Letters To The Editor 

This week's letters

Page 5 of 8

I’m a pilot, and I keep my plane at the Pemberton airport. As a recreational pilot, I prefer the small airports – the smaller the better, actually. I’ve flown all over B.C. and across Canada and I’ve seen a lot of great little airports in beautiful places, but Pemberton is still the best as far as I’m concerned. It already has so much going for it: Mount Currie as the dramatic backdrop; two golf courses right beside it; its close proximity to the beautiful Pemberton area; a short drive to Whistler; five major valleys intersecting it; a short flight to the Lower Mainland and the U.S., and yet it’s also a pretty short hop to the B.C. Interior. And of course there are the businesses that have been operating there for years: Pemberton Soaring, Pemberton Helicopters, and Coastal Mountain Air. I’m sure that the administration in Pemberton agrees that it really is a gem with huge unrealized potential. But at the same time, I don’t think they can see the forest for the trees. I think the point that is being missed by the people who are supposed to be making the decisions in Pemberton is this: make the most of what you already have!

Unfortunately a huge opportunity for Pemberton has already been blown. If you were to peruse the real estate section of the American Owner & Pilot’s Association journal, you would see a surprising number of fly-in residential developments. Basically, these are small airports, where people can build their home and attached hangar. Yeah, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those passionate about flying, like myself, it’s paradise, and many are willing to pay big bucks for it. They range from low to high end, but considering the Whistler/Pemberton real estate market, it probably would’ve gone high end. Such a development could’ve netted a healthy sum for the town, maybe even enough for a new community centre. Well Pemberton has the small airport, the beautiful setting, but soon they will also have a sewage treatment plant there. Oh well…

The airport can get quite busy with private, recreational air traffic. Typically, these pilots land, look around at the nice scenery, see that there’s not much going on, get back in their planes and go. That is another missed opportunity. There are thousands of owner/pilots in Canada and many more in the States who are just looking for an excuse to fly somewhere. What needs to be done is simple marketing. These people need to be convinced that Pemberton is the place to come, and then give them something to do when they get here. A simple start would be some advertising in pilot journals, and some courtesy bicycles, or a car available for use when they land. The bikes, and/or car, could be sponsored by local businesses with some incentive attached, like show up at such and such restaurant with this bike and get a discount….or show your pilot’s license and get a discounted golf game. Of course it could go well beyond that, like golf and stay packages etc. While this may not satisfy the visions of grandeur held by some, I think it would be a much more realistic vision for the airport. The Pemberton airport is a small airport, and if its potential is to be developed, it should be as a small airport.

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