Sault Airport management wants your inputWednesday, October 23, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation (SSMADC) CEO Terry Bos and SSMADC Board Chair Jerry Dolcetti (pictured) held an open house at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre Tuesday evening to gather public input as the Corporation draws up its new master land use and business plan.
The SSMADC has been working with aviation and airport consultants over the last five months, gathering data from airlines and tenants who use the Airport property, to help the Airport plan for future infrastructure projects and expand its range of services over the next 20 years.
Sault Ste. Marie Airport management is also urging the public to offer feedback and suggestions by clicking on to www.saultairport.com/survey
The survey has been running since October 1 and ends Friday October 25.
There have been 565 respondents to the online survey so far, but Airport officials want more.
Dolcetti told SooToday.com: “We could use at least another 400 respondents. The numbers give us, statistically, some real information that we can base a lot of decisions on.”
Dolcetti said: “Within the next five years we would like to increase our number of passengers to 200,000, provide additional charter services to new destinations, and to really offer a choice for people in communities like Wawa and Elliot Lake to make it a true regional airport.”
Though the online survey is not over until Friday, Bos told us: “We’ve seen some of the raw data and it’s concerning to see leakage, which is people from Sault Ste. Marie flying to places like Las Vegas out of other airports like Flint and Detroit.”
In an effort to compete with cheaper flights to certain destinations from U.S. airports, Dolcetti said: “What we have to do is see how we can create an environment where people can fly from Sault Ste. Marie to places like Las Vegas and Florida directly.”
“We did the same thing with our charter service to Cuba and Punta Cana, for example, and that’s been very successful.”
“People are going to their destinations by flying from airports in the States…it’s price sensitive, no doubt about it, so we’re hoping the study will give us a sense of direction.”
Bos told us he would like to see the federal government make cuts in aviation taxes and fees to help Sault Ste. Marie Airport compete with U.S. airports.
Both Dolcetti and Bos added they remain hopeful WestJet will join Sault Ste. Marie Airport’s list of tenant airlines, offering direct flights from the Sault to Winnipeg for example, as the number of passengers passing through the local airport grows.
“We’re confident we’ll make that 200,000 level in five years, but we’ll have to market ourselves as an airport and as a community.”
“We’ve shown that we can attract people here for conventions and sporting events, like the CARHA hockey tournament,” Dolcetti said.
The SSMADC’s new master land use and business plan is expected to be finalized by March 2014.
Aviotec Managing Director John Dejak, of Mississauga, Ontario, a consultant who has been working with the SSMADC, told SooToday.com: “It (the Sault Airport) has a good, large land base and very good infrastructure in terms of runways.”
“The infrastructure that is here is exceptional in terms of what they can do with it.”
The Airport has a 733 hectare (1,812 acre) land base, described as “quite sizable for a regional airport.”
The facility has two runways, each of them 6,000 feet long and 200 feet wide.
Nevertheless, a significant expenditure of over $14 million will have to be made in the near future, Dejak told us.
“They’re going into a cycle now where facilities will need to be updated between 2014 and 2018.”
A new baggage carousel will soon be operational and a sometimes-congested terminal will have to be reconfigured.
The Sault Ste. Marie Airport was opened by Transport Canada in 1961.
Ownership and operation of the Airport was transferred to the SSMADC in 1998, and the facility’s first master plan was implemented in 2000.
After achieving financial self-sufficiency in 2008, the Airport attracted a third carrier (Porter) in addition to Air Canada Express and Bearskin, and also surpassed the 185,000-passenger threshold in 2012.
Tenants of the SSMADC property include an Ontario MNR hangar, a Sault College Aviation program hangar, a maintenance hangar operated by JD Aero, Sault Aviation and Eagle Feather Aviation.