Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

The Fort McMurray airport is "bursting at the seams"

Airport expansion plan set to take off
Stories by SARAH FOX
Today staff
Friday July 27, 2007

The Fort McMurray airport is bursting at the seams as it welcomes 580,000 passengers a year through its doors.
This is twice the number the terminal was meant to accommodate when it was built in 1986.
Officials are currently planning an $80- to $100-million airport expansion which will include building a second runway and possibly an entirely new terminal building, said airport CEO Darryl Wightman.
“We’re in the preliminary stages dealing with the consulting firm to come up with some solutions to take the pressure off of the single runway and the terminal,” said Wightman.
“We’re more than double the capacity of people the terminal is made to handle and that causes us washroom problems, parking problems, it causes us lots of problems so that’s why we’re looking at instead of expanding the terminal, maybe building a new one.”
The single runway is seeing 70,000 takeoffs and landings a year, making it almost impossible to keep up with winter maintenance.
“It’s very hard to get out there to clean the runways and that’s why we’re looking at building a second parallel runway,” said Wightman.
“The drawings that I’ve seen of potential new terminal buildings would have 2,500 parking stalls, all very short, class A walking distance to the terminal.”
In order to expand the airport, the body that oversees its operation will have to gain permission from regional council to borrow the money needed.

Wightman said he is hoping the consulting firm will be ready to make a presentation to council at its next meeting, Aug. 28.
Regional manager Bill Newell said he is aware of the airport commission’s plans to expand and Wood Buffalo supports them in this endeavor.
“They will still need a resolution from council to borrow the money,” he said.

$2 million for fire trucks

The Fort McMurray Airport will have on-site firefighting capabilities once again thanks to an almost $2 million investment from Ottawa.
Wood Buffalo MP, Brian Jean was at the airport Thursday morning to announce that the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will be returning $1,971,349 of tax revenue to the municipality, for two new aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicles.
“We usually don’t give 100 per cent of the money for anything but there is need in this community,” said Jean.
The growth of the municipality and the airport has put the facility at odds with new Transport Canada standards that maintain that an airport handling that much traffic must have on-site firefighting capabilities.
“We’re going to be purchasing two fully loaded, fully equipped, foam trucks capable of responding to an aircraft fire in three minutes, which is the new Transport Canada standard,” said fire chief Jeff Carlisle.
Wood Buffalo took over operation of the airport from the federal government in 2000. At that time, enhanced fire coverage wasn’t a requirement. Former mayor Doug Faulkner campaigned nationally to get funding for airport firefighting after the regulations were changed.
The new trucks are expected to be in operation at the airport by June 2008.
“We’re buying these trucks and hoping that we’ll never have to use them,” said Carlisle. “We have a very good safety record at the airport.
“We’ve had some on-flight emergencies but in terms of putting wet stuff on red burning stuff, I don’t think that’s ever happened.”
Carlisle said the Wood Buffalo fire department will hire new firefighters who will become part of the regular rotation, to include a shift at the airport.
“Fort McMurray is under a spotlight internationally,” said Jean.

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