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Airport in Salmon Arm to recertify in order to keep providing medevac for region

Changes required to keep ‘certified’ status which allows scheduled flights would cost millions
A medevac helicopter lands at the Shuswap Regional Airport in Salmon Arm in 2017. (File photo)

In order to keep accommodating medevac flights, the Shuswap Regional Airport in Salmon Arm is recertifying.

It is being decertified from a certified aerodrome to a registered aerodrome. The difference means the Salmon Arm airport is not permitted to operate scheduled flights. The last scheduled airline flying out of Salmon Arm was Shuswap Air, which stopped around 2005.

In order to continue as a certified aerodrome, the airport would have had to comply with all Transport Canada regulations and safety standards which govern larger airports such as Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary and Toronto, said Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works.

“Because of our unique location it would be very difficult for us to get a scheduled service and it would cost significant dollars for us to comply with all of the regulations, so the decision was made by council and supported by the Airport Commission to revert back to a registered aerodrome,” he said.

As a registered aerodrome, it does not lose any functions as an airport, Niewenhuizen said. Medevac flights, BC Wildfire Service, Rapattack, RCMP, Search & Rescue and charter and courier flights will still be able to land in Salmon Arm.

Following an audit and the tightening of regulations, in June the landing lights at the Salmon Arm airport had to be turned off at night, preventing night landings.

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Coun. Chad Eliason, the city’s representative on the Shuswap Regional Airport Committee, estimated the changes required to retain the ‘certified aerodrome’ status would have cost five to 10 million dollars and could have affected adjacent property, possibly including holes on the golf course.

“We made this decision for residents of the region,” Eliason said, pointing out that communities throughout the Shuswap rely on the airport’s medevac capabilities. “We made the decision to make sure we were open for medevac. We’re still going to proceed with doing as many things (upgrades) as we can… We will have all of the same capabilities and safety standards.”

He also said skydiving and the shipment of parts for industry won’t be affected by the recertification.

Most of the airport’s revenue comes from selling fuel for firefighting, Eliason added.

Mayor Alan Harrison reiterated that ensuring medevac and fire suppression airplanes are able to access the airport safely is council’s priority.

“It is especially important that medevac can land 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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