Tbnewswatch Local News
Saturday July 4 2015
11:20 AM EDT
2014-07-10 at NOON

Airport turns 20

tbnewswatch.com file photograph
By Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com

When Thunder Bay International Airport’s new terminal opened 20 years ago it was state-of-the art and the newest facility in Canada.

Today, two decades later, it’s among the oldest major airports in the country, but it still provides a great first and lasting impression for visitors to the city said Scott McFadden, president and CEO of the Thunder Bay International Airports Authority on Thursday, the anniversary of the move to the new terminal in 1994.

Built at three times the size of the existing facility, but using just one-third the energy, the new facility was built to save money, but also to modernize equipment and provide an aesthetically more pleasing environment for travelers.

The cost to construct was about $17 million at the time, although that only includes the building itself, and not other amenities added at the time.

McFadden said it’s served the city well.

“We have consistently made modifications and upgrades. We’ve managed to squeeze out more operational space from the original footprint of the building. The original building was more or less designed to accommodate two domestic carriers,” McFadden said.

That changed five years ago, when Porter Airlines decided daily routes to Thunder Bay fit its business plan.

Over the years the airport, which is still seeking a direct route to the United States, has also hosted regular routes from Delta and United Airlines, not to mention regional carriers including Bearskin Airlines, and charters to southern destinations each winter.

“We’ve had as many as five carriers operating out of the terminal at one time,” McFadden said. “Of course we added a third passenger loading bridge a few years ago. We just completed last year a $3.5 million expansion to the parking lot.”

The economic impact of the airport to Thunder Bay has been huge, in part from the increased passenger volumes.

In 1994 about 456,000 people flew out of the terminal. By 2013 that number had grown to 780,000, a 71 per cent increase.

According the figures supplied by the Airport Authority, in the late 1990s the economic impact of the airport was about $156 million annually. Three years ago the estimate had more than tripled, to $569 million, while employment grew from 1,548 full-time equivalent jobs to 4,968 with direct or indirect ties to the facility.

The airport has also grown as a commercial entity over the past 20 years, adding a cluster that’s home to Confederation College’s Aviation Centre of Excellence, ORNGE, Pilatus Centre of Canada, Landale Gardens and Tim Hortons.

As for the future, McFadden said there’s plenty to look forward to in the years ahead.

In addition to finding a direct route into the U.S., the building will need upgrades to keep it on par with other airports across the nation.

“Our master plan, Sunset 2020, heading to the next five to 10 years, we’ll be looking at both architectural and capacity upgrades to ensure that the building continues to represent the community and region well,” he said.


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JIMMY2 says:
are any of the nay sayers actually at the airport on a daily basis? This airport is truly one of a kind, and altho you may have to wait in line a few minutes, I do honestly prefer to fly out of and into Thunder bay over all other airports, the security is friendly and helpful, altho never around for a long period of time, the airport itself is run very well, and easy to use, and people friendly, way better then huge airports.
7/13/2014 10:09:31 AM
Arch Stanton says:
Interesting that there is absolutely no mention now of the $6,000,000 he blew extending the runway by 340m to allow jets to take off fully-loaded.... when AC, Porter AND WestJet have now all downgraded T-Bay to Q400 turboprop operations and the US operators have pulled out altogether...
7/11/2014 10:06:35 AM
unknowncronik says:
Blunder Bay at its finest
7/11/2014 4:58:04 AM
fairlane says:
Scott, after you're done tooting your own horn, remember that 20 years ago in that small terminal we had regular air service to the US, jet service to Winnipeg, Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto.

And what do we have now?
7/10/2014 10:26:17 PM
yo_tbay says:
‘still provides a great first and lasting impression for visitors’ . First and lasting impression for sure, but Scott I’m not so sure about the great part. It may have been state of the art when it opened but it needs some work now. Have you not walked by that single security checkpoint when two flights are leaving within the same period? 4-5 rows deep at the entry squeezing through one door and into 2 security lines. All those people are stalled in line when a suspicious person is investigated. Only recently did Tims set up a kiosk inside the security area, no other options for a snack or reading material, unless you want to lose your money in a vending machine. And as airplanes land in the same period, all those people arriving line up onto the single escalator and then squeeze into the luggage carousel area waiting interminably for their bags to arrive on the conveyor – why does it take so long to empty the baggage off a plane at YQT? Upgrades coming soon?
7/10/2014 8:05:54 PM
Jon Powers says:

"The airport got bigger - and the planes landing here got smaller.
Go figure."

Stop being so very ignorant about the size of aircraft using "YQT".

The airport has had a 747SP (Global Peace One), AC B767 during the 1990's for peak times, AC A320's and A321's. A Westjet B757 and B737NG's. The former Royal Air used B757's and A310's for their winter charter service's.

This does not even come close to the larger military aircraft such as a USAF KC-135 and new CF C-17's or the CC-150 which has used the airport too.

Not to mention numerous other large ferried aircraft too.

What we won't see at our new airport is the F-35 as it needs 9,500ft runway; YQT is 7,000ft.

"Mr. Leith Dunick"

Q: Will the Airport be having an anniversary event in the future? ie Airshow/Open-House?

Great Story!
7/10/2014 7:29:04 PM
humnchuck says:
Play nicely, now Mr. Powers.

