Skip to content

Runway replacement sought for Innisfail-area airport

Red Deer County receives Town of Innisfail letter support to secure million-dollar provincial grant to cover cost of replacing main runway

INNISFAIL – Red Deer County has received a letter of support from the Town of Innisfail for its four-year quest to secure provincial funding to replace the main runway at Big Bend (Innisfail) Airport.

For the fourth year in a row Red Deer County is seeking provincial grant funds to help cover the million-dollar cost of overhauling the airport’s aging 3,025-foot long main runway.

The infrastructure was originally built along with two other runways of the same length to form a triangular take-off and landing military facility during the Second World War.

The airport's main runway has not undergone improvements for at least 40 years.

During a fall Innisfail council regular meeting, Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, said the county requested a letter of support from the town to secure a grant under the province’s Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP) for needed infrastructure work at the airport, located 10 kilometres northwest of town.

Council unanimously agreed to approve a motion to support Red Deer County's grant application.

“We really appreciate the willingness of CAO Todd Becker to present this to his council and for council in such short notice to have a quick discussion on it and support us in principle,” said Brad Koopmans, the county’s land and economic development manager.

He told the Albertan the runway at the Innisfail airport has been the subject of a needs assessment that engineers and consultants began up to four years ago.

It was ultimately determined there was only a five-year life expectancy left, said Koopmans.

He confirmed the county is specifically seeking a provincial grant under the Community Airport Program (CAP), which falls under the STIP umbrella.

He noted the CAP grant will only cover paving for runways and/or taxiways, and lighting.

Koopmans said the projected cost of the runway replacement project is about $1.26 million.

He said there is a split funding formula to follow if the county is successful with its grant application.

The province will pay for 75 per cent of the cost, while the county or joint municipalities pick up the rest, which is estimated to be just over $300,000.

Koopmans said the airport does not need any new lighting measures, adding the Innisfail Flying Club has done a good job over the years with its ongoing maintenance.

“We have enough stock in place for the next upcoming years, so that's not high on the priority list,” said Koopmans.

He said the 2023 application for funding, which was officially submitted on Nov. 29, is the county’s fourth year in a row seeking provincial support.

“The province has been very good to us with regards to Red Deer Regional Airport. They have a very finite or limited amount of grant funding to work with,” said Koopmans. “And typically, on these community airports it only goes to one municipality because it's such a small pool.

“We wouldn't be doing our constituents due diligence or (for) elected officials if we didn't apply for this grant.”

As for the Town of Innisfail, Koopmans said he was pleased with his discussions with Becker, as well as the letter of support for the grant.

He added talks have not yet started about any financial contribution the county may seek from the town to help cover the project cost.

“There's no funding commitment at all from the Town of Innisfail. Right now, we haven't even discussed that,” said Koopmans. “I think that's a plausible question. Let’s see where this application goes first.”

Meanwhile, officials with the Innisfail Flying Club, which operates the airport, are pleased the county is once again trying to get the necessary funds to replace the main runway, which the club had originally requested.

“It’s starting to show its age. The flying club can’t apply for grants. The airport is technically owned by the county,” said Rob Japp, president of the 55-member flying club. “We're hoping for (replacement) as soon as possible, so we can avoid any further deterioration.”

Japp noted the airport is also used by Red Deer pilot training schools, Central Alberta Gliding Club, Harvard Historical Aviation Society, paramotor enthusiasts, local skydivers, members of the Red Deer-based Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, and the COPA for Kids program by the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.


Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks