After undertaking several capital-intensive projects at the Timmins airport over the last couple of years, manager Dave Dayment is ready to take a step back and breathe.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to work on next,” Dayment said. “I’d like to spend some money on the building, but we have to start regenerating our energies on our war chest, so to speak.”
Work done includes a parking lot expansion, including the addition of automated paid parking; the expansion of the secure and hold room; and the purchase of a new snowblower.
The airport’s major project was the construction of a $4-million facility to accommodate a joint program of the Canadian Space Agency and France’s Centre national d’études spatiales. Launched into near space, research balloons serve to gather scientific information, demonstrate and test technology, and train aerospace engineers and space scientists.
In 2013, the facility hosted two live launches to test the facility, which brought 60 people from the two space agencies to Timmins.
“It’s fully operational,” Dayment said. “It’s now at a point where it’s ready to connect to a full-scale campaign in 2014.”
Representatives from two to four universities will be coming in 2014 to work on special projects. Dayment said the facility’s operation in Timmins injects “big dollars” into the economy.
The airport manager would like to undertake some terminal renovations, such as upgrading the floor tiles and washrooms, but with construction costs being roughly 30 per cent higher in Timmins, it can be a challenge to find the capital required to make even minor changes.
Because the airport operates as a department of the city, the airport has to generate its own revenue to cover expenses and capital projects. Although the airport is currently sitting in a surplus situation, even the smallest projects can translate into big costs, Dayment said.
The city was expected to complete its asset management plan by the end of 2013. The provincially mandated asset plan reviews the city’s assets, what it needs and where it’s going down the road.
“If you apply for any programs and you want funding, you need to have an asset management plan in place,” Dayment said. “If they’re going to fund something, they want to know what you have, how you manage it, and what funds you have to pay for it.”
There is still plenty of room at the 2,000-acre airport to build additional facilities, Dayment said, and there have been inquiries about development. An engineer’s report that evaluated probable costs and service requirements to build more hangars was due at the end of 2013. Dayment said it’s the first step in finding out what costs would be involved in bringing water, sewer and hydro to the perimeter of some smaller lots, which private owners could then develop.
Traffic at the airport is still strong, and Porter just added a fourth flight in September, bringing flights to four returns a day.
“We figure, since Porter started here at the beginning of 2012, we’ve probably increased our traffic 50,000 passengers a year,” Dayment said. “The competition allowed people to get out of the car and into airplanes who would otherwise say, nah, that’s a bit much; I’ll drive.”
Travellers can fly to Toronto for about $120, he noted. It’s a huge improvement over the $1,000-plus cost of a ticket that was common just three years ago.
Though there has been speculation about WestJet coming into Northern Ontario, Dayment cautions that it’s the level of traffic and not the airport that feeds demand.
He believes the airport would have to be busier for WestJet to have a solid case for going into Timmins.
“With two carriers already going to Toronto—Jazz is six times a day, Porter’s four—that’s a lot of seats a day going out of a 40,000-person market,” he said.
Dayment said he could see a market for a north-south run between Montreal and Thunder Bay or Winnipeg, since there has been demand for travellers taking that route.