Mike Hooper, Nanaimo Airport president and chief executive officer, will retire in June 2020. (NEWS BULLETIN file photo)

Mike Hooper, Nanaimo Airport president and chief executive officer, will retire in June 2020. (NEWS BULLETIN file photo)

Nanaimo Airport CEO retiring next year

Mike Hooper to leave his position in June

The man at the helm of Nanaimo Airport is taking off.

Mike Hooper will be retiring from his role as president and chief executive officer with the Nanaimo Airport (YCD) in June 2020.

Hooper told the News Bulletin that after 14 years, the time to move on has come.

“Most CEOs are in place for about eight years, I’ve been here for 14 years and I think it is a really healthy thing to do for an organization, to bring in new perspectives,” he said.

Under Hooper’s leadership, the Nanaimo Airport has experienced significant growth in passenger numbers and is now the second-busiest airport on Vancouver Island, having handled 435,349 passengers in 2018. Since 2016, the Nanaimo airport has handled more than 1.2 million passengers. Between 2006 and 2011, the total number of passengers the airport handled was 930,000.

“From 2008 to 2019 it was 235 per cent growth…” Hooper said. “It is a substantial amount of growth and because of that we are generating more jobs and money is coming into the economy, direct and indirect, $486 million per year,” Hooper said.

RELATED: Nanaimo Airport soars past Comox to become second-busiest airport on the Island

RELATED: Federal money allows upgrade to runway reporting technology

The Nanaimo Airport has also undergone an array of upgrades and improvements during Hooper’s time, with the extension of the runway, installation of an instrument landing system, new lighting and electronic runway condition reporting systems as well as an expanded fire hall. The terminal building was also expanded in 2012 and is currently undergoing the first phase of a $55-million expansion.

“It’s just a continuous improvement process,” Hooper said.

When Hooper took the job in 2006, Air Canada was the main passenger airline serving the airport.

Today, WestJet operates non-stop flights to Calgary and Vancouver while Air North operates passenger service to the Yukon via Kelowna and Prince George. Air Canada has also offered non-stop service to Toronto on a seasonal basis for the past two years and other operators such as FedEx and Alkan Air have made Nanaimo a part of their operations.

Hooper said he’s proud that the airport is able to offer better and more reliable services to the community than it did 14 years ago.

“Now that we deliver reliably to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, it really helps the people in our region to travel more seamlessly and because we have a number of carriers offering products, we’ve also brought the price down,” he said.

RELATED: WestJet Encore marks five years, encouraged by Nanaimo route’s numbers

RELATED: Air Canada announces non-stop seasonal service from Nanaimo to Toronto

While the airport has grown, Hooper said it wasn’t without challenges. He said one biggest challenges for him was when the airport decided to expand the runway to its current length of 6,602 feet.

“We had to extend the runway in the sense that it was 5,000 feet but Transport Canada took 1,000 feet away because there were trees in the flight path,” he said.

However, extending the runway also meant the removal of hundreds of trees, which Hooper said, was problematic because of where they were located.

“The very first challenge we addressed was removing 250 logging truck loads of trees from 23 properties without having the legal right to go on the properties,” he said. “We managed to get that done that in six months. It was a very interesting project.”

At the end of the day, Hooper said he’s confident about the Nanaimo Airport’s long-term future, explaining that the airport has a 20-year master plan that envisions additional development. He also said he’s really proud of the “solid team” of employees and is thankful to all the volunteers at the airport.

“We have a really good culture on site and the campus of the full group, whether it is the Nanaimo Flying Club, the air carriers, the flight service station, the regulators, everybody works really well as a team,” Hooper said. It’s very powerful if you can have that kind of culture go across the different groups.”

For Hooper personally, he said his future will likely involve some consulting work.

“I might take another project on or full-time gig,” he said. “I am going to look at it carefully. It will probably be a mix of consulting and sitting on boards.”

RELATED: Construction set to begin on Nanaimo airport terminal expansion

RELATED: Regional District of Nanaimo facilitating development of airport lands







nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com 
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Nanaimo will further investigate an initiative to set up two 12-cabin sites to create transitional emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness. (Black Press file photo)
City of Nanaimo will ask for expressions of interest to operate tiny cabin sites

Staff expresses concern about workload, councillor says sheltering people must take priority

Capt. Alan Millbank, head of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s Fire and Loss Prevention Division, takes photos of the scene of a blaze that heavily damaged two apartments on Wakesiah Avenue on Sunday, April 18. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
RCMP, Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigating suspicious apartment blaze

Fire destroyed ground-floor apartment, spread to second storey at Wakesiah Avenue complex

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations with RV hook-ups

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help them find a 16-year-old who has been missing since Sunday. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: 16-year-old Nanaimo boy located safe

Teen had been reported missing last week and it was thought he may have left town

Capt. Alan Millbank, head of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s Fire and Loss Prevention Division, takes photos of the scene of a blaze that heavily damaged two apartments on Wakesiah Avenue on Sunday, April 18. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
RCMP, Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigating suspicious apartment blaze

Fire destroyed ground-floor apartment, spread to second storey at Wakesiah Avenue complex

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future finally surfaces at Royal B.C. Museum

Museum dives into the world of the killer whale as delayed feature exhibition now open

Polystyrene has been outlawed as a take-out option for restaurants in Tofino and Ucluelet. (Black Press Media file photo)
Styrofoam done as a takeout option on Island’s Pacific Rim

Tofino and Ucluelet ban polystyrene take-out containers

The City of Nanaimo’s finance and audit committee has recommended spending $200,000 from reserves on a feasibility study and conceptual designs for a community centre in the south end. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo will study options for south-end community centre

Finance committee recommends spending $200,000 from reserves for feasibility study and concept plans

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Nanaimo NightOwls. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo NightOwls cancel season due to COVID-19

Baseball team’s inaugural season in West Coast League will have to wait until 2022

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Most Read