Nanaimo airport gets new flights, equipment

NANAIMO — Nanaimo Airport is getting a new fire truck and snow clearing equipment thanks to a $1-million federal grant.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced federal Airports Capital Assistance Program funding at the terminal Tuesday.

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It’s the second piece of good news for the Nanaimo airport in two days. On Monday, WestJet announced it would double the number of daily flights between Calgary and Nanaimo.

The money buys an additional runway sweeper and an aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle.

“The projects announced today will help enhance safety for travelers,” Raitt said.

Mike Hooper, Nanaimo Airport CEO, said new firefighting equipment allows a response within three minutes when an aircraft lands.

“It gives us the capacity to handle any aircraft that comes into the airport, including [Boeing] 737-800s,” Hooper said. “And the runway sweeper allows us to ensure reliability in the winter.”

On Monday, Calgary-based WestJet made the announcement it will add a second, late-afternoon return flight from Calgary to Nanaimo, starting in October.

Around that time, Hooper hopes to take delivery of the new equipment. The airport has already made considerable improvements to its all-weather reliability, by lengthening its runway and installing better lighting and putting in an instrument landing system to guide in aircraft in all but the worst conditions.

Those improvements led to WestJet joining Air Canada to serve Nanaimo Airport last year. An unprecedented period of growth followed.

With a record 33.6-per-cent increase in passenger volumes reported through May, compared to the same period a year earlier, Nanaimo Airport Commission board chairman John Craig called it “Canada’s fastest growing airport.”

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