Global Peace One was a one-off, very lightly loaded 747SP that just made it in and out as part of a tax/lien dodge. Sadly, she's now rusting in Tijuana.

Pretty certain neither AC nor any other carrier has never attempted a 767, A310 or 757 into YQT...the runway's not long enough. You possibly COULD land or take off, but at severe weight restrictions. And why would you? They're 200+ seat planes that just aren't viable in this small market. By all means, please correct me with an old flight schedule...that would've been pretty cool to see!

There have been the odd 727-200s as charters and diversions (a Kelowna Flightcraft freighter, IIRC). AC flew DC-9s in for years; there's one donated to Con College's Aviation School on static display. Nordair, Transair (remember that awesome brown/yellow paint scheme?

Empty C-17s and CC-150s can make it in and out due to their performance capabilities.
7/11/2014 10:41:44 AM
S Duncan says:
Hope they are going to fix the missing nose on that plane before they try to take off.
7/10/2014 5:47:31 PM
ring of fire dude says:
Ar Ar Ar !
7/11/2014 12:23:01 PM
fastball says:
The airport got bigger - and the planes landing here got smaller.
Go figure.
7/10/2014 3:25:43 PM
humnchuck says:
Yeah, but with all 3 airlines now operating Bombardier Q-400s, capacity has actually increased because the economics of the planes means more flights can be viably operated. The Q's seat 70-78 people depending on configuration, vs. the 50-seater RJ100's that AC Jazz was flying here previously. Westjet's 737's are either 119 or 136 seats depending on the model utilized, but the schedule change has meant more flights and a net increase in seats.

7/10/2014 9:09:24 PM
fastball says:
That is probably correct in terms of total seat numbers leaving TBay.
All I know is that I'm squished up like a friggin' sardine in my seat, and half the time my bag won't fit in the shoebox-sized overhead storage bin of our twin-prop puddle-jumper plane.
7/11/2014 1:16:46 PM
thunderguard says:
Can these capacity upgrades be to the security check point.
7/10/2014 2:08:32 PM
rocky racoon says:
So Thunder Bay's current airport cost $17 million in 1994. In today's money, that comes to $25.1 million Dollars. Without debating the merits or location of the proposed new events centre, somebody please explain to me why the events centre is projected at $100+ million if our airport cost $25 million? Something is rotten here.
7/10/2014 2:00:50 PM
fastball says:
Does the airport seat 5500 people? Does it have an ice surface & the all accompanying equipment?
Does it have....god, never mind. Just because you don't understand something doesn't make it "rotten".
7/10/2014 3:28:41 PM
tsb says:
That's the general rule of this city, though. "I don't understand the concept, therefore it is bad."

It's why we're paying such high taxes, while patting ourselves on the back for scaring away every development that could help lower the average person's tax burden. There is a reason this is the worst performing city in Canada, and it's the people.
7/10/2014 6:22:00 PM
Enquirer says:
I am starting to get the feeling that the same old repeat offenders around here will turn any news story into something about the events centre; case in point with these news article titles:

"Jesus Christ Makes Worldly Return in Thunder Bay" >> "Good! We could use some divine intervention to stop the mistake by the lake!!!11111"

"UNICEF fundraising in Thunder Bay Sets Worldwide Record" >> "Maybe the city council could get out to fund raise for the events centre!!!!1111"

"12 Year Old Girl, Single-Handedly Evacuates Own Elementary School, Disarms Gunmen, Saves Lives" >> "........events centre.....that is all"

Leith, you know my examples are sad, but true. Can you please stop allowing through events centre postings on stories that have NOTHING to do with the events centre?
7/10/2014 6:55:48 PM
rocky racoon says:
My my, Fastball, what anger issues you must have to immediately resort to personal attacks. Are you perhaps someone who would benefit from an inflated price tag? If you don't think $100+ million is expensive then why was St. Paul, MN, able to build the Xcel Energy Center (18,000 capacity for hockey) for just CDN$190 million. That's right, adjusted for inflation and the exchange rate, the Xcel Center cost CDN$190 million in today's money.

You see, I spent more than 20 years in the construction industry. You can't pull the wool over my eyes. $100+ million is too much for what we're getting in return.
7/10/2014 8:03:33 PM
fastball says:
I'm not going to debate the cost of nuts and bolts, as they are outside of my body of knowledge, but I'm sure the contractors' bills will be carefully scrutinized at such time as they're presented for approval.
And if the provincial/feds are paying up to 60 percent of the cost, I'm quite happy with 30-40M being our part of the bill.
To address your post, though - you seem to have a very liberal definition of "anger issues", Rocky. I'm pretty sure I wasn't displaying anything that resembled "angry" - no insults, no ranting, no giant CAPS and exclamation marks!!!!! I merely wondered why a conspiracy immediately comes to mind every time someone takes issues with the numbers. And the fact that you wonder aloud if I might prosper from an inflated bill - well, we might add paranoid to your other obviously tender sensitivities.
7/11/2014 11:41:36 AM
SomeGuy says:
Your house costs $200,000 it sleeps 4. At $50,000 a person the events centre should cost $275 million dollars, a $100 million is a bargain.
7/11/2014 8:49:04 AM
orca says:
Where do you look for job postings for the airport?
7/10/2014 1:14:42 PM
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