Sudbury Airport currently does not have a hangar large enough to house the Q400 aircraft, the largest aircraft servicing Sudbury through both Porter Airlines and Air Canada, said Robert Johnston.
The hangar would also be large enough to accommodate a Ministry of Natural Resources water bomber, and while there are no commitments from the MNR or the two commercial aircraft providers, Johnston said the board felt it would be prudent to build it with that potential in mind.
“We're hoping that by designing this hangar capable of accommodating an aircraft of that size, it will lead to other business opportunities such as aircraft maintenance,” he said.
WestJet uses that same Q3400 aircraft, he said.
“We are delighted with the airlines we have now, but we are always looking at ways to expand our services and bring in new aircraft service providers. If WestJet looks at Sudbury and has an interest in coming here, we think having a facility that can house a Q400 is something that will be looked on favourably.”
Construction of the hangar is set to begin in May 2014 with a completion date of October 2014.
“We're trying to move as quickly as possible,” said Johnston.“We're in the design stage right now, and we're hoping to go to tender in March 2014.”
Once it's complete, the new hangar will house Discovery Air, as well as a Northern Ontario School of Medicine environmental research centre and lab.
Discovery Air has a goal of becoming a leading provider of flight training for fixed-wing transport services in Northern Ontario, Johnston said. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine will work in partnership with Discovery Air on a research program to capture images of algae blooms on lakes in remote and populated regions in Northern Ontario.
“The new hangar will surpass all others in terms of size and monetary value,” said Johnston.
“We are building it larger than what we currently need for Discovery Air and Northern Ontario School of Medicine, as we look for more opportunities. If we can get another large business in that hangar within the next two or three years, that will push it to capacity, and we can look to the next project.”
The hanger, which will cost in the range of $3 million to $4 million, received a $1-million investment on Dec. 6 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci announced the investment.
“This investment will further position this airport as an investment-ready venue well-suited for commercial clients,” Bartolucci said.
For Bartolucci, it seems every odd-numbered year brings a significant financial boost for Sudbury Airport.
In 2007, the airport received $450,000 through NOHFC to expand its industrial park.
In 2009, the airport received $750,000 for the construction of a 15,000-square-foot state-of-the-art hangar — the largest of its kind on the property at that time.
In 2011, the airport received $1 million toward a $3.5-million development of about nine hectares of land to welcome new aviation and non-aviation groups. That project is known as Threshold 30.
“There's absolutely no doubt that Sudbury Airport is taking flight, and that it's a good flight pattern,” Bartolucci said. “We will continue our voyage, so that when we land, we will have the parameters to make this a thriving enterprise, one that can help build Sudbury's economy.”