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HomeNewsInternational shortage of pilots could save Kawartha Lakes Municipal Airport

International shortage of pilots could save Kawartha Lakes Municipal Airport

City of Kawartha Lakes council is looking at four options when it comes to the Municipal Airport, one of them is closure. It’s part of the City’s Core Services Review launches two years ago.

Councillors heard from Brenda Stonehouse, Strategy and Performance Specialist and members of the board of directors of the airport at Tuesday’s council meeting. Councillors were told that the airport is almost breaking even with revenues of 346,288.87and expenses totalling $ 407,541.74 last year. That means the facility lost more than $60,000 in 2016. Over the last seven years the airport has been in the red every year, although some years it’s a minimal amount. Ornge, the OPP and the Military all use the airport.

There are 36 resident aircraft in hangars or on ramp in Lindsay paying monthly rent at the airport along with a restaurant, flight school and hangar tenant. It’s staffed five days a week with one full time and one part time employee however the airport is operational and terminal and fuel accessible 24 hours a day.

According to a study done in 2006, 74% of Municipal Airports are not self sustaining. There has been no more recent data released.

The four options for the airport include keeping the status quo, investing in new growth, leasing the airport to a private company or closing the airport.

The status quo would mean maintaining current service levels and continuing to operate at a near break even level while marketing to attract new business. Council heard that attracting new business is a very real possibility with an international shortage of pilots. The board hopes to be able to take advantage of the situation and say they expect to bring in two new international flight training academies. One potential tenant they say they are keeping in constant contact with.

Boeing and Airbus have forecasted the need for as many as 617,000 new pilots by 2035. International pilots are said to be flying 20-25 percent more hours per month and per year than they did even 10 years ago according to Pilot Career Centre. With airlines announcing new routes and fewer pilots entering the field every year it’s seen as a growing market.

Officials said there are risks to keeping the status quo. There is a lot of upkeep involved due to aging infrastructure and it’s difficult to find financing. Without spending the money to upgrade the facility some tenants could be lost.  It would take capital investments of $5-8 million over the next 5 – 10 years.

However council heard there are economic benefits to having an airport in the community such as brining in people from out of town and news business opportunities.

Closing the airport could prove costly as well in the short term. There would be costs to decommission buildings, well and septic and realty costs if the property is sold. Stonehouse said the property not well suited for development, it’s outside a settlement area on a flood plain and designated as an airport. The three businesses at the site would also have to close. And then there’s the impact to tourism if the airport was no longer accessible.

Leasing the Airport out would provide financial benefit to City if capital is covered by lessee and would retains the airport within the community however the board says it would be difficult to find third party interested in taking on the investment in infrastructure and the city may have to continue with some capital support.

Next there will be a more detail report brought to council outlining the options and making recommendations for moving forward.

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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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