Airport capital projects aren’t glitzy or glamourous, but they’re essential to keeping operations running smoothly, as the Timmins Victor M. Power Airport can attest.
There have been no big announcements coming out of the Timmins airport in recent years, yet the facility keeps plugging away, updating its facility to service the thousands of travellers flying in and out of its airport every year.
“We’re knocking things off the list one at a time,” said manager Dave Dayment.
At the end of May, the facility had just finished changing more than 900 lights in the main building over to LED lights. That followed a similar project at the airfield maintenance hangar, which cost $30,000.
Dayment expects the transfer to the more efficient lights will save the airport $4,000 a month on hydro costs, paying for itself within eight months.
Last year, $450,000 in upgrades were completed to the airport’s water treatment facility, including more efficient boost pumps and a new chlorine injection system.
Also last year, washrooms in the departure area got an upgrade, something Dayment said was “way overdue,” at a cost of $250,000.
Even the smallest project comes with a hefty price tag — such is the nature of operating a full-service airport — but because the airport is operated as a separate department in the City of Timmins, the airport is self-sustaining and capital projects go directly to council for approval.
“We’re in a separate fund, and so we get to keep revenues to allow us to use it for expenses to operate the facility,” Dayment said.
Government assistance is available, and the Timmins airport has been successful in lobbying for funds from the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP), a $38-million program under Transport Canada that funds safety-related projects at airports across the country.
The Timmins airport will receive about $70,000 towards a new wet-dry spreader that will disperse potassium acetate on icy runways in winter. When spread on ice, potassium acetate sticks to the surface, creating more friction and improving landing conditions for incoming aircraft.
“We’re going to try and not just treat it, but eliminate ice by doing it, but it’s expensive,” Dayment said. “One run down the runway is about $3,500.”
ACAP has agreed to provide funds for the potassium acetate as well, he added. In the long term, other capital projects on the wish list include $100,000 worth of roof repairs and some upgrades to the facility’s HVAC units, in addition to a facelift in the arrivals area — all projects Dayment said are simply related to the age of the facility, which was first opened in 1955.
This summer, some geotechnical work will be completed on the runway in preparation for a rehabilitation project Dayment expects a year or two from now. The results will determine whether the project will be a shave-and-pave plan or a full runway replacement.
“We’re going to go ahead and do some engineering to see what it is and what that rehabilitation is going to encompass,” Dayment said.
Beyond upgrades to infrastructure, airport traffic is still going strong at roughly 170,000 passengers annually, although that number could see a minor dip after Bearskin Airlines announced in April it would be eliminating its Kapuskasing-Timmins route after the Town of Kapuskasing rescinded the annual grant it provided to Bearskin to operate out of the Kapuskasing Airport.
Though passenger traffic hailing from that route “isn’t a huge number” for the airport, Dayment said he’s uncertain what impact it will have.
Persistent suggestions that WestJet could come to Timmins remain unsubstantiated. With 500 daily airline seats already available to passengers flying to Toronto from Timmins, the market isn’t big enough to support another carrier, Dayment said.
There aren’t any immediate plans for development at the 2,000-acre airport site, but Dayment said he’s always open to development opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Space Agency, which established the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base at the airport in 2013, will return this summer to start planning for a new campaign in 2018.