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Old January 30th, 2011, 07:36 AM   #1
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YYC | Calgary International Airport

A newer airport takes flight
$2-billion expansion will secure Calgary's position as a key global hub
29 January 2011
Calgary Herald

John Rogers spends a lot of time in airports, on the road more than in the city as he shuttles around the globe promoting a growing oilsands company.

With all that frequent flying, he's noticed wait times at the terminal and on the runway getting longer, signs of a straining facility beginning to burst at the seams.

And as the Calgary International Airport starts on its biggest expansion to date -- one of the largest projects in the city's history -- Rogers doesn't think it can come soon enough.

"There's no doubt about it, the terminal has become busier over the years," says Rogers, vice-president of investor relations with MEG Energy. "Almost to the point it seems a little bit overcrowded the way it is.

"It seems at times they're having trouble keeping up with that. They have to get that infrastructure fixed so they can handle more and more flights."

With a massive $2-billion injection the Calgary airport will seek to secure its place as a key global hub, doubling its current size and adding a runway that will boost the number of destinations the city can reach.

It's a project critical to Calgary's future, officials say.

"As the city increasingly becomes a decision-making centre, that connectedness and ability to fly directly to any and every place in the world becomes increasingly important," says Bruce Graham, head of Calgary Economic Development.

On the books for years, the airport expansion gets underway in earnest this spring. By 2015, when it's completed, a new chapter in the airport's history will be ushered in.

Already considered one of the most efficient airports in the country, only Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal host more passengers each year than Calgary. Almost 200,000 flights and 12.5 million passengers passed through the airport last year.

Except for 2009 when the recession slowed travel worldwide, traffic at Calgary's airport has been growing at a rate of about four per cent a year -- and the forecasts show that trend continuing.

Currently, the runways and existing terminal -- which has seemed to live in a constant state of construction over the past two decades, the most recent round in 2004 -- are already at capacity.

"We're going to struggle for the next five years until these new projects come on stream to be able to meet the demand that's going to come at us," Bob Schmitt, vice-president of planning and engineering for the Calgary Airport Authority, said. "We're beyond the point now of incremental expansion."

These plans are anything but incremental. It is, by most accounts, the largest construction project the city has ever seen.

By 2014, a $620-million, fourkilometre runway -- the length from downtown to Chinook mall -- will sit on the east side of the terminal. It will be able to handle the world's largest planes carrying enough fuel to fly directly to distant destinations, and boost the maximum number of flight movements from the existing 250,000 a year to 350,000.

Schmitt says the expansion allows them "beyond 30 years" of capacity.

The runway will enable bigger planes capable of travelling longer distances to fly from here, notes Peter Wallis, CEO of the Van Horne Institute, a transportation think-tank based in Calgary, and former chairman of the airport authority.

For example, the new, longer runway would allow a large plane that now could make a Calgary to Tokyo flight to carry enough fuel to reach Hong Kong.

Asia is the key area Calgary hopes to target with any new flights, capitalizing on a new tourism market in China and building further trade links.

"The plan, of course, is to attract more flights from Asia into Calgary," Wallis added, pointing to Korea and Japan. "The other points in Asia which would be logical would be points in China, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

"This longer runway will certainly facilitate that kind of operation."

Right now, the airport has its hands full with the flights already coming in.

According to NAV Canada, which runs the control tower, during the main rush hours -- typically 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. -- a plane takes off or lands every minute.

With more planes than space, in good weather there can be arrival delays of up to 45 minutes and departure lags of 15.

As well, the existing three runways intersect, meaning only one can be used at a time. The new parallel north-south runway will offer another option for air traffic controllers -- who will monitor all four runways from a new, taller tower being built south of the terminal buildings -- allowing two flights to take off or land at the same time.

New airlines would like to fly into Calgary, and those already here might like to add routes. But the airport authority says there is simply no room unless they use the less popular time slots.

Schmitt says they are seeing about five peaks each day, each lasting at least two hours.

"We're busy all the time and at the peaks we're even busier," he added.

While U.S. and international flights make up 30 per cent of airport traffic, it's the sector with the most potential for growth. The surge of passengers using customs has forced the facility to implement a two-hour window, limiting when travellers can go through.

With the new international terminal, being built at a cost of $1.4 billion and ready by 2015, all flights beyond Canada will be handled in the 22-gate building, which can be expanded to almost 40 gates.

The 34 gates in the existing building will handle in-Canada flights.

Already crews are relocating Jazz from the eastern end of the terminal to get ready for the construction on that side of the building. They are also moving sewer, water, gas, electricity and telecom lines -- at a cost of $130 million -- to prepare the site for the four years of construction that will follow.

More than 7.5 million cubic metres of dirt will be moved, 500,000 cubic metres of gravel and 260,000 cubic metres of concrete will be used -- and that's just for the runway.

The 1.5 million cubic metres of dirt dug out for the 183,500 square-metre, five-level terminal building will be used for the runway project.

Schmitt says because all the construction is taking place on the eastern edge of the airport, there should be "minimal impact on the travelling public" -- although the access from Barlow Trail to the south will close in April.

In March, the airport improvement fees -- levied on passengers departing from Calgary, about 35 per cent of those using the airport -- rises by $3 to $25 to help pay for the new infrastructure. The airport authority's debt load will also increase because of the project.

