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Airport zooms into focus with tour

By June 8, 2022No Comments
Colleen Comrie and her husband Martin Cordwell, the pilot, landed their homemade RV-7A plane at the Lloydminster Municipal Airport for the Alberta Air Tour on Saturday. Geoff Lee Meridian Source

 

The Lloydminster Municipal Airport is back on the map thanks to the Alberta Air Tour.

The air tour, held Saturday, attracted about 450 people to a hanger to see small aircraft landing one after another to the delight of airport manager Wade Frasz.

“It’s just awesome to see aircraft coming in to fly. Due to COVID, we haven’t seen a lot of aircraft moving,” said Frasz.

He estimates air traffic dropped by 60 per cent during the pandemic along with a loss of revenue.

“This will help us. This will bring a lot of people in. Hopefully, we do a lot of fuel sales today,” said Frasz, with a free pancake breakfast for all arrivals.

He noted WestJet is expected to resume a seven-day-a-week service this summer with business now on the uptick.

Tour organizer, Shane Getson, the MLA for Lac Ste Anne and Parkland County, says the Lloydminster airport was selected for the one-day tour along with Cold Lake and St. Paul for the city’s hospitality.

“Lloyd’s always been very welcoming. We try to highlight airports that are successful and doing well, which we believe Lloydminster is,” said Getson, referencing WestJet service.

“You guys are on the map.”

The Alberta Air Tour encourages new people to learn how to fly and celebrates the aviation industry’s robust presence in the province. 

It also attracted tour co-founder, pilot and NAV Canada air controller, Dina Jammaz, to promote opportunities for women representing Elevate Aviation. 

“We are a non-profit organization that provides a platform for women to thrive and succeed through aviation,” said Jammaz.

She says the percentage of female commercial pilots is about 9 per cent, air traffic controllers 16 or 17 per cent and aircraft maintenance engineers 2 per cent.

“We provide mentorship and information to women to help them discover these careers and be with them as a big sister as they pursue these careers,” said Jammaz.

Her original vision for the tour in 2020 was to thank the industry for the support it has given to women, but it also ended up drawing attention to the economic benefits of regional airports like Lloydminster’s.

“We want to draw attention to the airports, that it’s not just the pleasure of flying,” said Jammaz.

Ken Zachkewich, a director of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, says an economic impact study of general aviation in 2017 estimated the sector generates $9.2 billion a year for the economy of Canada.

“It also creates 35,000 full-time equivalent jobs. We like to bring that message to communities because often communities think of an airport as an economic drain—it costs money to plow the snow and cut the grass,” said Zachkewich.     

“But when you think of the economic spinoff all those jobs bring to communities and all the dollars travellers bring in to communities, it’s a huge economic gain.” 

Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers is onboard with that benefit and adds the air tour will create much more awareness of what the airport brings to the community.

“It’s great to see so many kids and families here today to have a chance to talk to pilots and learn more about flying as well as the whole aerospace space. That’s what our whole intention was,” said Aalbers.

The first plane on the tarmac was a RV-7A kit plane built and piloted by Martin Cordwell with his wife, Colleen Comrie, giving the airport the thumbs up.

“The runway is excellent and the welcome committee was very friendly—one of the best breakfasts I’ve had,” she said.

Cordwell, meanwhile, says nothing beats the enjoyment of building your own plane.

“When you do build it yourself you can do all your own work on it, so you can save quite a bit of money on your annuals and any repairs you have to do,” he said.

He and his wife are currently working on a second plane.

Cordwell says the air tour means a lot to regional airports like Lloyd’s.

“In order to keep your airport you have to have people using it,” he said.

“The fact is, an airport brings in people just like a highway does, but by having the non-flying here, they get a chance to see just what flying is all about and what it brings to a community.”