B.C. Airports Invest in the Future of the Aerospace and Aviation Industries

With an increasing number of passengers, new routes and a healthy aerospace sector, B.C.’s aviation industry is really taking off 

The aerospace industry is one of the fastest growing high-tech sectors in Canada, one in which B.C. is playing an increasingly important role. With innovative services and strategic plans, local airports are helping lift the aviation field to new heights. 
With the third-largest aerospace sector in the country, following Quebec and Ontario, B.C. is home to more than 160 related firms that employ over 8,000 people. The industry directly generates annual revenues of approximately $2.4 billion and value-added output (GDP) of $1.3 billion, according to the August 2015 Economic Impact Analysis and Capabilities Study of the BC Aerospace Industry, prepared for Aerospace Industries Association of Canada Pacific by KPMG. 
The province also has one of the largest “MRO-ISS” sectors nationwide: the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) sector along with the rapidly evolving In-Service Support (ISS) sector—an evolution of MRO that encompasses traditional services with high-value activities such as engineering, integrated logistics support and major systems upgrades—generate $768 million in GDP annually. 
Growth in the aerospace industry can significantly benefit the B.C. economy. Growing the industry by just $100 million in annual revenue will result in approximately $114 million to $138 million contributed to provincial GDP, approximately 330 additional jobs within the aerospace industry and 240 to 450 jobs supported in the economy via indirect and induced impacts, KPMG estimates.
The demand for services is tremendous. The Vancouver International Airport (YVR) welcomed a record 19.4 million passengers in 2014, up from 18 million in 2013, and it expects to see its annual passenger count top 20 million by the end of this year. YVR also saw the volume of cargo handled in 2014 increase to 256,900 tonnes (from 228,300 tonnes in 2013). From fresh seafood like crab and geoduck to produce like berries and mushrooms, B.C. exports a number of perishable products that must be quickly and carefully shipped by air. 
All of this growth is fuelled by new services, increased capacity and new routes, such as China Eastern Airlines service to Kunming; Air Canada Rouge service to Osaka; Air France’s long-awaited YVR-Paris service; and Philippine Airlines between Manila, YVR and New York. New service next year includes Air Canada to Brisbane, WestJet to Orlando and Gatwick and Air Transat to Rome.
“It’s a time of exciting growth for YVR, which will help us deliver on our vision is to be a world-class sustainable connecting hub between Asia and the Americas and meet our ambitious goal of 25 million passengers by 2020,” says Anne Murray, Vancouver Airport Authority’s vice president of marketing and communications. “And with new routes and services come more opportunities for international travel and trade, more jobs and more economic benefits for B.C.”
It’s an exciting time for other airports, too. Passenger records at Nanaimo Airport (YCD) have been broken every year for the last five years, with more than 270,000 people passing through in 2014, up 20 per cent from 2013. Its commercial airline partners, WestJet and Air Canada, expanded their services in the last year, and the arrival of Kenmore Air with its Nanaimo to Seattle flights brought international connections to the airport for the first time.
According to its 2014 annual report, Nanaimo Airport’s value as a major driver of community economic development could nearly double over the next decade. By 2020, there will be more than 2,000 full-time direct and indirect jobs generated by activities at the airport, meaning more than $150 million contributed annually to the regional economy, the report estimates. 
Central to this growth is YCD’s long-term land-use planning strategy to generate revenue with a focus on future generations’ aviation needs. Nanaimo Airport has one of the largest available land bases for development of any airport in close proximity to YVR. More than 50 hectares of the approximately 200-hectare site is available for airside and groundside development, which could serve aviation-based businesses such as freight and courier operations, aviation support services, aerospace education and training, air transport dependant businesses, aircraft storage and maintenance, retail and restaurants for airport users and more.
“Given that we are 12 minutes away by air from YVR and we’ve got over 50 hectares of land available adjacent to our taxiways available for development, we’re perfectly set up to be part of the aerospace community,” says Nanaimo Airport CEO Michael Hooper. “When you can fly here that quickly from Vancouver, we can become part of a mega project for the aerospace industry. We have cost-effective land, plus a fabulous living environment for employees. Who wouldn’t want to be working in aerospace in Canada where you can golf in the winter?” 
Nanaimo Airport is hosting the BC Aviation Council’s annual conference next spring, which will focus on the aerospace industry. YCD is also a member of the Vancouver Island Aerospace Association, which is helping get the industry off the ground in the region. 
“There is so much enthusiasm,” Hooper says. “We’re at the bottom of the growth curve for aerospace in Western Canada, and it’s an excellent opportunity for B.C.” 
Abbotsford Airport (YXX) is helping fuel the aviation and aerospace industry’s expansion. Central to YXX’s growth are strategic partnerships with airlines and aviation businesses, and a competitive, business-friendly operating mandate. 
Strategically located just outside of Vancouver and close to international borders and highway corridors, YXX has recently cut its Airport Improvement Fee by 50 per cent within Canada, and totally eliminated it on international routes. YXX has also eliminated fees for aircraft parking, aircraft loading bridge fees and baggage handling fees.
These fee reductions have been applauded by WestJet. Gregg Saretsky, WestJet president and CEO, stated at the time: “The leadership demonstrated by Abbotsford International Airport sets a standard we hope others will follow…. When airports and airlines are strategically aligned, that partnership benefits everyone involved. Airports that help us keep operational costs low also allow us to keep fares competitive and stimulate network and fleet growth. Our business is built on growing markets or creating new ones with low fares and a great guest experience.”
WestJet launched service at YXX in its second year of operations in 1997 with service to just two destinations: Edmonton and Calgary. Having since expanded the number of daily flights to those destinations, during the winter months WestJet now also flies weekly to Puerto Vallarta. Starting October 29, it will be launching twice-weekly service to Las Vegas. YXX will welcome over 500,000 passengers this year.
“In a business where relationships are critical, the importance of having a partner who appreciates that airports have a significant role to play in ensuring that travel is affordable cannot be understated,” says WestJet manager of public relations Robert Palmer. “As a low-cost carrier, WestJet very much appreciates that YXX takes cost control as seriously as we do.”
Abbotsford International Airport also has cost-effective land for development, all just 12 minutes by air from Vancouver. As a vital commercial and business hub, YXX is home to many major Canadian aerospace firms such as Cascade Aerospace, a specialty aerospace and defence contractor employing in excess of 700 people; Conair Aerial Firefighting, one of the largest forest-fire fighting companies in the world; and Chinook Helicopters, the premier helicopter school in North America, produce about 25 per cent of new Canadian helicopter pilots. Coastal Pacific Aviation (partner with the University of the Fraser Valley) is poised to make Abbotsford a Centre of Excellence for flight training for domestic and international students. Many other firms, such as Campbell Helicopters, Shell Aerocentre and Sequoia Helicopters, Alpine Aerotech and Marshall Aerospace also all make YXX their home base.  
“Our business model empowers entrepreneurs,” says Parm Sidhu, YXX Airport general manager. “We’re located very strategically geographically, near two border crossings right off Highway 1, and close to Boeing itself—one of the world’s largest aerospace companies. We’re primed to grow with the aerospace industry. It’s all about partnerships.” YXX International is open for business!