The Town of Qualicum Beach wants to improve operations of its airport to make it financially sound.
The town, which owns and operates Qualicum Beach Airport, has been experiencing losses in its annual operations. Town planner Rebecca Augustyn said the town is working on trying to minimize the losses and achieve greater economic stability.
The airport has an annual revenue of approximately $400,000 but it is not enough to cover expenses for aviation fuel, staff and internal allocations.
Augustyn, in a presentation to the Oceanside Services Committee, said the airport is a key asset to the region, as it services not only Qualicum Beach, but also City of Parksville and the surrounding rural areas in the Regional District of Nanaimo.
She also pointed out the airport provides benefits such as a link to the Lower Mainland, local employment, recreational opportunities, training grounds for helicopter pilots and air ambulances to land. It averages approximately 14,000 flights a year and averages two Medevacs a month.
“It is well-used,” said Augustyn, adding a survey conducted by the town had almost 700 respondents and 90 per cent indicated they use the airport.
To increase business to the airport, its revenue stream and serviceability to the region, the town plans to establish a pay parking kiosk, build a terminal access road that will link to secure longterm parking which Augustyn said is lacking at the airport and has been identified as a “barrier for users.” The work will include grading, paving, installation of lighting and a pay parking sign.
The town also proposes to have new large signage on Highway 19A and Highway 19 installed, as well as on minor arterial roads, that will highlight the name of the airport and has a location identifier. There are also plans to replace the existing entrance sign, located at the base of the airport, as the town considers it dated, small and inconsistent with the other signage around the municipality.
There is currently minimal visibility of the airport existence or location from arterial roads, with only small directional signs indicating an airport in the area, according to Augustyn. The 2016 Airport Business Plan identifies the need for additional signage at the airport, as well as along the highway, due to the airport currently not being advertised or marketed.
Augustyn said the estimated total cost for the project is around $274,000. The town sought some financial assistance fr0m the RDN’s Northern Community Economic Development Program. It requested $50,000 but was approved for $10,000 by the RDN board.