Lacombe airport officially designated as regional facility

(L-R) Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins, City of Lacombe Councillor Chris Ross, Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law, Lacombe Flying Club President Jon From and MLA Ron Orr participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony during the grand re-opening of the Lacombe Regional Airport on Saturday, June 2 at the airport. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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Lacombe’s airport now officially has a name better representing its use.

A new sign was unveiled during a grand re-opening ceremony Saturday afternoon, officially dubbing the facility the Lacombe Regional Airport, as well as culminating the completion of several major projects and the new three-way partnership that made them possible.

“It’s a very big day. We’ve got more than just a new name here – we’ve got a taxiway developed last fall that is now allowing for new hangar construction to begin in the spring that’s going to give us a chance for sustained growth at the airport,” said Lacombe Flying Club President Jon From. “I’m sure we’re going to be here for another few years.”

The then-Lacombe Airport was first established in 1962, but, at least in recent years, had developed the perception only flying club members were able to use it. As such, the 2016 Lacombe Municipal Airport Feasibility Study was completed, which recommended the establishment of an airport committee, a master plan, as well improve financial stability and predictability for operations through an agreement with the Lacombe Flying Club, City of Lacombe and Lacombe County.

That agreement was signed in 2017 with a 25-year lease, and an option to renew for 25 years.

While Lacombe County council had some concern initially over how much flying club members should put into projects and maintenance of the facility themselves, Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law said they are happy to be partners and contributors to what is the region’s only airport.

“This airport’s been in the region for 55-plus years and being totally run by volunteers, which you don’t see very often,” she said. “We’re very pleased to be able to help out and provide some funding support for them so they can keep going.”

The agreement also included an understanding both the Lacombe Flying Club and Lacombe County would cover 25 per cent each of capital projects, while the City of Lacombe would provide 50 per cent for the projects.

Coun. Chris Ross brings greetings on behalf of the City of Lacombe during the grand re-opening of the now Lacombe Regional Airport on Saturday afternoon at the Lacombe Regional Airport. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Since, the north taxiway has been extended, allowing room for another 8-10 hangars to be built, as well as the replacement of what was a 50-year old runway lighting system, estimated to cost a combined $350,000.

A new sign was also installed, with a propeller, provided by Joe McBryan of Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife mounted on top of the sign. Sauder Electric donated staff to install the propeller and help with electrical work, while Downton’s Transport was responsible for moving the sign to the shop where it was retrofitted. JC Welding provided modification work, and other supplies and skills were donated by flying club volunteers.

This year, they plan to finish paving their oldest taxiway, which has the remnants of 50-year-old asphalt and a new parking lot on the west side of the airport to service new hangars and facilities on the north end.

At present, the airport sees an estimated 10-12,000 movements a year between training, recreational and business flights and will soon see the addition of skydiving services for those looking for more than just the thrill of flying.

It has a 3,000-foot asphalt runway, and is also using by STARS Air Ambulance, Alberta Health Services Medi-Vac, RCMP, civil air search and rescue, government as well as aforementioned business and recreational travelers and pilots.

Beyond that, From shirked the notion there’d be a limit to the airport’s potential growth.

“With airplanes, we tend to get rid of the limits. There’s an old saying: ‘The sky’s the limit,’ but that’s not even the case anymore,” he said. “We have signed a 25-year lease with a 25-year renewal a year and a half ago, so the airport should be here for at least another 48 years. During that time, we have lots of room to grow and we’re hoping to slowly grow the airport with the community.”