Gatineau airport charts expansion course

Peter
Peter Kovessy
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Officials at the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport say they’ll ask city councillors next month to endorse a new long-term strategic plan for the facility that includes a significant physical expansion and new businesses.

Gaston Cloutier, director-general of the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport. (photo by Lois Siegel)

 

The airport, located off Highway 50, currently features multiple flight-training schools, 10 scheduled flights to Quebec City each week and facilities for executive jets. It’s also the home of Vintage Wings, a club organized by former Cognos CEO Michael Potter. The club’s fleet of restored classic aircraft drew approximately 25,000 spectators to an air show over the summer.

But the airport’s new director-general, retired Air Force Brig.-Gen. Gaston Cloutier, says the facility has the potential to do even more. “Every major city I know of (has) an international airport and a regional airport,” says Mr. Cloutier, a former commander of 8 Wing at CFB Trenton.

“We want to become the regional airport of the National Capital Region.”

He’s looking for the city of Gatineau – which owns the airport – to offer the expertise of municipal staff so the airport can become a larger economic development force in the region.

Any expansion will also likely require financial support from the municipality, but Mr. Cloutier declined to put a price on the airport’s plans.

They include upgrades to the pilot’s lounge as well as de-icing, fuel and flight-planning facilities. The key, says Mr. Cloutier, is an expansion of the airport’s ramp space, which is where planes can park for a few hours or overnight.

There is currently about 240,000 square feet of ramp space, but he says he’d like to at least double it. The airport recently expanded its runway to 6,000 feet, which Mr. Cloutier says is large enough for Airbus 320s and Boeing 737s.

“We can take relatively large planes,” he says.

While the Gatineau airport is not looking to compete in flying to well-serviced destinations like Toronto, Mr. Cloutier says there are other cities not served by a direct flight from the area.

One such destination is Bagotville, Que., but Mr. Cloutier says the airport is still in the early stages of analyzing the market.

Krista Kealey, vice-president of communications at the Ottawa International Airport, says she’s not aware of any huge concerns about more scheduled flights from the Gatineau airport, noting the Ottawa-Quebec City route still does well despite the current Gatineau alternative.

Others in the local aviation industry say they’ll be watching the Gatineau expansion closely.

A spokesperson for Ottawa Aviation Services, which offers flight training and maintenance primarily from the Ottawa Airport, says the expansion of any airport within the area is “very positive” and will be good for the aviation industry as a whole.

Mr. Cloutier says there are opportunities for the airport to enter new niche aeronautics businesses, such as a school for aircraft technicians and partnerships with the National Research Council to develop green aviation technologies.

 

FACT BOX: Moving up

Aircraft movements at the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive airport

2008: 35,000

2009: 45,000

2010: 50,000 (forecast)

 

Organizations: Cognos, Ottawa Airport, Ottawa Aviation Services National Research Council

Geographic location: Gatineau, Quebec City, National Capital Region Toronto Bagotville Ottawa

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