Villeneuve airport expected to soar over challenger
Proposal for Parkland airport dismissed as a long shot
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 06:00 am
A proposed airport in Parkland County won’t change plans to make Villeneuve into a hub for business and medevac flights, say locals.
Parkland Airport Development Corp. announced earlier this month that it planned to build an airport in Parkland County near Highway 16A and Highway 60 about five minutes west of Edmonton.
The land where the proposed $25-million airport would be developed was recently purchased by an unnamed buyer who has agreed to work with the group.
Villeneuve Airport is an ideal training facility that serves its current market, said Robert Gilgen, president of the Parkland airport group, but neglects the commercial market from City Centre Airport.
“Having a facility much closer to the city would be much more attractive,” he said, “and we would keep a lot more of the flights and businesses that are currently at (City Centre Airport) … really close.”
The City of Edmonton is expected to close the City Centre Airport next year, forcing businesses and users there to move elsewhere. City Centre is used primarily for medevac, corporate and charter flights.
That market is not serviced at the Villeneuve Airport, Gilgen said, and many businesses would have difficulty relocating to Villeneuve due to its distance from Edmonton.
“We found that having that alternative, building a new airport for commercial use, would allow these businesses to move within the correct timeline,” he said, adding that a lot of businesses at City Centre Airport supported the proposal.
The province said last December that it would use Villeneuve Airport as its backup site for medevac flights, with finance minister and Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner saying that the airport would need about $6 million in upgrades as a result.
Gilgen said sending medevac flights to an airport in Parkland County instead of Villeneuve would allow faster access to Edmonton hospitals.
It would be a difference of a few minutes, Horner said in an interview. “For the 80 per cent of the flights coming in on medevac which are scheduled, appointment-type flights, is that a benefit? According to the Health Quality Council (of Alberta), probably not.”
Villeneuve will be 12 minutes from the Sturgeon Community Hospital once the province beefs up the intersection of Hwy. 633 and 44, Horner said, and that hospital is ready to take any emergency cases that fly in. The province planned to stick with Villeneuve as its backup, he said.
Lynda Moffat, who chairs the Villeneuve Airport Joint Task Force, questioned the need for another airport besides Villeneuve, noting that it already had easy access to the Anthony Henday for businesses and the support of Nav Canada (which governs air traffic in Canada).
“It’s all very nice to say, ‘I’m going to build an airport,’ but that’s a little simplistic,” she said. The Parkland proposal would not change any of the task force’s plans to make Villeneuve into a business hub, she added.
Before the Parkland Airport Development Corp. can have its way, it must receive approval from Parkland County, the province and Transport Canada.
Parkland County has not received any formal applications for an airport in the county, said Paul Hanlan, manager of planning and development with Parkland County. “Even if an application did come forward, the referral process, particularly with the federal government, would be a complicated and lengthy process.”
Gilgen said his group planned to put forward a formal proposal for the airport to the county in the near future. If approved by county council, he hoped to start construction next year, with the airport ready before the City Centre one closes.