Two weeks ago, George Miller an aviation consultant made a brief presentation to City Council regarding the Merritt Airport. The key take away from his first presentation was that he believes the airport, as it currently sits, would not pass an inspection.
Miller returned this week to address Council at a special committee of the whole to further explain his vision for the airport.
“Thank you for inviting me back, it’s certainly a strong indication to me that this Council is embarking on process to turn its community public airport around from one that has been neglected to one that could be a BC Interior jewel,” said Miller. “It has the right ingredients to take advantage of. It has the runway length, excellent road access and proximity to the city, attraction to area tourism and a need for commercial air access. It has an inherent regional draw for aviation business.”
Airports can fall into two major categories, certified and registered, with certified being the higher level.
“The equivalent level of safety that would be required by a certified airport can be quite easily provided at much less cost and much less manpower,” said Miller. “Therefore, I recommend to Mayor and Council not to seek certification of its airport, now. But remain a registered airport and commit to develop its physical layout, improve its operational services, meet the basic Transport Canada safety and security requirements, and grow its economic value to the community.”
Councillor Adam Etchart questioned if the airport remains an aerodrome, could passengers still travel in.
“Absolutely, you’ll find a number of registered airports have passenger service coming in all the time,” answered Miller. “For this airport if it meets the basic safety requirements that the Minister requires for a registered airport and he considers that the measures that have been taken are appropriate for him approving passenger service, there would be no problem.”
The question of financials was also raised by Councillor Tony Luck.
Miller believes the airport could be into the black in a matter of years if the City moves forward with updating it.
“This airport has been around for a long time, but it certainly doesn’t operate in the black. It needs to operate in the black and that’s a goal. There’s a lot to do at this airport, which is going to cost money, you would have to depend on a lot of community grants,” said Miller. “There is no way in which you could get things going unless the City, the owner, is prepared to put some money into this.”
“We know that we have a jewel in the rough there, but there has been lots of concerns expressed over the years with how it has been run, managed or not managed. I’m just delighted to see that it’s time that we start making process in an organized fashion,” said Councillor Kurt Christopherson.
Council passed a motion by unanimous vote which read; The committee of the whole direct staff to bring back a report regarding options to amend the OCP to allow a taxi way on the west side of the airport runway and that the report consider the adequacy of the 2003 airport development plan given public concern that an update to that plan is not required.
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