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Moose Jaw airport had great year despite facing many challenges, board chair says

The Moose Jaw Municipal Airport Authority is celebrating the fact that runway 31 — “the most important street in Moose Jaw” — is finished and now accepting private, public and emergency airplanes.
Airport authority
Jarrett Johnson, vice-chair, and Greg Simpson, board chair of the Moose Jaw Airport Authority. File photo

The Moose Jaw Municipal Airport Authority is celebrating the fact that runway 31 — “the most important street in Moose Jaw” — is finished and now accepting private, public and emergency airplanes.

“It has been a phenomenal year for the airport authority with the construction of the airport. With all the barriers we had to endure … it was a very challenging year, but we’re very proud of our board and all the people who supported us to get the project done,” board chairman Greg Simpson said.

In November 2020, the authority moved 30,000 cubic metres of soil, which helped with construction of the runway and taxiway this past spring, he told city council during its recent third-party budget meeting. 

The airport authority wants $30,000 in funding for next year, which it also received this year. 

With the extreme drought this year, the aggregate material and topsoil shrank by 30 per cent compared to the normal shrinkage of 10 per cent. However, the authority still completed construction of the hangar access road, which ensures safer access to the businesses, said Simpson.

Construction of the runway extension was completed on June 6, while asphalt milling of the existing runway helped with its rehabilitation.

“This was one of the big surprises and challenges. The engineer’s report said that the runway needed to be milled, which added significant costs, and we had to seek additional funding to get the project done,” said Simpson. 

Runway 31 was paved and finished by the fall, which allowed the first landings and take-offs to occur on Oct. 7; painting of directional lines occurred on Oct. 27. There are now 4,000 feet of matching taxiway and runway.

“This is the most important street in Moose Jaw. This really does present a gate(way) to the city,” he continued, noting Saskatchewan air ambulance has already landed several times, 15 Wing Air Base is using the runway to practice “touch and goes,” and there is increased traffic and commercial activity. 

The airport authority also completed its federally funded projects under budget, built three new hangars, held its first annual general meeting in October, and started a new flying training program.

Coming under budget “is a huge victory” since the authority faced many challenges, from financial to the pandemic to inflation to supply chain issues, said Simpson. 

The organization’s next steps include installing runway lighting, taxiway reflectors and signs; developing an airport master plan; maintaining and developing existing business relationships; and responding effectively to development opportunities for hangar space.

Also, the authority wants to foster aviation-related growth; join the City of Moose Jaw’s economic development group; grow its social media presence; and encourage more chartered flight opportunities, including northern Saskatchewan, for mining and exploration. 

“I am extremely happy that all of this has happened in the last couple of years,” said Mayor Clive Tolley, who wondered whether the airport authority had a formal relationship with 15 Wing.

The board has spoken with the base about a partnership, although there are limitations because it is a federal entity, said board vice-chair Jarrett Johnson. The base’s planes can now land at the airport, whereas they couldn’t before due to the venue’s size.

The airport has room for seven hangars, although if there were 10, the venue could generate an additional $18,000 per year, said Simpson. 

Johnson added that the authority turned a $500,000 grant into $3.7 million for the expansion. Since he is a pilot, he is also pleased with the safety the board has brought to the venue. 

“It’s exciting to be at this point of the presentations where we’ve seen the proof of the leverage of funds, and you have been successful in using them … ,” said Coun. Heather Eby. “This is just the beginning of some great and prosperous growth into our city.” 

The airport authority plans to have a grand opening in the spring.