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When it comes to substantial airport traffic, it’s no surprise that the major airports in Canada’s metropolises top the list. But situated in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland is an airport that, while modest in size, maintains a healthy flow of traffic.
Delta, B.C.’s Boundary Bay Airport (CZBB) ranks fifth in Canada in total aircraft movements, as it broke 175,000 total movements in 2017 and logged close to 200,000 civil aircraft movements in 2018, according to Statistics Canada.
“A lot of people in British Columbia don’t know that Boundary Bay Airport is the fifth-busiest airport in Canada–right after Calgary [International Airport],” said Melissa Sayers, Boundary Bay Airport’s general manager. “We’d like more corporate aircraft flying out of Calgary, Toronto, Phoenix and Los Angeles to choose CZBB as their access to Vancouver for the service and convenience we can offer with our state-of-the-art terminal building.”
Owned by the City of Delta and operated by Alpha Aviation Inc. through a long-term lease, Boundary Bay Airport is open to general aviation aircraft with a unique, end-to-end operating model, providing integrated fixed-base operator (FBO), fuelling, terminal and airport operations.
The numerous flight schools on the property account for a large number of the airport’s local movements. In 2017, CZBB recorded 106,596 local movements, ranking it number one in that category in Canada. Sayers said within the last year, one of the flight schools at the airport has experienced a 15 per cent increase in traffic.
With the airport’s traffic growing, so too has its infrastructure. Alpha Aviation has invested upwards of $10 million in Boundary Bay Airport’s facilities over the last five years–on the airside alone. The airport’s two runways have been extended to over 5,600 feet with new LED lighting for the benefit of business and corporate aircraft, as well as to provide increased options for training flights; the runway extensions include new precision approach path indicators (PAPI), updated signage and GPS approaches.
Sayers said more than 20 hangars have been constructed at CZBB in the last 10 years to meet growing demand, and one of the airport’s current major projects is the construction of a 30,000-square-foot hangar, known as Argus 4.
The airport is also home to a Second World War-era landmark, Heritage Hangar, which was recently restored by the City of Delta in an effort to protect the community’s heritage and the airport’s history.
The airport itself originates from the Second World War, though it closed for a period post-war until reopening in the late 1980s.
“Transport Canada opened [Boundary Bay Airport] in 1987 to relieve flying training that was occurring at YVR,” said Sayers. “What Alpha Aviation has done is continue the role as a reliever to YVR, but [has] now expanded that role to take small corporate jets and business aircraft in addition to the flight schools.”
Over the last three years, roughly 10 corporate/business jet aircraft have set up operations at Boundary Bay Airport, she told Skies.
Another development that could increase traffic, and greatly improve access to the airport, is the construction of the Massey Bridge–a project that is currently being considered by the B.C. government. Sayers said the existing route from YVR to Boundary Bay Airport is through the George Massey Tunnel, which is congested during rush hours.
“A new bridge would really improve access to Boundary Bay Airport and make relocating either a small carrier or more business aircraft to CZBB more attractive,” she added.
As for what a typical day at Boundary Bay Airport looks like, Cessna Citation and Gulfstream business jets are frequent visitors, as well as turboprop King Air and Pilatus aircraft. “The plane watchers can see these all day long,” Sayers said.
On the training side, Cessna 150, 172 and Diamond aircraft are a frequent sight as well as multiple private aircraft stationed at the airport.
Every July, less common–but no less exciting–aircraft can be seen in the skies above Boundary Bay Airport during the free airshow put on by Alpha Aviation and the City of Delta.
The Boundary Bay Airshow draws up to 20,000 people who get the chance to see Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) aircraft, biplanes, and other historic airplanes. This year, CZBB is welcoming the famous Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the CF-18 Demo Hornet to the airshow.
With the community being one of CZBB’s priorities, Sayers said the City of Delta is in the process of building one of its fire stations on airport property. “That will be a benefit to both the community and the airport,” she added.
As Boundary Bay Airport progresses into the future, it remains focused on growing corporate traffic and continuing as an important community asset.
Sayers concluded: “We are very customer focused, and we look forward to welcoming both visiting and permanent corporate and private aircraft owners to the airport as we move forward.”