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VIDEO: Provincial government funding $1.9 million upgrade for Chilliwack Airport

The airport will get a long overdue runway repaving and extension, and new LED lighting
A small airplane takes off from Chilliwack Airport on May 19, 2023, the day the provincial government announced $1.9 million in funding for a runway extension and new LED runway lighting. (Eric J. Welsh/ The Progress)

Chilliwacks’s airport is getting a long overdue upgrade with help from the provincial government. At a Friday morning (May 19) news conference, Chilliwack MLA Dan Coulter announced $1.9 million in funding through the B.C. Air Access Program. Coulter, who is also B.C.’s minister of state for infrastructure and transit, said the money will pay for an extended runway and new LED runway lights.

Chilliwack Airport manager Garry Atkins said the runway will also get a complete asphalt overlay.

“The runway itself is about 10 years past its lifetime,” he noted. “And the runway lighting that’s here is now obsolete. There are no replacements for it. So we’re able to increase the length of the runway and also the safety by bringing the lights up to current standards.”

Chilliwack Airport operates on VF (visual flight) rules, meaning the weather must be good enough to take off and land. Another benefit of the funding, Atkins said, is the addition of approach and departure plates that are currently in the queue at Nav Canada. These plates are printed or digital charts that guide pilots to a safe landing in low visibility/bad weather.

“This will allow flights in and out of Chilliwack 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even during inclement weather,” Atkins explained. “That means we will have Medivac service 24/7, even on a cloudy day. We won’t have to transport patients down the valley via ambulance.”

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Atkins said the flooding of November 2021 highlighted the importance of the airport.

“It was so essential for this airport to be open and functioning during the flood. It was very important to see the value of this asset not only to Chilliwack but to the communities surrounding Chilliwack,” Atkins said. “We moved patients in and out. We had search and rescue coming back and forth from slides up and down the valley, collecting people out of their cars. We had patients being transferred for dialysis and chemotherapy.

“The list goes on and on.”

Longer runways will allow for greater passenger service and commercial activity. There are currently around 70 to 100 flights per day in and out of the airport, landing and taking off from a runway that is 3,990 feet long.

Airplanes need a certified landing distance in the event of an aborted takeoff or landing, allowing them to roll to a safe stop. Bigger airplanes need a bigger cushion and the expanded runway will provide that.

“Currently we’re restricted to very small aircraft, which reduces the capacity for cargo and passengers to arrive and depart safely,” Atkins said.

He added that the runway and lighting work is a project that has been in the work for five years.

“To see it come to fruition with this generous contribution is probably the best part of the 10 years I’ve been working here.”

The province is investing $19.8 million in the latest round of BC Air Access Program projects, which will support 40 projects at 29 air facilities. Since its launch in 2015, the program has committed $66.8 million in grants to infrastructure projects at 71 air facilities that serve fewer than one million passengers per year.

“These investments are improving local airports across the province, making a difference for travellers, the aviation industry and the businesses that count on reliable air service to export their products to markets worldwide,” Coulter said.


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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