Airport expansion taxiing for takeoff? 

Pemberton residents weigh in on airport development; W-B ready to offer seed money

click to enlarge Flight Plan Rob Benyon spells out the three options for the Pemberton Airport at a meeting on Monday.
  • Flight Plan Rob Benyon spells out the three options for the Pemberton Airport at a meeting on Monday.

The future of the Pemberton Airport will be determined by the people of Pemberton, but Whistler-Blackcomb would be willing to put up some seed money if that future included expansion to allow for 70-passenger commercial jet service.

Stuart Rempel, vice president of sales and marketing for Whistler-Blackcomb, said the company is prepared to invest “seven figures” if airport expansion goes ahead and a commercial airline starts servicing Pemberton.

The Pemberton Regional Airport Authority held an open house Monday to gather public input and help the board determine a course of action.

The open house included a presentation by InterVISTAS, a company hired to study the technical and marketing potential of the airport. InterVISTAS’ Rob Benyon presented three scenarios for consideration:

• leave the airport as it is with 3,900 foot runway, which would leave it too small for commercial flights but would still allow for helicopter and other aviation services;

• expand the airport to allow for commercial flights using planes that carry 20-70 passengers;

• expand the runway to more than 6,000 feet to allow for large commercial jets.

Benyon said in his opinion the second scenario was most feasible.

Several Pemberton residents raised concerns about noise and pollution from commercial flights, as well as basic services like water, sewer and electricity that are not yet available at the airport.

Beynon said newer commercial aircraft use quieter technology and aren’t as noisy as trains that run through the area. He also said that commercial airlines are more responsive to neighbours’ concerns than are private pilots.

Beynon also acknowledged that the “unique topography” of the area — the airport’s proximity to the mountains, winter fog, wind and weather conditions — also posed challenges to commercial service.

David MacKenzie, president of the Pemberton Regional Airport Authority, said concerns voiced at the Monday’s meeting will be taken into consideration at PRAAs next meeting.

“Those comments will kind of be put together in a report, presented back to the board, and then we’ve got to kind of decide if we have enough public comment to move forward,” said MacKenzie.

But overall, MacKenzie believes response has been “quite positive.”

“I think people are starting to come to the realization that we’re not ramping up the airport to handle 737s, and that’s not what this is about.”

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