Earlton airport completes upgrades and looks forward

Darlene Wroe

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ARMSTRONG TOWNSHIP - The Earlton-Timiskaming Regional Airport has completed $1.2 million in repairs and equipment upgrades, made possible through federal funding.

The airport is now poised for a new era as longtime airport authority chair Carman Kidd steps down. Other board members may also be reassigned with the start of a new municipal term. Kidd, currently the mayor of Temiskaming Shores, did not seek another term in the October 24 municipal election, and the airport authority board is made up by representatives of area municipalities who own and operate the airport.

Airport manager James Smith, who serves as manager through LOOMEX Group of Companies, contracted to assist at the airport, expressed gratitude for the work and support of Kidd over the years.

Kidd has been "a solid airport supporter," said Smith. "He has had a major role in helping us get funding and looking at funding initiatives for us and driving that for us. He will be greatly missed and we wish him the best."

The next four years for the new board has been readied with the completion of some important projects.

Smith explained that in the fall of 2021, the federal government had created the Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI). An application was made by the Earlton airport and a $1 million grant was approved. The airport had also made an application for COVID relief funding resulting in an additional $200,000 in federal monies. The combined funding has made it possible for the airport to purchase a new plow truck, and a self-propelled snowblower. Eleven cross-sections on the runway have been repaired and the fuelling apron has been refinished, addressing some frost heaving that had been occurring. The airport also purchased a new line-painting machine. While the airport is still awaiting the arrival of its snowblower, due to delays and now expected in May or June of 2023, the old snowblower has received an oil change and had some mechanical issues fixed, said Smith, and will be used throughout the upcoming winter.

Meanwhile, it was a busy summer, he said.

"There was lots of work going on around the airport with the construction and apron repairs.”

Efforts are being made to hold the airport fuel price for aircraft down to $3.23 a litre. Other airports are selling it at $3.30 a litre, Smith said.

But the high price of fuel is making it cost prohibitive for a lot of people to fly, he noted.

Ornge air ambulance is currently flying in and out of the airport on average 28 times a month, he said.

"This is an important service this airport provides for this area," he said.

Sights are set for the future with plans for business development, with which LOOMEX will assist, said Smith. The airport is on the lookout for someone who would be interested in setting up a flight training organization. Land development is another area where potential can be seen, and adjoining land would be suitable for the construction of a hanger or something else that would be aviation related, he said.

An existing hangar at the airport is currently private and farm equipment is being stored there, but Smith said the owner has expressed interest in working with the airport to allow the hangar to be leased out to anyone with an aviation-related operation.

The airport will be a busy place on the morning of November 17 when a full-scale emergency exercise will be held there. An airport crash will be simulated, and part of an airplane fuselage will be located at the site. Participants will include the Earlton Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, and the Ontario Provincial Police.

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker