Orca Airways makes return to Qualicum Beach

Vancouver-based small airline to offer flights between Qualicum Beach and Vancouver

Captain Spencer Thompson and first officer Phillip Carson are two of the 55 employees of Orca Airways

Captain Spencer Thompson and first officer Phillip Carson are two of the 55 employees of Orca Airways

With BC Ferry fares on the rise residents of Vancouver Island are looking for other ways to get to the Lower Mainland and with the addition of Orca Airways Ltd. at the Qualicum Beach Airport, they now have one more option.

Orca Airways has been flying between Vancouver and Tofino for seven years and the company has added Qualicum Beach to it’s schedule.

Andrew Naysmith, president and CEO of the Vancouver-based airline said when they attempted to offer service in Qualicum Beach a few years ago, the demand wasn’t there.

He said now they feel there is a market for flights between Qualicum Beach and Vancouver and they are offering two flights departing daily except Saturday between Qualicum Beach and the Vancouver South Terminal.

Naysmith said it has been rewarding working with his father-in-law Harald Leukefeld, who used to be director of maintenance at Air Canada, as they continue to grow the business.

“It has been pretty exciting.  We started with just one plane and now have 18 and 55 employees,” stated Naysmith.

From its humble beginnings in 2005 with just a Navajo Chieftain its current fleet of 18 aircraft includes two King Airs for luxury travel.

The King Air 200, which is used for private charters, can seat up to eight people and travels up to 280 nautical miles per hour.

The company recently acquired a building for its operations. The hanger is one of the original buildings at the south terminal in Richmond and the company moved in to their new headquarters one month ago.

The south terminal is also expanding and offering more amenities including an outdoor observation deck with telescopes to watch the the big planes come in and land at YVR.

If you have some time between flights, the terminal is just a short walk from the Flying Beaver Bar and Grill a popular place to eat at the Harbour Air terminal on the Fraser River.

Some of Orca’s pilots said it has a great patio where you can sit and watch the float planes take-off and land on the water.

Angela Giannotii, a travel consultant at Expedia Cruise Ship Centre in Parksville, sampled one of the flights on Orca Airways and said it is great to have another option to offer her cruise clients.

The south terminal has a free shuttle to the international airport where passengers can get the Canada Line to board a cruise ship at Canada Place.

With free long term parking at the Qualicum Beach Airport, Giannotii said it is a convenient way for Oceanside residents to get to Vancouver.

She said the Tsawwassen ferry terminal doesn’t have a bus and it costs about $45 dollars to get a cab from Horseshoe Bay to Canada Place so flying to Vancouver has some benefits.

Most international airlines allow 50 pounds for checked luggage.

Baggage is free up to 35 pounds on Orca Airways with additional weight being charged $1 per pound but management said they make every effort to accommodate extra luggage and if there is no room on one flight, they can send luggage over ahead of time on other flights.

For information on flights go to www.flyorcaair.com.