It shouldn't be referred to as Delta's little airport anymore.
That's what Mayor Lois Jackson had to say at an event at Boundary Bay Airport Wednesday to celebrate the re-activation of runway 12/30. Originally used in the Second World War, an upgraded and reopened 656-foot stretch now connects to a main runway, increasing its landing capacity to 4,406 feet to allow a safer and more efficient separation and movement of aircraft.
The $1.84-million project, which also includes drainage and lighting work, is the latest in a series of major upgrades since Alpha Aviation assumed responsibility as operator of the municipally-owned airport in 2004. The upgrades, which included the construction of a new hangar, have transformed Boundary Bay into a significant regional airport, Jackson said.
"As we know, many small airports in this province are struggling to fund aging airport infrastructure. We are very thankful to have an airport operator willing to make an investment in our airport, investments that have improved safety, enhanced capacity and increased tax revenue for all Delta," the mayor said.
Jackson noted that since Alpha Aviation took over, Delta has seen an increase in property tax revenue from $142,000 to $2 million annually.
"This project, combined with the other recent investments, are helping to transform our little airport, as I've always called it, into a first-class regional airport like we have all envisioned it to be," she said. Noting the longer runway configuration will allow for straighter approaches and, thus, less noise over populated areas, Alpha Aviation president and CEO Fred Kaiser said the partnership with Delta has resulted in ongoing and significant development of the airport. "We're proud of having made the progress and we're by no means there as of yet. There's a lot of steps to be taken going forward and this step of the runway reactivation is one of those. We're happy about it because we're making the airport safer, better and increased utilization."
The airport was originally re-activated in 1983, but it wasn't until 1997 that Delta purchased it from Transport Canada for $10. At that time, it already had an operator, the Boundary Bay Airport Corporation.
The relationship between Delta and that company soured to the point where the municipality tried to terminate the lease. Alpha Aviation would eventually take over and its relationship with Delta has been much rosier, to the point where it received a lease extension until 2099.
In 2011, Delta agreed to a request by Alpha to lease lands that don't have direct access to the airport apron or runways for a wider range of users, including warehousing, wholesaling and distribution, as well as business park office uses. The first non-aviation business to set up shop there was BC Fresh.
Alpha Aviation later received a proposal from the Dayhu Group of Companies to construct commercial distribution warehousing. Rather than lease the site on Churchill Street from Alpha, Dayhu requested to purchase the 18.4-hectare (46-acre) parcel from Delta, which was granted after the municipality received permission from Transport Canada.
The land sale generated cash that was divided between Alpha and Delta and the proceeds are going back into airport infrastructure projects.
The airport sees over 200,000 takeoffs and landings every year, making it one of the busiest in Canada. It's home to several aviation operations, including flight training schools and flying clubs.
In 2006, Delta received a provincial grant to extend one of the runways that allowed for small commuter and business traffic. The latest extension project now gives air traffic controllers greater flexibility in managing the traffic.
Jackson also noted ongoing plans for the airport lands include an emergency operations centre, a project that could see construction begin in 2017.