The importance of the new instrument landing system (ILS) at the Stephenville airport cannot be emphasized enough, according to Mayor Tom Rose.
He said at the regular general meeting of Stephenville town council on Thursday that the announcement by Nav Canada this week it is installing the new system at the airport is fantastic news.
“Critical, critical, critical,” were the words he used to describe it.
After the meeting, he said the instrument landing system is so valuable to the airport that not replacing it would have resulted in shutting down the airport.
Rose said that during a regional meeting held recently with mayors and council designates from communities from Burgeo and Port aux Basques to the Port au Port Peninsula, one of the topics discussed was travel.
“There was great support for Stephenville airport at that meeting and the need for more service through the facility was discussed,” he said.
Rose said the airport authority, the town council and communities in the region all need to work together to generate more domestic flights into Stephenville.
He said the airport can’t continue operating with only 7,000 passengers a year, which compares to the amount of passengers going through Deer Lake airport in a week.
“We have to go after one extra flight at a time to compliment the service that’s already being provided by PAL, Porter and Sunwing,” Rose said.
He said that during the regional meeting, representatives said they don’t like passing by Stephenville airport and dealing with winter weather nearly six months of the year and six months of moose.
Port aux Basques Mayor John Spencer said he’s a strong supporter of having more flights at the Stephenville airport, especially since people from his town have to travel three hours to Deer Lake airport, whereas that could be cut in half to Stephenville.
Spencer said Port aux Basques has a lot of Great Lakes and Western Canada workers who have to drive to Deer Lake or stay in a hotel there overnight for flights in the wee hours of the morning.
“There’s a lot of extra time and expense, along with hazardous driving associated with that,” Spencer said.
He said Deer Lake is getting well over 300,000 travellers a year, which is great for them, but he would be proud of Stephenville airport too if it was able to get more flights.
Rose said for all the reasons that people fly, from health care, business, tourism and more, there is a need to get the Stephenville airport more active and a place where people can fly out of on a daily basis.
He said the Canadian airline business is not regulated, so there is no reason why the town council and supporters can’t go after more flights for the airport.