While the federal government helped pay for parallel runways at the Vancouver and Toronto airports, the airport authority said, it has to fund the $620 million for 16L/34R on its own.

Airlines are also chafing at the growing delays.

Gregg Saretsky, CEO of Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd, believes the new runway is desperately needed, citing daily examples where flights are "15 or 20 minutes delayed because of inadequate air space. The second runway fixes that."

However, he is concerned about the cost of the projects.

"It's a question of whether or not the way it is all being built is the most cost-effective. The same thing with the new international transport facility. We have a difference of opinion. I think the airport authority believes that they're being frugal. It's just a question of degree," he said during an interview last month. "I think that just making sure that we're taking out any of the excess, any of the showpieces from the terminal building.

"And in a way that provides capacity just in time. It doesn't mean all those gates have to be built out at the same time."

Schmitt points out the airline consultative committee WestJet sits on endorsed the expansion plans and that the new terminal has to open all at once since the entire customs complex will be moved from one building to the next overnight.

The most controversial part of the airport's expansion plans has been the closing of Barlow Trail this spring -- the new runway's taxiway will be built on top of it -- and debate over whether a tunnel is needed to accommodate an east-west extension of Airport Trail.

The airport authority has said it won't put money toward the tunnel, although it's contributing to road improvements to better take traffic around, and the provincial and federal governments have declined to chip in.

City council has asked for a new report outlining the proposed cost of the tunnel (other estimates have ranged wildly, some above $500 million). However, the city has no specific budget for the project.

The city has tried arguing that extending Airport Trail makes economic sense, especially for moving goods.

The changes will also help bolster another often-unseen part of the airport's growing traffic -- cargo.

The amount of cargo moving through the airport has been on the rise, with the goods being shipped hitting 134,000 tonnes in 2007, more than double what was moving through less than a decade earlier.

The only Canadian city with around-the-clock air cargo to Asia and Europe, the Calgary airport is also developing its newest trade park, Deerfoot North. It will also get back the land on the west side of the airport that the current NAV Canada tower now sits on.

"Imagine what the airport will look like in 2015," Van Horne's Wallis says. "It will be a much busier airport, with the potential for carriers flying directly from Asia. It will be a very bright, pleasing, friendly space.

"It will be a much more efficient airport."

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- - -

Gigantic numbers for giant projects

$2.05 billion

Budgeted cost of the new runway and international terminal.

4.2 kilometres

Length of the new runway, about the distance from downtown to Chinook mall. It will be Canada's longest runway. The runway will be 61 metres wide, almost the width of a football field.


Cubic metres of concrete, about as much as the 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Centre, the tallest building in China.


Lights for the runway and taxiway.

10 million

Litres of rainwater (estimated) falling on the terminal buildings will be recycled each year.

660 kilometres

In-floor radiant heating tubes will be installed in the terminal.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 03:45 PM   #2
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Charter airlines set to take off as economy improves
Local firms add planes, staff in anticipation of better business

Calgary Herald
12 April 2011

Charter airlines in the city are adding planes and staff as the economy starts to stabilize and businesses once again take to the skies.

That investment is an optimistic sign, says aviation consultant Rick Erickson.

"Charter groups are the first to feel the chill in an economic downturn and the last to respond," Erickson, with RP Erickson & Associates, said. "The market remains relatively buoyant certainly compared to 18 and 24 months ago."

Bill Houghton, general manager of Calgary-based Regional 1 Airlines, said they have recently added two Canadair Regional Jets (CRJs) to their fleet and upped their staff size by about a third to capitalize on the upswing.

One of the new planes is being modified as a corporate shuttle, Houghton said, with fewer seats and those remaining replaced by La-Z Boy chairs. "But it's not going to boom like it did in 2005, when the oilsands went nuts," he cautioned. "When you're talking contracts now, you've got to sharpen your pencil."

Regional 1, which started life as a scheduled service in 2003, reconfigured itself as a charter company specializing in contracts rather than day-to-day hires. In the 2008 downturn it laid off some people, until a UN contract that continues allowed it to bring back everyone a few months later.

Now it has added the two planes to bring its fleet to seven -two of which are overseas in Afghanistan and Pakistan with supplied crews -and increased its overall staff to about 40, including a new business development manager.

The more diversified Sunwest Aviation has also been building, adding four aircraft this year to increase its fleet to 41, including an additional air ambulance, and hiring another 18 people to bring the payroll to 224.

"Our business is definitely on a growth trend," said Ian Darnley, Sunwest's director of business development. "Over the last six months we've had steady growth.

"It's being driven by growth in charter demand across the full spectrum of operations we do."

While flying crews and their gear into the oilpatch remained more consistent over the past few years, both Regional 1 and Sunwest say, more discretionary travel took a bigger hit over the past couple of years. It's that market Regional 1 will try to capture with its revamped CRJ, while Sunwest's Darnley said the traffic in that executive sector has been increasing over the past six months.

"We're seeing increased activity," Erickson said, adding Canada has an abundance of aviation resources. "When times get better, they're very quick and quite nimble to respond. There's this pool of talent in the country, skilled workers, that can be fairly quickly harnessed and put into play. So that's exactly what's happening."
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