Merlin Air Custom Charters Inc. hoped to start flying people
out of Pemberton this year, but it still needs to be certified by Transport
Canada — a process that was set back by the Pemberton Music Festival,
according to co-founder Lori Xavier.
interview that Transport Canada officials were initially supposed to come to
the Pemberton Airport to do a site inspection in late July. It is there that
Merlin Air hopes to build a passenger terminal and 1,600-foot hangar that will
hold its planes, which include a Cessna 206.
But that meeting was pushed back due to the Pemberton Festival,
which used the Pemberton Airport for parking and thus couldn’t allow flying
during the event. Transport Canada consequently couldn’t do a site inspection.
“They wouldn’t do it then because it’s not a normal status to
have tons of people there,” Xavier said. “Transport Canada had holidays,
staffing issues, so we’re going through our next window of opportunity.”
She said Merlin Air is now looking to have Transport Canada
officials visit the Pemberton Airport in late September or early October for a
Xavier estimates that the delay has cost Merlin Air $100,000,
money that it hoped to gain transporting festival-goers in and out of
Pemberton, had it been certified.
“It hurts,” she said. “I mean we’re moving forward, lots of
things done behind the scenes... but you know, I mean what can we do about it?”
The site inspection, however, isn’t the only thing that Merlin
Air is waiting on. The company is also in negotiations with the Village of
Pemberton for a lease that will allow them to build the passenger terminal and
hangar so that they have a place to store their planes.
Xavier said she’s been working with the VOP for over a year on
establishing a hangar and terminal at the Pemberton Airport and expects to
finalize a lease this month. Once that happens, she said Merlin Air can start
pre-loading the site for both buildings.
“We have to preload it and begin construction this winter,” she
said. “That means we’re going to be able to test winter flight operations,
which has never been done before, so we need to test it from a winter
The hangar and passenger terminal are multi-million dollar
projects that have been in the works for approximately two years. It is
expected that the hangar will house a fleet of single and twin-engine aircraft
and provide more convenient service to people attending the 2010 Olympics.
Xavier said she initially hoped to have both buildings
completed by now, but she’s still waiting to hear from the VOP about the lease.
“Initially we wanted to be building this summer and have it
completed now or completed by this fall or this winter,” she said. “We’re not
that far behind, (but) we’re going to have to move a little faster.”
Merlin Air is also waiting on a Transport Canada application
that will allow the company to fly an air taxi service. If approved, it would
allow the airline to carry nine passengers at a time.
Xavier hopes to later upgrade the company’s flying license to
allow up to 10 passengers on each flight.
Merlin Air already has working agreements with 11 airports including those in Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox and YVR South.