Columbia Valley Pioneer staff

Last year was a busy one for Fairmont Hot Springs Airport, and 2024 could be just as busy if not more so.

In a recent presentation to the Regional District of East Kootenay, Columbia Valley Airport Society president Pascal van Dijk noted they saw a spike of up to 2,100 flights during the wildfire season, adding there were more than 600 flight movements in July and August.

He pointed out that wildfire crews came as far away as Mexico to help out, which played a critical role in the fight.

Van Dijk informed regional directors they were also busy with medical evacuations, search and rescue activity, and military training. He explained the airport can handle night air ambulance services, and said the airport supported the search for the downed plane in Brisco late last year.

Van Dijk said they have installed new washroom facilities, and invested in upgrading instrumentation for pilots. 

“Everything is becoming more expensive . . . resulting in increasing utility costs,” he stated, pointing out the runway is approaching 40 years old. 

In Van Dijk’s report, one objective is to create a flying club, but that is on hold pending the outcome of the Airport Master Plan. Another objective is to change the facility’s name to Columbia Valley Airport.

Coming down to dollars and cents, the president requested a shift in RDEK funding to a ‘more permanent structure’ —a four-year commitment to provide $80,000 in 2024, $82,500 in 2025, $85,000 in 2026, and $87,500 in 2027. Mayor of Invermere Al Miller thanked van Dijk for what the society is taking on and accomplishing.

“The new washrooms are appreciated . . . it’s a well used airport and we certainly understood the need from the onset.”

Area F director Susan Clovechok thanked all the volunteers for keeping the airport open and operating it well. 

During question period, van Dijk confirmed that a facility (primarily a hangar) is being built for a developer’s personal use, noting the situation could “morph into a full-blown fixed base operator.”

When asked about the airport’s relationship with the new owners of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, van Dijk didn’t sound overly optimistic, noting the company is not interested in selling extra land (surrounding the airport) to the society at this point in time. It was noted that mortgage re-negotiations were delayed due to the sale of the resort.