Merlin Air hopes to offer flight service by Thanksgiving 

Company also building "adventure centre" in Pemberton Gateway Hotel

Merlin Air may finally get the wings it needs to fly by Thanksgiving.

The wings could come in the form of a 703 Air Taxi Licence from Transport Canada. This would allow it to fly an aircraft that can carry up to nine passengers, but getting the license is dependent on the company completing maintenance on a six-passenger executive long-range aircraft and an eight-passenger Navajo aircraft.

Once the company obtains that, an approval that could come together by Thanksgiving, Merlin Air will finally be able to fly planes out of the Pemberton Airport, an endeavour it has reached for since at least 2007. The company already has approvals for their operations manual and maintenance process.

"We're expecting to be doing it in October," Merlin Air CEO Fred Xavier said of final approvals. "We need to finish getting the maintenance program inspected and approved to finish that certification. We've been dealing with Transport Canada for years on this.

"That'll allow us to fly anywhere in Canada and into the U.S. So it's not about flying into the Pemberton Airport, it's about flying period."

The company announced that it soon plans to provide point-to-point custom air charters within British Columbia, using the Pemberton Airport as a "mini-hub" allowing passengers to fly to and from major airports within the province and other regional destinations.

Merlin Air also announced that it is opening an "Adventure Centre" - comprised of a passenger lounge, check-in counter and corporate headquarters - at the ground level of the Pemberton Gateway Hotel, located at the entrance to Portage Road. From there the airline plans to provide complimentary shuttle service for passengers to and from the airport.

The company's efforts come after a lengthy history of dealing with the Village of Pemberton that has seen the two parties butt heads on numerous occasions.

In 2009 Merlin Air sent a letter to Pemberton council for its November 17 meeting, alleging that investments the company made in infrastructure at the Pemberton Airport were being given to lawyers to prevent them flying out of there. Xavier claimed at the time that the company had invested $30,000 in the Pemberton Airport including $18,000 towards a lease for an empty lot on the airport's east taxiway.

In early 2010 the company issued a news release stating that they returned a land lease to the Village of Pemberton, one year into a 30-year commitment.

Later that year, a company operating out of the airport known as Pemberton Helicopters went to bankruptcy court. It had a lease on a hangar that it hoped to sell to Merlin Air. Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy opposed any action by Merlin Air to pick up the lease. He said in court that the Village had an unsatisfactory relationship with the company and that it breached a land lease it had at the airport.

The court later handed the lease to Blackcomb Aviation, an independent aviation company with bases in Vancouver, Whistler and Squamish.

Asked why it is continuing to work in Pemberton, Xavier said that the time and cost of trying to do business with the Village has been "very substantial" and that it is no longer seeking to hold a lease or invest in any infrastructure at the airport.

"The issue isn't really about doing business with the Village of Pemberton," Xavier said. "The issue is about, there's need for commercial air services out of this airport. (The Village) has done 10 studies and spent half a million dollars, everyone and their dog knows there's a need for commercial services.

"We're not actually doing business with the Village of Pemberton, we're doing business with the public."

Sturdy, made aware of the press release when Pique reached him on Tuesday said:  "We have been working hard to ensure that businesses have the best opportunity possible at the Pemberton Airport and we certainly encourage activity at the facility.

"We look forward to seeing them, we look forward to working with them in the future."

 

 

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