Looking up to the skies at the future, Lac La Biche County council has passed their airport masterplan at last Tuesday’s meeting.
The document covers what the council should consider for short to long-term plans for the airport, located just 10 minutes west of Lac La Biche.
The county owns the airport and the annual cost to the municipality for the last five years has been between $1,300 and $32,000, which spurred ideas for growth in years to come.
“Right now, what we pay in there is very low,” said Mayor Omer Moghrabi on The Day After Debrief.
“So the county is doing some very future thinking on that. I want to reassure everybody, we’re not going to spend a few million dollars now right now. We just want to be able to make sure that the tarmac’s good, make sure we maintain maintenance. And if we have to extend our airport, there is the plan.”
Stantec’s report said the airport is in generally good condition and has been well maintained. The runway, taxiway and apron pavements were last resurfaced in 2012, and the pavements have been holding up well, the masterplan said.
The Lac La Biche Airport has a single asphalt runway, Runway 11-29, that is 1,250m long x 45m wide taxiway, and a small aircraft apron. The asphalt is in fair to good condition, with light to moderate cracking.
The airport pavements will require rehabilitation with resurfacing and crack repairs in the medium to long-term, depending on the amount of wear and tear, and aircraft movements, particularly by heavier and high-tire pressure aircraft.
The airport has a modern LED runway and taxiway edge lights and new approach lights (ODALs) were planned for installation in 2020. The pavements and visual aids are new and maintained to meet standards.
The report indicated opportunities for more flights and passengers as potential growth from recovery in resource sectors, energy and forestry, and growing regional tourism.
However, threats include a slow provincial economy making capital and operating funds tight, COVID-19 slowing economic activity, and other regional Alberta airports dominating regional aviation services and demand.
Alberta Health Services makes regular use of the Lac La Biche Airport. These flights are typically performed by Beechcraft King Air Aircraft.
There is a also large Ministry of Forests aerial tanker base at the Lac La Biche Airport; a fleet of Air Tractor water bombers, Cessna Bird Dog fire spotter, and a number of contract rotary-wing operators are based at the airport.
“Our airport is quite crucial in terms of a bomber base, and during the heightened time of the oil and gas, it was crucial,” said Moghrabi.
“We’ve always had an airport. We own it, so we want to know, we want to do something where you got some asset management, what do we have to do to improve?
“Do we put in more hangers? Do we put stalls? When you do that? Well, to do that–you can’t say we build them, they’ll come up–there has to be some money coming in.”
Moghrabi said this plan will guide future spending on the airport.