Ponoka airport may not be in the focus of business development enthusiasts in central Alberta, but recent developments, mostly unnoticed, may be heralding a prosperous future for the local aviation facility.
The number of incoming and outgoing flights has recently been on the rise and Brian West, the head of the Ponoka Airport Commission, says there is quite some potential for Ponoka airport to get bigger, more active and to generate more business opportunities and income for the community.
According to the information given by West, currently 23 airplanes are kept in hangars at the Ponoka airport and demand for more space to accumulate more planes continues to emerge.
“About five years ago, there were three or four empty hangars, but all the hangars that are in use now have two or three aircraft in them,” said West.
The rise in the number of aircrafts kept at Ponoka airport naturally leads to heavier air traffic with higher number of incoming and outgoing flights on a regular basis.
And the increased activity is not only locally driven.
“There is a lot of interest coming from other towns with people buying hangar space for their planes to be stationed in Ponoka”, said West. Outsiders interested in Ponoka’s capacity to station airplanes include several plane owners in Edmonton.
West said it was the availability of the hangar space that attracted plane owners to Ponoka, meaning that if the potential for growth is properly assessed and more hangar space built, it is highly likely that more demand can be attracted to the local airport.
“It was actually just yesterday that we received a phone call with an inquiry for hangar space for a twin-engine aircraft,” said West during the Thursday, Nov 21 interview.
He attributes the increase in private aviation to both business flights and personal interest in flying on the part of residents in the neighbouring communities.
In addition, “We also regularly receive medevac flights from all over western Canada transferring patients to the Centennial Center, “said West. “We also have an ophthalmologist flying in weekly to see patients.”
While Ponoka airport has a very important privilege in the form of a CanPass certification, which allows international flights to land and passengers to have their customs and passport checks made locally, this feature of Ponoka airport does seem to be in need of better advertisement.
“Not at the present time” said West when asked if the increased air traffic at the Ponoka airport had anything to do with that certification.
“We probably need to get the information more into aviation magazines,” said West, suggesting a way to promote the international flight handling capacity of the local airport.
According to statistics published by Aviation Alberta back in 2005, the latest available on the topic, a Tier II category airport could contribute up to $7 million to a community’s economy on an annual basis while a Tier III airport could add to local economy up to $2 million.
West says Ponoka airport falls between Tier II and Tier III.
If the runway at Ponoka airport could be enhanced, as planned, to receive more different types of aircraft, including larger ones, this could substantially increase the positive impact of the airport on the local economy.
— Ponoka News Staff