FORT NELSON – On Wednesday April 3th, a Grand Opening Event took place at the Northern Rockies Regional Airport (NRRA). Mayor Bill Streeper, members of Regional Council, Municipal staff and other community members were all in attendance to celebrate the completion of a recent terminal upgrade and expansion. Modernization of the NRRA has been a priority item of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality since it first took ownership of the airport in 1999.
The NRRA was originally built by the United States Air Force in 1941 and used as part of their Northwest Staging Route. Its original purpose was to ferry and refuel aircraft on route to Russia during WWII. Consequently, the original passenger terminal building was only designed to accommodate approximately 40 passengers.
The inadequacy of this design became glaringly evident in 2012 (the busiest year on record at the NRRA) when peak hours would frequently see 150 – 200 passengers attempting to move through the terminal building. A new solution was needed. Recommendations for expansion and modernization of the NRRA emerged from the 2010 Strategic Plan and the 2011 Business Plan and were approved by Regional Council.
The recently completed terminal expansion features an additional 70 m2 of floor space and seating, improved service capabilities, new washroom facilities modeled after YVR and a more modern look and feel. The additional floor space provides an opportunity to house security and a food & beverage concession in the near future. Once all anticipated phases of the NRRA upgrades are complete, the terminal building will be able to handle an excess of 200,000 passengers a year. Approximately 110,000 passenger movements were recorded through the terminal in 2012.
Also attending the grand opening celebration was Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm. During his address to the crowd, MLA Pimm announced the transfer of 907 hectares of Provincial Crown land surrounding the NRRA to the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality. Having secured title to this land, will allow the NRRA to undertake wildlife perimeter fencing upgrades and other important improvements. This upgraded fencing is required to prevent deer, moose, elk and bears (all of whom have seen a significant safety issue for several years) from accessing the aircraft maneuvering areas.