Aviation future in Chilliwack

Entertainment is only part of the story at Chilliwack's Flight Fest.

As thousands of Chilliwack residents crane their necks skyward at Flight Fest this Sunday, organizers are hoping people will take away something more down-to-earth: The importance of the Chilliwack Airport and its impact on the local economy.

That was the impetus for starting the annual air show more than a decade ago. It’s an open house that gives residents a close up look at the aviation industry and its role in the community.

Sure, there’s more to it than that. Performances by some of the best aerobatic pilots in the business add a thrill that’s hard to match. From the graceful and silent ballet of a sailplane, to the mighty throb of a Harvard engine, the performances make the magic of flight more real.

But on the ground, the effort to keep those planes in the air (and the many more mundane flights that come and go at Chilliwack airport) is often over looked.

There are about 20 businesses that call the Chilliwack Airport home. Not only do they create local employment, their activity benefits other businesses as well.

The City of Chilliwack recognizes the growing role the airport can play in the city’s future. Airports are now seen to have the potential of becoming the modern equivalent of train stations. Studies have show that communities with active airports see more growth and innovation.

Interestingly, while Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz was strapping on a parachute for a ride with stunt pilot “Super Dave” Mathieson, B.C. Jobs Minister Pat Bell was in Chilliwack to talk about job creation.

He highlighted eight areas of potential for job creation in B.C. Three of them, he told the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, have definite Chilliwack potential: international education, agriculture and the aerospace industry.

The weekend’s Flight Fest promises to be another great event, with lots of excitement for the whole family.

But as Mayor Gaetz, Pat Bell and the volunteers behind the air show know, an airport’s true potential goes far beyond entertainment.

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