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Castlegar mayor seeks regional support for airport study

John Boivin Local Journalism Initiative
By John Boivin Local Journalism Initiative
September 16th, 2016

The mayor of Castlegar came cap-in-hand to the board meeting of the Regional District of the Central Kootenay Thursday, looking for support for a technical study to improve the community’s airport.

Lawrence Chernoff, who’s also the vice-chair of the RDCK Board, told district representatives that his city council was trying to raise $260,000 “as soon as possible”.

The money will be used to fund a study into providing better navigation equipment for the airport, which serves the entire region but is plagued by frequent cancellations due to the weather.

“The money is really a huge amount,” he says. “What we are trying to do is say ‘hey, all we’re asking for is help, because every little dollar will help get to that goal’.

 “We want to get this done as soon as possible.”

In a letter to the RDCK board, Chernoff, who also sits as its vice-chair, says the study will be done by Jeppesen Aviation, a leader in the field of aircraft navigation.

The company is proposing to define a Required Navigation Performance system for the airport. It allows aircraft to fly direct on tightly defined paths along waypoints, increasing reliability of arrivals and departures.

Castlegar has one of the highest percentages of cancelled flights in the country, leading frequent travellers to nickname the airport ‘Cancel-gar’.

“They’ve done this all over the world. They’ve solved problems that are unbelievable,” Chernoff says of Jeppesen Aviation. “You have to be excited by this because I see it as a huge step forward, it really is. I want that reliability, I’ve gotta have that.”

Chernoff didn’t detail how much he was hoping to get from the RDCK or individual areas.

While many district representatives at the monthly board meeting showed sympathy for Chernoff’s request, others balked at providing money for another community’s facility.

“Creston can’t support it,” said Mayor Ron Toyota. “We already have a tax for improvements to our own  airport.”

While he didn’t give RDCK directors a deadline, Chernoff says the Castlegar council want to get started by October. Chernoff says if he can’t get quick pledges of support for the airport improvements, the city of Castlegar will pay for it on its own

“The community sees the value in this, the community sees it is important, because it is important,” he says. “If no money comes at the end, we’ve got to go ahead, there’s not a choice on this, we want to go ahead on this. If there’s no funding, there’s no funding.”

The scoping project is expected to take about nine months to complete once it has begun. Chernoff says the system could be in place about two years after work is started.

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