February 9, 2021 By Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Pauline and Bruce Chappell’s family have lived on their farm since 1834, before Canada was a country.
Now situated beside the busy four-lane Highway 11, Chappell’s Farm is only minutes away from the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport (LSRA), as well as a huge automotive park and medical advanced technology centre proposed for Oro-Medonte’s Line 7 North.
“We hear the planes at night and the highway,” Pauline said Friday. “It’s just progress. They don’t have horse and buggies anymore,” she quipped, adding, “If you want to block everything (progress), you fall behind.”
Moving ahead with its plans to grow the airport’s runway length, computer weather system and lighting were integral to Simcoe County’s purchase of most of Barrie’s and all of Oro-Medonte’s previous shares. The county now owns 90 per cent of the LSRA, with Barrie owning the remaining 10 per cent.
The airport expansion project is expected to cost just over $6 million, with the county kicking in $3.5 million. Additional funding will come by way of a grant of $1.5 million from the provincial Southwestern Ontario Development fund and $345,000 from the City of Barrie.
“County Council’s strategic decision to invest in the airport paid off immediately for local businesses who transitioned their models at the beginning of COVID-19 to provide PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies to regional, domestic and international markets” said Simcoe County Warden George Cornell.
“With the advancement of MediCA Park and Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park, we are also beginning to see how the growth of the LSRA will support the needs of current businesses while attracting new investments and ultimately help to create more regional job opportunities.”
David Yeaman, president of Molded Precision Components (MPC), owns the 83 acres on which his new venture MediCA will sit.
“I specifically chose land across the local airport to enhance the company’s strategic growth,” Yeaman said, who caught the first wave of the pandemic’s shortfall of PPEs and retooled the company to ship more than 27 million face shields across Canada.
True to its plans to enhance the airport, the county began widening the runway from 100 feet to 150 feet and installing a new lighting system and upgraded drainage last fall.
Beginning this spring, Phase 2 will include a high-intensity LED runway system for better visibility, as well as lengthening the runway from 6,000 feet to 7,000 feet.
Currently, LSRA supports the Ontario Provincial Police, Hydro One, the Canadian Rangers, Search and Rescue, Canadian National Railway and Ornge air ambulance.
Large planes, such as 737s, already land at the airport, as does the military’s Hercules cargo plane. But David Parks, director of planning, economic development, transit and airport services, says the expansion will promote increased commercial activity for the region.
He said the avionics industry safety standards have been improving for the past 15 years globally by requiring longer and wider runways for safer landings.
“When the last phase – the high-intensity navigation lights for landing come in – visibility will be greater for a pilot coming in adverse winter or rain or just in the evening – they’ll have better visibility,” he said.
New Tecumseth Deputy Mayor and chair of the LSRA board Richard Norcross looks forward to both commercial and domestic travellers.
“We have a bright future at the airport,” Norcross said. “In addition to supporting regional economic growth, the LSRA is planning to expand both international and domestic passenger flights post-COVID-19, so our residents can access flights to key destinations right here in Simcoe County.”
• Purchase of a de-icing truck for approximately $130,000, allowing LSRA to support winter operations.
• Completion of the modernization of the airport’s Automatic Weather Observation System (AWOS), for $167,101 to provide real-time weather observations.
• Installation of close circuit security cameras.
• Enhancement to the terminal with a Da Vinci’s Gate by Cravings dining room.