Old man winter will now have a harder time landing at Nanaimo Airport, thanks to a federal grant allowing the purchase of a $135,753 snow plow truck.
The purchase will mean self-sufficiency for runway maintenance staff and improved reliability for passengers during the winter months, says Nanaimo Airport Commission president and CEO Mike Hooper.
“Reliability is critical for our passengers, and in order to maintain reliability under snow and ice conditions, we need to remove the snow and eliminate the ice, and this equipment will allow us to do that consistently and sooner,” he said. “By having this additional equipment … if we have a breakdown, we can keep going and keep the airport open under most weather conditions.”
The funding comes from the Airports Capital Assistance Program, which also helped Nanaimo Airport with the purchase of snow removal equipment about two years ago.
Currently, during adverse conditions, the unit is used alongside contractors that are brought in to help deal with the workload. The new snow plow truck, which is expected to arrive within the next 12 months, is larger and is expected to eliminate the need for contracting out those services.
“By going to two pieces of equipment, we’re starting the fleet here to clear the runway a lot quicker,” said Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney, who made the funding announcement Friday. “We don’t like to talk about snow here a lot in Nanaimo; we don’t get it all that often and we’re glad for that, but when it happens, we have to make sure that the runway is clear to receive our flights coming and going.”
Hooper said 2011 was a record year for ridership at the airport, going up 14 per cent in the last 18 months. Reliability in the winter months, which has seen a jump to 99 per cent from 74 per cent, has played a big part in that, he said.
Add to that significant improvements that have been made to the airport in the last three years, including a new passenger terminal, landing system, high-intensity lights and a runway expansion.
“This expansion of the airport was one of my personal commitments to help keep business going in Nanaimo …” Lunney said. “We want to make sure Nanaimo secures and maintains its reputation as the hub city.”