Mike Hooper, president and chief executive officer of Nanaimo Airport, YCD, announced he plans to retire in June 2020, as the Nanaimo Airport Commission begins a search for his successor. Hooper assumed the airport’s top executive position in 2006.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Hooper. “When I started at YCD we had four employees and now we are proud to be one of the fastest-growing airports in Canada.”
In 2018 a record-setting 435,000 passengers passed through the airport’s gates. During Hooper’s tenure, both Air Canada and WestJet have implemented scheduled service to the main connecting hubs in the country including Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. The airport explains charters and cargo shipping have also grown substantially in the last eight years.
“Mike’s solid leadership and round the clock commitment have been instrumental to the airport’s steady growth and success,” said board chair Wendy Clifford. “He has been the face and the heart of the airport for 14 years, and the board couldn’t be prouder or more appreciative of his efforts.”
Hooper has also overseen several multi-million-dollar expansion projects that have transformed the airport. The runway was extended to accommodate large jets, which helped attract more commercial flights. A high-tech Instrument Landing System has also created more favourable landing conditions for planes in all weather conditions. “It allowed us to go from 74 per cent reliability to over 99 per cent today,” said Hooper.
The Air Terminal Building has also been substantially enlarged. The latest expansion, due for completion in January, increases space to reduce congestion at peak periods and enable faster security screening.
“Our projects are carefully planned and managed,” said Hooper. “It’s been truly a team effort, starting with the community-minded leaders who have served on the Nanaimo Airport Commission. They’ve laid out a clear vision not just for the last decade but also for the next generation, and I’ve enjoyed their support in implementing that vision.”
Hooper points to airport partners such Transport Canada, NAV CANADA, FSS, Air Carriers, G4S, Enex Fuels and the Nanaimo Flying Club for creating a successful environment at YCD. “Our administrative and operation teams have done a fantastic job of providing safe, convenient and affordable air service that makes life better for everyone who lives, works and visits here,” he said.
Nanaimo Airport’s team has also grown significantly since Hooper was hired as CEO. Today, it numbers 28 full time staff and over 40 Blue Navigator Volunteers who help passengers travel through YCD. Last year the airport generated $486 million to the region and created 2,750 direct and indirect jobs that support Central Island families.
“We’ve always embraced our role as a key player in the local economy,” said Hooper. “We’ve also delivered on our commitment to being a good corporate neighbour by providing sustainable financial management and environmental stewardship.”
Nanaimo Airport is a 10-minute drive south of downtown Nanaimo on 224 hectares (550 acres), which includes the nearby Cottonwood Golf Course. As Vancouver Island’s second busiest airport, it serves a primary population base of approximately 400,000 from Nanaimo north to Qualicum, west to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, and south to Duncan and the Cowichan Valley. The greater service area includes the regional districts of Mount Waddington, Strathcona, Qathet-Powell River, and the Capitol Region, with an additional population base of 415,000.