February 10, 2022
Pincher Creek Airport development one step closer to takeoff with arrival of master plan
By Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin’ the Breeze
A long-term vision for site development and economic growth is beginning to emerge for the Pincher Creek Airport.
Last week, MD council approved the preliminary draft of the long-awaited airport master plan, a document that will serve as a guide for airport development going forward.
“We should all be excited about it. It’s a great asset for the whole region,” says Troy MacCulloch, chief executive officer for the MD of Pincher Creek.
Crowsnest Pass council approved the AMP on Jan. 11, while Pincher Creek town council has yet to do so.
Located northwest of Pincher Creek, just off Highway 3, the airport currently consists of one asphalt runway over 6,000 feet long, four taxiways, two aprons for public traffic, nine aircraft hangars and a fuel facility.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is the primary user of the space at present, having its own independent air terminal building that it uses for wildfire response in the summer. Additionally, there are a few private plane owners with personal hangars.
The AMP suggests the airport be transformed into a hub where locals, tourists and travellers can access regular flights to a variety of locations, including possible northern destinations like Fort McMurray and Alaska.
The facility, it says, has the potential to become a stopover point for Americans looking to vacation up north and Canadians heading south to Montana.
It also lists a few business opportunities that could be capitalized on, including a flight training school with an on-site campus, an air cadet base and a wildfire training certification program.
Planning is still in its infancy and the document serves more as an economic and developmental guide than a solid strategy.
The Regional Airport Committee, the group that commissioned the document, still has to agree on the plan and it has to choose a governance structure for itself.
Once this falls into place, the RAC will start working on developing a business plan and a mission statement. The business plan, alone, could take up to three years to complete.
The RAC, consisting of representatives from Crowsnest Pass council, MD council, Cowley council and Pincher Creek town council, will meet to discuss matters further on Feb. 14.
The project does not come without its challenges. The AMP cites a study conducted by Transport Canada in 2004, which found that most airports located in catchment areas with populations under 15,000 were facing deficits and that regional population decline occurred in 82 per cent of cases where airports were having financial difficulties.
Additionally, it noted that 85 per cent of financially struggling airports were located within 250 kilometres of a national airspace system.
The Pincher Creek Airport and area fit the same characteristics.
“I know the challenges that they’re facing. I know how hard it’s going to be to bring this around and to make it a viable resource for our area,” said Coun. Dave Filipuzzi at a Crowsnest Pass council meeting.
To circumvent this, the AMP suggests the airport should market itself to audiences that larger centres wouldn’t cater to.