Yarmouth airport lands film featuring Hollywood stars Dafoe and Pattinson

Yarmouth airport lands film featuring Hollywood stars Dafoe and Pattinson

Business at the Yarmouth International Airport is taking off in a new direction.

Instead of trying to revive regular passenger service, the people who oversee the airport are looking for more grounded economic options.

Right now, that includes leasing the facility's 10,000 square-foot hangar to a Hollywood production company for The Lighthouse, a fantasy horror film starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.

The film crew started construction of the set on Monday and planes stored in the space have been moved to two smaller hangars at the airport.

"I think the production will help boost the visual impact ... and the importance of this airport," said Leland Anthony, warden of the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth.

There haven't been regular passenger flights to the airport, jointly owned by the Town of Yarmouth, the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth and the Municipality of the District of Argyle, in about a decade.

Those municipalities have spent years trying to find a way to bring back the service. Last year, it was determined that the airport, with its two runways, requires an estimated $6 million in upgrades to meet Transport Canada standards for passenger service.

"Certainly the leadership of the airport has moved away from this idea that this will be a passenger service airport," said the airport's interim manager Alain Muise.

"They haven't abandoned the idea altogether, however, they understand that most of the traffic that occurs there is either charter or emergency services or other services of that nature."

The focus now is on how the region can get the most out of what it already has, Muise said.

Last year, municipal officials decided to downgrade the runway certification, ruling out regular passenger service, but making it easier for the site to welcome a movie crew, for example.

"It provides us with more opportunity to rent space, to lease space or even to sell land or buildings," Muise said.

The airport has three hangars on the site as well as several other buildings that are largely under used.

Lack of flights can actually be a plus for certain business ventures, Muise said.

"It provides valuable airspace for potential other opportunities, such as unmanned air vehicle training."

While he's excited about the film industry's interest in the site, he said he also hopes to bring more aerospace tenants and owners on board.

The Yarmouth airport costs the three municipalities roughly $700,000 a year, Anthony said.

In 2017, the airport saw some 1,000 flights in and out, most of which were emergency related, such as the air ambulance LifeFlight, Canadian Coast Guard and military aircraft.

"There's this understanding that there's no activity at the airport and there's actually a lot of activity at the airport," Muise said.

The airport is vital to the area, agreed Anthony.

"It is a link to the rest of Nova Scotia in the case of an emergency. It is a quick way to get in and get out for the offshore fishing industry and local inshore, any type of search and rescue," he said.

Both Muise and Anthony hope the film production work taking place at the airport will increase its visibility and encourage more business ventures.