Niagara District Airport continues to develop as a regional player in the aviation industry of Southern Ontario.
Last Thursday, federal transport minister Omar Alghabra was at the airport to announce $1.6 million funding through Transport Canada’s airport capital assistance program to purchase much-needed heavy equipment for safe and successful operations for general aviation, and an increased volume of airport business.
Alghabra spoke to a crowd gathered on the tarmac in front of a business jet and a commercial passenger plane. “The pandemic highlighted the important role Canada’s local and regional airports play in our country’s economy, and in sustaining the social and economic well-being of our communities. In addition to supporting personal travel, local and regional airports are key connectors for business, health care, social services, and emerging resource development sectors,” he said. The investments, he added, will improve safer airport operations.
Niagara District Airport CEO Daniel Pilon said the funding will allow the purchase of a new snowblower, sweeper, loader and snowplow. “Some of the current equipment is quite old, and we anticipate the new vehicles to be operational for the next winter season. We hope there will not be delivery delays due to issues of COVID, yet that seems to still be a factor in vehicle acquisitions.”
The intention, he added, is to purchase equipment within North America.
The funding is in addition to the $470,000 in the capital assistance program funding provided to the airport in May 2021 for the purchase of a medium-sized snowblower.
The equipment will help the airport maintain safe operations for aircraft, passengers, crews and airport workers by keeping airside surfaces, such as runways and taxiways, clear of snow and ice.
Robin Garrett, chair of the Niagara District Airport Commission, said development plans for the airport are progressing with an aim to serve an expanding clientele. She credited the 2016 addition of Greater Toronto Airlines, with passenger service between Niagara and Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, as a major factor in the growth of the airport. “The vision is to expand with further business opportunities, especially since Niagara’s runway is much longer than Billy Bishop’s.”
Alghabra acknowledged other MPs who were in attendance for the announcement, and credited them for working behind the scenes to make the funding grant possible. MP for Niagara Centre, Vance Badawey and Chris Bittle, MP for St. Catharines each spoke of the importance of aviation services to the region.
Following the announcement Garrett was asked if the airport considered other projects for the funding, such as marketing Niagara as a unique destination for tourists. “The criteria for the grant was specific to make capital investments in safety, so for the commission the focus was clear,” she said. “The equipment we’ve identified is needed for critical safe operations of the airport, as we learned this past winter when 55 centimetres of snow closed the airport for the first time. Our staff did a tremendous job, but we could have done better, and this equipment will allow us to do so well into the future.”