Helijet eyes Nanaimo skies

A new helicopter service would offer 18-minute commute between downtown Vancouver and Nanaimo.

A Helijet ’copter prepares for takeoff outside the Nanaimo Port Authority building. The company hopes to start service in the city by year’s end.

A Helijet ’copter prepares for takeoff outside the Nanaimo Port Authority building. The company hopes to start service in the city by year’s end.

A new air travel service is looking to land in the Harbour City.

Helijet has announced it’s in the process of establishing a seasonal helicopter service between downtown Vancouver and Nanaimo, which it hopes to see take off by the end of the year.

The 18-minute flight would be Helijet’s second scheduled route to Vancouver Island, following Victoria, and would operate in the fall and winter.

An approval in principle has been inked with the Nanaimo Port Authority to operate Helijet from the cruise ship terminal, making it a neighbour to the potential fast passenger ferry.

According to Rick Hill, Helijet’s vice-president of commercial and business programs, the company has looked at this new service for a few years and believes it can offer something different to commuters.

“We think that there are more business people looking to get back and forth and do it quickly and maybe wanting to fly at 7 o’clock in the morning, in the dark, in the winter, when float planes can’t operate,” Hill said, adding helicopters have the ability to do just that.

“We just believe that with things that are developing on the Island, the possibility of these new hotels going up, more convention business, it’s just a good thing for us to look at.”

A press release for Helijet says it will offer complimentary all-day vehicle parking for Nanaimo passengers and that free ground shuttle service to downtown locations will be available. It will be looking to operate out of the cruise ship facility, but would build a heliport at the site.

It is unknown the exact date the service would start, which the company says is dependent on approvals and there is no exact cost for fares. Hill said it would be less than the 32-minute service to Victoria, which runs at $275-300 one way during the fall and winter.

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