Air Canada shoots down Kootenay MP's idea to improve reliability at West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar
High expectations quickly turned to harsh reality for BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko and Kootenay/Columbia rep David Wilks following a meeting Wednesday with Air Canada officials.
The two Kootenay MPs met with Air Canada VP Government Affairs, Industry and Corporate Strategy Derek Vanstone to discuss the future of the West Kootenay Airport in Castlegar.
The meeting was to lobby the national carrier to make a few changes to improve the reliability of the airport in Castlegar during winter month when less-than-favourable weather cancels flights more often than not.
However, the efforts by Atamanenko and Wilks crashed before takeoff as Air Canada told the pair their idea wouldn’t fly.
“David and I were told yesterday that (Air Canada) needs a developed RNP system for departure as well as for landing before they will even consider send their Q400 to Castlegar,” Atamanenko explained.
Atamanenko quickly put in a call to Michelle Bishop of NAV Canada, who confirmed that there is no departure procedure currently being developed.
The two sitting MPs were meeting on behalf of mayors, MLAs and community leaders from the West Kootenay area.
The pair brought letters of support from John Malcolm, CAO – City of Castlegar, Mayor Debra Kozak – City of Nelson, Ed Olthof – President Nelson – District Chamber of Commerce and Tammy Verigin-Burk – Director Castlegar – District Chamber of Commerce and Katrine Conroy, MLA.
Currently, Dash-8s servicing the airport require a minimum of 3,400-foot cloud ceilings and three miles visibility.
The two MPs had hoped Air Canada would support the bringing the Q400 aircraft in to increase landing reliability during the winter months by reducing the required minimums to 1,500-foot cloud ceilings. The Q400 planes would work in conjuction with a new RNP approach designed for NAV Canada by Jeppesen.
The Bombardier Q400, or Dash 8, is widely used for short-haul flights due to its fuel efficiencies over regional jets.
However, according to Air Canada, it’s not that easy.
“Mr. Vanstone also stated that even if such a system were available to Castlegar, there is no guarantee that Air Canada would fly their Q400s into our airport,” Atamanenko said.
“Prior to training their pilots, (Air Canada) would require a number of airports across Canada to have this system. Just how many, they cannot say at this point in time.”
Atamanenko was hopeful the new technology and a voice from the sitting Conservative government joining the meeting might sway Air Canada into helping the curtail the numerous flight cancelations plaguing the West Kootenay Regional Airport duing the winter months.
“I appreciate David Wilks’ cooperation on this file,” Atamanenko said.
“We both felt it would send a stronger message if both government and the Official Opposition were at the meeting.”
Atamanenko said he hopes to host a future meeting with both Air Canada and NAV Canada sitting at the table.
However, until the technology improves, the sitting NDP member for BC Southern Interior doesn’t know what that meeting would accomplish.
For now, it’s back to the drawing board for the movers and shakers at the West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar — and more frustration for the many a stranded passenger sitting in the security lounge waiting to see if the Air Canada flight will land.