Airport plans $200 million investment

Victoria Airport Authority’s 10-year capital plan seeks longer runway, aviation development park

The Victoria Airport Authority is planning an $8 million expansion of their terminal

The Victoria Airport Authority is planning an $8 million expansion of their terminal

The next few editions of the Peninsula News Review will highlight businesses on the recent Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Tour of Industry. Read about what they do, their challenges and success stories.

Even if the Victoria Airport Authority doesn’t get any money from the federal or provincial governments, they say they plan to proceed with a runway expansion at the Victoria International Airport. Without that support, it would just take a little longer to complete.

During the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s Tour of Industry on Oct. 30, the airport authority gave an airside tour of the facility they lease from Transport Canada, allowing a bus to be escorted on the tarmac. Terry Stewart, director of marketing and community relations, said the plan for the runway expansion is to seek funding from government. It’s a big job and part of a $200 million plan for expansion and upgrades throughout the airport over the next 10 years.

“If we don’t get that funding,” Stewart said of the runway effort, “we will move forward in 2015.”

He said the authority had Boeing assess the runway to determine the minimum length required to land larger, long-haul aircraft. The runway is now looking at an expansion of 800 feet — with plans to start the work in 2013 or 2014 if the Authority gets government money. If not, the project goes to the Authority’s 10-year capital projects list.

The investment continues in other parts of the airport and the terminal building. Stewart told the tour they plan on spending $8.1 million on a reorganization of escalators and elevators, expansion of lower floor passenger holding areas and growing retail space beyond the security checkpoint. This work was expected to begin this year.

By 2014, Stewart said there would be work commencing to expand the Canada/U.S. customs area, as well as the so-called greenhouse holding rooms.

In all, he said there would be in the neighbourhood of $70 million in work in the terminal building alone.

“In general, we want to improve our retail services after screening,” Stewart explained. “There will also be more lines to process passengers faster through security.”

Stewart said recent forecasts for aviation development show an upswing next year (an estimated 1.5 per cent) and then upwards of two per cent in 2014 and beyond. It would make sense, then, that the Authority look to make improvements as other businesses on site do so as well.

There are several projects ongoing or in the works in the airport’s industrial areas. Under construction now is a $155 million Department of National Defence hangar for the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron. This is being done to eventually accommodate an upgrade to the unit’s fleet of aircraft.

The Victoria Flying Club, based in the airport’s original terminal, is expanding its fuel system. Stewart added their building is “a challenge”, needing some $400,000 in repairs.

The second-largest tenant at YYJ, VIA Aviation Group Ltd., is also talking with the Authority on their own growth plans.

In the meantime, the property is home to other busy companies, like Viking Air, Victoria Air Maintenance, the B.C. Aviation Museum and even a few remaining private aircraft hangars — something Stewart said is becoming more rare, with higher insurance rates post-9/11.

The Airport Authority is also at the proposal stage of creating a new, 40-acre, high-end development park. Stewart said it’s in the early stages yet, but the DND’s new helicopter hanger would be part of the park — a place being designed to help support the aviation industry in the Saanich Peninsula. More movement on this project is expected in 2013 or 2014.

“We need to find market niches,” Stewart said. “That will help attract more airlines and businesses.”

The Victoria Airport Authority itself currently employs around 2,500 people. Stewart said that represents a payroll and economic impact of $600 million each year. Over the next five years, he said the Authority would be looking to hire another 500 people and generate up to $1 billion in economic activity.


Tour Mini Series

In Wednesday’s News Review: Kristen Jordan, owner of Sea Cider in Central Saanich, is squeezing success out of a family tradition. There are three more installments in this Tour of Industry series.