The host airport for COPA’s 2019 western conference and trade show is receiving $1 million to replace its terminal building and upgrade other facilities. Innisfail’s airport, also known as Big Bend airport (CEM4), is managed by COPA Flight 130 – Innisfail Flying Club on behalf of Alberta’s Red Deer County, the provider of the funds.

Senior officials of the county told local newspaper The Innisfail Province that they expect to have the new 1,200 square-foot terminal finished by the time the three-day COPA event begins June 6, when from 400 to 500 members and up to 300 aircraft are expected to arrive.

Innisfail’s Big Bend airport terminal building.

The county’s corporate services director Ric Henderson was quoted as saying, “Over the years we have done small projects there, backfilling and building a new taxiway and did some drainage work, so this would probably be the biggest investment in the last number of years.”

Innisfail airport is also home to skydive and gliding clubs. “There’s lots of hangars out there,” added Henderson. “There’s lots of aircraft out there, and it’s a valuable asset for us. We want to make sure it keeps operating.”

Innisfail aerodrome was constructed in 1941 as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan as an alternate airfield for No. 36 Service Flying Training School in nearby Penhold. It was turned over to the county by the federal government in 1995, after CFB Penhold was decommissioned. Today only one of the three runways originally constructed survives.

The Innisfail Flying Club was formed in 1960 and began managing the airport in 1986. Jim Romane, a director of the 30-member club, said, “The Red Deer Airport is after commercial and passenger flights. They don’t want anything the Innisfail airport caters to. We’ve got skydivers, small airplanes, a glider club going on and we’ve got crop spray airplanes. These are all things nobody in the big airport want. It fills a void in those areas of general aviation.”