Water salute welcomes Air Canada back to West Kootenay Regional Airport

Thanks to Nelson Star – link to source story and Video

Air Canada has resumed flights at the West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline

Link to video: Air Canada has resumed flights to Castlegar

BETSY KLINE | Jun. 28, 2021

Air Canada made its return to Castlegar Monday, June 28 under a water salute from the Castlegar Fire Department (CFD).

CFD greeted the airline’s 78 passenger Dash 8-Q400 plane under the hot sun at the West Kootenay Regional Airport (WKRA).

This mark’s the beginning of the Q-400’s service to the airport. Previously Air Canada flew the smaller 50 passenger Dash 8-300 into Castlegar.

The first flight was about half full and hints that travel may be increasing as provincial health orders surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic ease.

The Air Canada Express flights will be operated by Jazz Aviation LP on Monday, Thursday and Friday afternoons.

WKRA future

The Q400 is the plane that the City of Castlegar has been hoping Air Canada would switch to for the route because of its ability to work with the flight management system that could potentially lower the minimum cloud ceiling required for take offs and landings.

For more than four years, the city has been working with aviation experts on a plan to increase reliability at the airport. A 2017 report by Jeppesen Aviation proposed a Required Navigation Performance (RNP) system as the answer.

RNP is used in many airports around the world. An RNP approach involves satellites and a flight management system in the aircraft that guides it on an approach it would not otherwise be able to take.

An RNP system consists of computer software developed by Nav Canada for a specific airport and run by the airline. It requires no additional airport equipment.

Before it could be introduced in Castlegar, it would need Transport Canada approval and Air Canada (or another airline) to agree to use the system and train its crew members.

Nav Canada tower to remain open at West Kootenay Regional Airport

From Nelson Star – link to source story

The organization was considering closing the tower

Nav Canada will not be closing the tower at West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline

BETSY KLINE | Apr. 22, 2021

There is some good news for Castlegar’s Airport — Nav Canada will be keeping the navigation tower at the West Kootenay Regional Airport (WKRA) open.

In October 2020 Nav Canada launched an areonautical study at WKRA and 28 other airports across the country looking at reducing or eliminating services in response to the agency’s financial pressures.

On April 15 Nav Canada confirmed that there will be no site closures at air traffic control towers or flight service stations across the country. However, other alternatives to safely streamline operations including changes to hours of operation are still being considered.

Castlegar CAO Chris Barlow is happy to hear the news.

“Extensive feedback from our stakeholders re-enforced that the flight services station is important to the safety of air carriers, medevac, forestry, charter and general aviation pilots,” he said.

“We understand that future service levels are still under review. The city will continue to highlight the unique location and nature of the West Kootenay Regional Airport and re-state that reductions in hours or service of the Nav Canada tower operations could impact safety and reliability for the region.”

Nav Canada is a private, non-profit corporation. At the Castlegar Flight Service Station, they provide airport advisory service, ground vehicle control service and a surface weather observation program 12 hours per day when standard time is in effect (fall/winter) and 16 hours per day when daylight saving time is in effect (spring/summer). At other times they also provide an aerodrome traffic frequency and a limited weather information system (LWIS). The LWIS provides wind, temperature, dew point and altimeter, but is not capable of providing ceiling and visibility.

Service to West Kootenay Regional Airport not included in Air Canada deal announcement

From Castlegar News – link to source story

Air Canada will not be resuming flights to Castlegar at this time

BETSY KLINE | Apr. 21, 2021

Air Canada will not be resuming flight to Castlegar anytime soon. Photo: Betsy Kline
Air Canada will not be resuming flight to Castlegar anytime soon. Photo: Betsy Kline

The West Kootenay Regional Airport (WKRA) is not on the list of regional airports that Air Canada will be resuming flights to as part of the company’s $5.9-billion deal with the federal government.

Resumption of flights to regional airports was included in the deal, and many were hoping that would mean service would resume soon at WKRA.

South Okanagan West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings has been lobbying for years on behalf of Castlegar’s airport and has been following the situation closely.

While he is happy to see that the airline will be resuming service to the Penticton airport by June 1 he says, “My real disappointment is that Castlegar was left off the list of restarted routes and I’ll continue to press Air Canada to resume that service.”

In a recent conversation with Air Canada, Cannings was told that during the pandemic the company had disposed of the Dash 8-300 planes that flew into Castlegar and the company did not have any other planes it felt comfortable using at WKRA.

Cannings was also told, however, that Air Canada is working on negotiating an agreement with an inter-line partner to operate services on their behalf. There was no timeline given for the negotiations.

This doesn’t mean that Air Canada is never coming back to Castlegar.

“Although the West Kootenay Regional Airport was not listed in Air Canada’s first announcement, the city understands Air Canada will be expected to return service to our regional airport as part of its agreement with the federal government,” says Castlegar’s communications manager Bree Seabrook.

“The aviation industry still faces a significant amount of uncertainty during the third wave of COVID-19 but the city is working hard to ensure the West Kootenay Regional Airport is well-positioned to offer the flight options travellers want and need when things return to normal.”

Other stipulations of the government’s financial package include Air Canada offering refunds for cancelled flights related to the pandemic and capping executive bonuses to $1 million.

Meanwhile, Central Mountain Air is continuing to offer flights to WKRA.