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Victoria airport pitches $8.2-million runway extension for Europe flights

Direct flights from Victoria to parts of Europe could be a reality in 2017 under a Victoria International Airport expansion plan.
Passengers board an Air Canada Express flight at Victoria International Airport on Tuesday. VictoriaÍs airport is CanadaÍs 10th busiest with 1.5 million passengers per year.

Direct flights from Victoria to parts of Europe could be a reality in 2017 under a Victoria International Airport expansion plan.

Under the airport’s new master plan, which is being drafted, its 7,000-foot runway would have 600 feet added to it in 2017 at a cost of $8.2 million.

A longer main runway would allow airlines serving Gatwick airport in London to offer non-stop service to Victoria.

As demand picks up in a projected European economic recovery, flights could expand to Frankfurt, said Geoff Dickson, Victoria Airport Authority president and chief executive officer, on Tuesday.

The expansion would be paid for by the airport authority, without government assistance, Dickson said.

The initial goal is to see charter service to Europe operating 20 weeks a year out of Victoria.

Victoria’s airport is the 10th busiest in Canada, with 1.5 million passengers annually.

Five years ago, the airport authority sought federal and provincial funding to add 1,500 feet to its 7,000-foot runway in a project anticipated to cost about $32 million.

That plan would have seen 600 feet added on the west end and 900 on the east, creating an 8,500-foot runway, the maximum possible on the site.

But government funding did not materialize.

The main runway reached its 7,000-foot length in 1971.

Under the new go-it-alone plan, expansion would be focused on the runway’s west end, which is less complicated to build on than the east end, where topography is steeper, Dickson said.

Costs and the timeline would probably be doubled with an east-end extension, he said.

Expansion could see all 600 feet built at the west end, or 400 feet added on the west and 200 feet on the east, Dickson said.

Key to any expansion is understanding market conditions in Europe. Airlines are not immediately prepared to expand service to Victoria, given the challenging economic situation in Europe.

The Boeing Group was hired to examine what’s possible here if 600 feet is added.

A 10,000-foot runway can accommodate any aircraft.

Having a shorter runway means looking at many factors, including type of aircraft and engines being used, the seating configuration and in-flight equipment.

Planes expected to be used to provide service between Victoria and London include the Boeing 767-300 and Airbus A330-200 series.

Prince George’s airport is among those in B.C. that have expanded in recent years. It now boasts an 11,450-foot runway. The $36-million, 4,000-foot expansion was opened in 2009.

A $2-million fuel storage facility will be finished this summer with the goal of attracting cargo planes leaving Asia for eastern North America. These planes need to stop for refuelling. A cargo warehouse will also be built this year.

Vancouver International Airport’s longest runway is 11,500 feet.

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n The Victoria Airport Authority’s latest draft master plan is at

Its annual public meeting is at 7 p.m. on May 9 at the Mary Winspear Centre, 2243 Beacon Ave., Sidney.