Seaplane terminal plans move ahead


Black Press

A network of seaplane operators is moving forward with its bid for a co-operative, non-profit terminal in Vancouver after a slate of successful meetings with other stakeholders last month.

Eight companies acting together as the Vancouver Commercial Seaplane Operators’ Association met with the mayors of Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo and with Port Metro Vancouver to oppose a $22-million private facility and raise support for their alternative non-profit model.

Salt Spring Air representative Philip Reece said the series of mayoral meetings had produced positive results.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson proved willing to entertain the idea of an air transportation hub that would connect with public transit through Waterfront Station.

The mayors of Victoria and Nanaimo voiced concern about the cost to passengers if a new private terminal proceeds, Reece said. The terminal is projected to add $24 to the cost of a round-trip floatplane ticket, with no end date attached.

Harbour Air spokesman Randy Wright said jurisdictions outside of Vancouver are realizing the possible effects of the plan.

Concerns include fears the price increase could cause a significant loss to the tourist industry, as many tour groups book packages by volume.

Government workers and corporate officers also frequently use floatplanes to travel between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

“We are very concerned in the floatplane business that if the [planned development] goes through, the $24 surcharge will have a big impact on customers,” Wright said.

The seplane association addressed a different set of issues at a meeting with Port Metro Vancouver. The government body responsible for the port said it has safety concerns about the association’s proposal due to the amount of traffic already existing in the group’s preferred location to the east of the Seabus terminal.

Reece said his group discussed some of those issues with port officials, who allowed an application process to be started.

“Overall we were happy to get the process started and it filled us with confidence that there is a process to get through,” he said. “It wasn’t just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

One of the steps that VCSOA proposed is to have an independent third body conduct a safety review of the area.

Reece is confident the results will be satisfactory, however, since the Seabus operators have said they do not have an issue with floatplanes crossing their route. Reece could not say how long the entire process might take.

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