West Wind Aviation calls for improvements to northern Saskatchewan airport

Athabasca Basin Development has increased its ownership in Saskatoon-based West Wind Aviation.
The president and CEO of West Wind Aviation is calling for a runway expansion at the northern Saskatchewan airport. Devin Sauer / Global News

Saskatoon-based West Wind Aviation is throwing its support behind a call by the chief of a northern Saskatchewan First Nation to improve the airport at Fond du Lac.

West Wind said lengthening the runway from 3,800 feet to 5,000 feet and widening it from 75 feet to 150 feet would allow the company to use larger aircraft to meet demand.

“If the runway were lengthened by just 1,200 feet and widened, it would greatly improve the ability for all carriers to serve these growing northern communities with larger aircraft needed to meet the demand,” Michael Rodyniuk, West Wind’s president and CEO, said Monday in a statement.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan abandons commitment to improve northern airport after crash — chief

A dispute arose last week between the Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation and the Saskatchewan government over responsibility for a funding application.

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Chief Louie Mercredi said the province was abandoning its commitment to developing the runway near his northern reserve.

He’s been pushing for changes since one person died and nine were seriously injured following a plane crash there in December 2017.

The province, which owns and operates the airport, blames the First Nation’s incomplete funding application for the project being delayed.

READ MORE: $12M for renovations at Fond du Lac Airport in northern Saskatchewan

Rodyniuk said the short runways at both Fond du Lac and Wollaston affect the ability of West Wind to service those communities.

“We always operate with safety as our priority,” Rodyniuk said.

“It is currently cost-prohibitive to fly large aircraft into the community because we can only fly a handful of people out.”

West Wind said similar airports in northern Saskatchewan, including Stony Rapids and Buffalo Narrows, have 5,000-foot treated runways.

WATCH (April 2018): Plane not de-iced prior to Fond-du-Lac crash — TSB

Plane not de-iced prior to Fond-du-Lac crash: TSB
Plane not de-iced prior to Fond-du-Lac crash: TSB

—With files from the Canadian Press