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Texada loses scheduled flights

Regional district and airline apply for authorization to restore service
Laura Walz

UPDATED: Texada Island residents lost scheduled service at the airport on Friday, October 4, with no notice or communication. Transport Canada issued a notice in the morning advising KD Air that it could not continue scheduled flights to and from Texada.

Civil aviation regulations require that all scheduled commercial air services be carried out from certified airports, according to a statement from Jillian Glover, Transport Canada’s regional communications advisor. “KD Air may continue to operate into Texada Island airport on a charter basis,” Glover said. “All other flight operations (general aviation, charter, medevac, et cetera) are unaffected by this certificate’s surrender.”

Powell River Regional District, the owner and operator of Texada airport, voluntarily surrendered the airport’s certification to Transport Canada on Friday, September 27.

Lars Banke, KD Air co-owner and chief pilot, said his company was not notified that it wouldn’t be allowed to provide scheduled service to Texada. “Until we read a NOTAM [Notice to Airmen] on Friday, we didn’t know any better.”

Later that day, Banke flew down to Vancouver along with Al Radke, the regional district’s chief administrative officer, to meet with Transport Canada officials. They were told they would have to apply for an authorization to use a registered airport for scheduled service, Banke said. “The goal is for an equivalent level of safety, and how we achieve that, between an airport operator and an airline,” he said.

Transport Canada did not give him a timeframe for how long it would take to approve the application once it was submitted, Banke said. “I was led to believe it was a day or so to fill out the form, but it’s not,” he said. “It leaves an ongoing responsibility for the air carrier that we didn’t use to have.”

He doesn’t know if that’s better in the end, Banke added. “I was very surprised and not ready, none of us were ready, to deal with this, without notice. There was no indication that something was going on, no communication, nothing.”

Last spring, the airline told the regional district that if the airport wasn’t certified, it wouldn’t be able to provide scheduled flights, Banke said. “It was very, very clear, the way it works,” he said. “It’s either a certified airport or we can not provide scheduled service.”

At that time, regional district officials said they would keep the airport certified, Banke said. “That was the agreement we had,” he said. “Now, all of a sudden, it is not that. I’m in shock.” Texada needs an airport manager for it to work properly, Banke said. “Now there’s a severe lack of trust. It was absolutely neglected.”

Texada Island residents were in shock as well and many went to the Texada Message Board on Facebook on Friday to find out what was going on.

On Saturday, Texada Director Dave Murphy posted a message on the Facebook page. He reported that the removal of the airport manager, Sean McGinn, for reasons he can’t discuss, and the fact the airport caretaker left prompted Transport Canada to issue an ultimatum. “Either voluntarily surrender your certification or we will pull it by the end of the day,” Murphy quoted the agency.

“I regret that the stoppage of scheduled air service has put a number of Texadans at an inconvenience,” Murphy wrote. “I can only report, at this point in time, that we are taking this very seriously and that we are working on this in earnest.”

The regional district issued an unsigned statement on Monday afternoon, October 7. It stated that Transport Canada gave the regional district the choice of “either voluntarily surrendering its certified status or of suffering the consequences of a formal inspection audit.”

The regional district statement went on to explain that it was given no warning that Transport Canada could no longer continue scheduled flights to the Texada airport and was “thus unable to inform the public of this turn of events.”

The regional district believes that the interruption to KD Air’s service will be short lived, the statement continued. “Director Murphy, the regional district board and staff will continue to work with Transport Canada and KD Air to produce a submission which will be acceptable to Transport Canada for the renewal of scheduled air service to Texada,” it stated.

Airline cancels scheduled flights

KD Air is not permitted to provide scheduled service to the Texada Island airport, according to Transport Canada.

Jillian Glover, regional communications advisor with Transport Canada, told the Peak the airport is no longer eligible to be served by scheduled commercial air services, because the Powell River Regional District has voluntarily surrendered its airport operator certificate.

"The Civil Aviation Regulations require that all scheduled commercial air services be carried out from certified airports," Glover said. "KD Air may continue to operate into Texada Island airport on a charter basis. All other flight operations (general aviation, charter, medevac, etc.) are unaffected by this certificate's surrender."

The regional district and KD Air have applied for a ministerial authorization to allow scheduled commercial air service with restrictions, Glover added. "Transport Canada will review the application and will work with the airport and air operator to make sure regulations and standards are maintained," she said.

KD Air cancelled schedule flights into Texada airport Friday, October 4.

Diana Banke, company president, told the Peak she had no comment. When she spoke to the Peak around 12:30 pm on Friday, Diana said that her husband, Lars Banke, who is the airline’s chief pilot, was flying to Vancouver along with Al Radke, Powell River Regional District’s chief administrative officer, to discuss the situation with Transport Canada.

“I don’t want to make any other comments because we don’t know anything until the end of the day,” Diana said.

This message from KD Air was posted on the Texada Island message board on Facebook Saturday morning:


Quite unexpectedly, as of October 4, 2013, the Powell River Regional District surrendered the Airport Certificate for Texada Island / Gillies Bay Airport. As a result, KD Air is no longer able to provide scheduled air service to Gillies Bay Airport. We are taking what steps we can to secure future operations in and out of Gillies Bay. However, at the present time, we are permitted to offer only charter services and our published schedule must be cancelled. If you have a current reservation to or from Gillies Bay, please contact our office at 1-800-665-4244. We apologize for any inconvenience and will keep you posted.

As reported by the Peak in its October 2 issue, the regional district, the owner and operator of the Texada airport, voluntarily surrendered the airport’s certification to Transport Canada. At that time, the airline said service would continue as usual.

Transport Canada regulations introduced in 2008 involve a number of costly provisions to maintain certification. According to Radke, it would be too much of a burden on Texada residents to upgrade the airport to the standard needed to keep it certified.