Runway upgrades ready to take flight

Work to upgrade and extend the runway at High Prairie Municipal Airport is set to start in spring 2019. Lighting will also be improved.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Plans to upgrade the runway at High Prairie Airport have been assured by Big Lakes County after a valued user expressed a serious concern to council.

At its regular meeting Nov. 28, council responded to the issue stated by a top official of CanWestAir that provides medical and patient transfers at the local airport.

“The runway is a concern with a fair number of frost heaves,” says Kevin Schaub, chief operating officer of the La Crete company.

“It’s getting to a point where it won’t be usable soon.”

The county has taken steps to improve the runway.

“We want to hear your concerns,” says High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Don Charrois, who chairs the airport commission.

“We are well aware of the frost heaves and we want to do a recap on the runway, that’s our priority for 2019.”

The county also plans to extend the runway by 393 feet.

A longer runway would accommodate more traffic and larger aircraft, including a Learjet 35A aircraft, says Vic Abel, director of public works.

Funding of up to $720,695 for a new overlay of the runway and to upgrade lighting was announced June 4 for the county under the provincial Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program.

Other local partners in the project include the Town of High Prairie, High Prairie Forest Products under West Fraser Mills and Tolko Industries, Abel says.

Schaub says the High Prairie Airport is an important part of Can- WestAir’s services.

“This is a vital link to our air ambulance transfers,” Schaub says.

“We come to High Prairie fairly regularly, sometimes several times a week.”

CanWestAir lands at the local airport an average of 13 times a month in 2018 and 15 in 2017, according to figures provided by Abel.

Schaub notes he is reaching out to municipalities who own airports in the CanWestAir service area to open regular positive communications to ensure facilities are safe and proficient for all users.

Funding from Alberta Health Services to support airports would also be helpful, North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Ken Matthews says.

“Medevacs are important to Alberta Health Services and it (AHS) has some responsibility,” Matthews says.

AHS currently does not provide any funding to airports.

 

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