January 13, 2022 By Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press
At the end of 2021, the Airport Advisory Committee heard about the next steps in a planned re-designation of specific areas at the Whitecourt Airport. Manager of Environmental Services and Airport Manager Steve Hollett presented at the meeting. “Back in 2021, there were three sections of road allowance that were an issue inside the airport. We finally got them closed and added into the area of the airport. We had a study done from HMA Aero with recommendations of what to do with those three pieces of former road allowance.”
The report and findings shared in the meeting broke down what HMA Aero Aviation Consulting recommended for the area, including reclassifying the existing apron three and the three recently closed sections of land into taxiways. “It’s been put in our budget for this upcoming year to get an engineering report and study done on what’s going to be required to make those a proper taxiway. The three pieces that were former road allowances are recommended to be a private taxiway. The cost to make them brought up to standard is considerably less than if we actually make them controlled area,” explained Hollett.
“What they were before was public access properties that people could have access to if they wanted to. This gives us control of them, and we can keep people (off) and for safety purposes. There’s a little bit of work that will need to get done and will be identified when we get the report done. For Apron 3, the initial part, which is kind of an extension of taxiway Alpha, there will be some lights and signages that will be required to bring it up to proper standards, and there may be some surface conditions that need to be brought up as well,” he continued.
Councillor Bruce Prestidge asked the difference between a private taxiway and a public taxiway. He wondered why they wouldn’t just stick with a public one. Hollett explained that the work needed to make the area up to the standards of a public taxiway would be expensive. “Whereas for the use that they are right now, a private taxiway would suffice to what they need it to be,” responded Hollett.
Councillor Prestidge brought forward a concern. “If we are trying to promote growth at the airport, by not building them properly, it would hamper what kind of facility goes in. If someone has a hanger for bigger planes and we don’t have the taxiways to handle it, they probably wouldn’t invest here.”
Director of Infrastructure Andre Bachand said that one of the parcels they closed is not wide enough to meet the guidelines for a public taxiway. “But if we make it a private taxiway, it will meet those guidelines. I believe it is essentially within an area that is leased by one company, so the amount of air traffic on that taxiway would be pretty minimal and only one user. That’s why the one is only a private taxiway. One of the second ones is questionable. When they come out, they will have to survey it to determine if it will meet the requirements of a public taxiway. And the third one will be a public taxiway,” explained Bachand.
Whitecourt Councillor Braden Lanctot asked for clarification on public versus controlled. “(When) deemed as (a) private taxiway, they don’t have to get access through flight services to operate on them whereas a normal taxiway they would need to get access through flight services,” clarified Hollett. Councillor Lanctot then asked for clarification on what it would mean for the future, depending on which classification they designated the taxiways as. “Is it a big difference on what we can bring in through there, or is it pretty similar?”
Hollett said it wouldn’t have much of an impact. “When it comes to taxiways, they are all done off of pavement load rating. Two of the areas would need some significant work to get up to what our designed aircraft is. The third one should pretty much meet our designed aircraft right now,” he explained.
County Councillor Alan Deane asked if the $50,000 cited for costs was for the engineering needed to do a site survey, to which Bachand said yes. HM Aero recommended a centreline being added to taxiway F. They also suggested adding standalone unlit location information signs at the entrances of taxiways E and F. The funding needed for the surveying is within the 2022 budget. The work is expected to start in 2023, pending budget approval at that time.