It may be time to look at different ways to operate the Qualicum Beach Airport, says town councillor Bill Luchtmeijer.
Currently, the town owns and operates the facility, but does not have a staff member on site. Luchtmeijer says the management of the facility basically entails a town staff member working “off the corner of their desk from town hall.”
“We don’t have a staff member or manager on site,” said Luchtmeijer. “We are not airport operators.”
Qualicum Beach town council asked staff months ago for a report about what it would take to develop an airport authority to manage the facility. Luchtmeijer asked staff again for that report at town council’s most recent meeting but was told by town manager Mark Brown that staff had “other priorities.”
Luchtmeijer said tree cutting and snow clearing are major issues for those who use the airport, chiefly KD Air, Orca Air and Sunwest Helicopters.
There have been times Transport Canada has not allowed flights in or out of the airport because of the unkempt trees or because of snow removal issues.
“Those issues should have been obvious,” said Luchtmeijer. “We are just too far away physically to stay on top of it.”
KD Air owner Diana Banke said she met Thursday morning with Luchtmeijer and fellow councillors Mary Brouilette to discuss the airport.
“I think we got a real good feeling that perhaps things will change at the airport,” Banke told The NEWS late Thursday.
Banke said she believes an airport authority “is usually way too many people and that costs money and this airport can’t afford that.”
“What we’re looking for is (for the town to) to delegate and airport manager.”
Banke said the head tax levied by the town on her business — a certain amount charged for every passenger flying in and out — has increased every year the past four years and is scheduled to increase 17 per cent again in January.
“The fees keep rising and rising and we get nothing for it,” said Banke. “The town needs to take a look at how they treat their community businesses.”
Banke also expressed concerns the town is going to reduce the length of the runway by 150 feet next month due to concerns over trees and a neighbouring farm.