here and our people out."
Some runway upgrades have already taken place, such as a resurfacing job done in 2001, and the recent ILS system installation.
"Once we get the lighting and fire suppression upgraded, we’re good to go and we can handle the rest of the work very quickly," Decter Hirst said.
Sanderson said the $1.5-million price tag was "relatively reasonable given the work that’s to be done."
At present, Brandon’s airport has handled an increasing amount of cargo. However, that doesn’t enable the city to use some of the available federal grants because of the lack of passenger air service, Decter Hirst said. There is support from provincial and federal politicians to push for grants if the city goes ahead with this project and air service is secured.
"I think it would be great to have air service in Brandon again," said Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer, who attended the announcement. "When we did have air service, I used it a great deal. One of the downfalls when we had air service was that the provincial government didn’t use it. That was something missing from that mix.
"I think for the Brandon traveller, (Calgary and Toronto flights) make sense because those are the connections they are looking for to attend the meetings they are (going to). We’re used to driving into Winnipeg so a flight there didn’t work in the past."
Helwer said the city’s plan is interesting, but without a commitment from an airline to add Brandon as a stop, it would be difficult.
"You have to look at how much this is going to cost," Helwer said.