More than two years ago, the idea of Pacific Coastal Airlines moving its maintenance facilities to Powell River was first unveiled. Since then, little has happened with regard to the move, but that may be about to change.
Mayor Dave Formosa held a press conference on October 18, 2014, and told the public about a number of potential business deals that would bring millions of dollars of investment if they were finalized. One of those deals was the concept of Pacific Coastal shrinking its footprint at Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal and opening an aircraft maintenance and overhaul facility at Powell River Airport, either on its own or in a partnership with another company.
While that has not happened exactly as the mayor saw it unfolding at the time, it is not something he has given up on either.
Pacific Coastal president Quentin Smith remarked about how the mayor always makes it a point to ask him when he is going to pull the trigger on that idea.
“It’s not a dead issue,” said Smith. “It just hasn’t been top of the pile, but we need to start focusing on it more now.”
Formosa said he has tried to keep bringing the issue up as he continues with talks about airport development. He said he is confident the move will happen and it will kickstart more activity.
“That’s what we’re intending and for this to be our anchor,” said Formosa.
Smith said the Vancouver airport’s lease does not expire until spring 2019 and the only way the company could move before then is to sublease its space.
Even if the airline moves its operations, it would still keep a presence at the hub airport, he said.
“One of our challenges is that not all of our employees will move to Powell River,” said Smith. “A lot would though.”
Smith, who currently lives in Powell River, said he plans to work with the city’s resident-attraction program to sell the idea of living here.
The move would take at least two years to design and implement, which means as the new year approaches so too does the need to take steps, he said.
Smith said operating out of Vancouver is expensive and attracting employees who live outside of Vancouver is difficult for the airline. He added the idea of developing an aircraft overhaul facility is just a concept, but he said he would build a facility to serve his company and to be available for other carriers.
The facility would include avionics, paint, mechanical and upholstery and create a number of full-time trade jobs in Powell River.
Smith said it was already common for airlines to use facilities in a number of more remote locations. He explained that places where land and taxes are less expensive help smaller operators become more competitive.
He added that the current foreign exchange rate is favourable for Canadian aviation maintenance companies that are able to work on American aircraft.