Sunday November 23, 2014

Air passenger service may return

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Perimeter Aviation officials were greeted at the local municipal airport by Yorkton dignitaries on a visit to the city last Wednesday

Regularly scheduled passenger air service may be back in Yorkton within a few weeks.

At least that is the hopes of the local Yorkton Airport Authority which has had meetings with Perimeter Aviation, a Winnipeg-based provider.

“It’s a huge, huge, exciting day today,” offered YAA chair Ron Evinou at a press conference at the Yorkton Municipal Airport on the eve of the arrival of a delegation from Perimeter. “… The last four, or five years we’ve been working … getting the airport ready and the community ready … for regularly scheduled service.”

Evinou said working with Perimeter to establish regular service between Yorkton and the Manitoba centre made sense as a first step. He said it was logical to “connect up first with Winnipeg because that opens up the world.”

The YAA met with Perimeter in Winnipeg about a month ago, and airline officials returned the visit last week.

Yorkton Mayor James Wilson said having regularly scheduled service would be a definite benefit to the city noting “the airport is a doorway to Yorkton.” He said Perimeter providing service would “open that doorway … This is a first step that could expand beyond Winnipeg.”

The fact Perimeter is looking at the city “is a reflection on the growth we are experiencing, the times we are in today,” said Wilson.

Evinou said the growth the Mayor spoke of is easy to see.

“You just have to look at what’s happening in hotels,” he said, adding having three hotels under construction means people need rooms. “We need to build more hotels, thats potential passenger traffic for airlines.”

Mark Wehrle, president of Perimeter said Wednesday’s visit was “about possibly reestablishing service here,” noting that the company did fly out of Yorkton in the late ‘70s.

Wehrle said things have changed since the late ‘70s though.

“Certainly the community has grown … and the company (Perimeter) has grown … as well,” he said. “… Things are changing. The dynamics have changed.”

To continue growing Perimeter “is looking for new opportunities,” said its president.

In terms of Yorkton Wehrle said it is a case of determining what service the city needs and how his company might best meet that need, adding local officials “have certainly done a good job of doing their homework,” in terms of providing a case for service.

If Perimeter makes the decision to establish service it could be start immediately. Wehrle said a final decision is likely only a couple of weeks away and service could begin within “the next 30-days.”

As for how the service might operate Wehrle said “it really depends what the demand is.”

Evinou said realistically a start-up schedule would likely be flights three days a week, leaving Yorkton early in the morning, with a return flight the same evening.

While Evinou said he believes Yorkton has grown to need the passenger service, its arrival could also open new avenues of financing work needed at the local airport.

The federal government provides dollars through Airports Capital Assistance Program ACAP, but only to airports having 500 passenger take-offs and landings for three consecutive years via regularly scheduled service, he said.

Locally the long range plans for the Yorkton airport call for $20 million in improvements, said Evinou so ACAP funding could be critical.

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