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Kelowna International Airport celebrating 75th anniversary

Kelowna International Airport is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The airport’s first flight, a small plane, took off in the fall of 1947. Global News

Kelowna International Airport is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

According to the city, after the airport’s first flight took off in the fall of 1947, YLW has provided stable employment, helped expand Kelowna’s economy and become a gateway for the region.

“For 75 years, Kelowna International Airport has played a critical role in supporting economic development in Kelowna and the region,” said Kelowna’s mayor, Colin Basran.

Read more: Kelowna airport receives $3.2M in federal funding

“The story of the airport depicts the interesting growth of aviation in the Okanagan Valley and the relentless energy of the air-minded citizens who had a vision to develop a world-class airport.”

“We are excited to be celebrating this important milestone with our staff, YLW campus tenants, partners and Okanagan residents,” said airport director Sam Samaddar.

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“I would especially like to thank all of the staff over the last 75 years who have built YLW into what it is today.”

A photo of Kelowna’s airport in 1958. City of Kelowna

The city says the first flight that took off from YLW — a grass field on a former ranch — was a Piper Cub.

“This could not have happened without the support of the citizens of Kelowna who voted in favour of purchasing the 320-acre Dickson Ranch in 1946 to establish an airport,” said the city.

Now paved, that small, grass runway on Ellison Field is currently 8,900 feet in length.

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And prior to the pandemic, YLW had surpassed two million passengers, becoming the 10th busiest airport in the nation. One website listed YLW as the ninth busiest airport in 2020.

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During the pandemic, though, YLW’s numbers dipped dramatically (737,447 in 2020; 829,804 in 2021), but the airport has seen an increase in travellers recently.

An aerial view of Kelowna’s airport during its early years. City of Kelowna

In January 2021, the airport saw 31,417 travellers. For January 2022, the airport had 97,789 travellers. It was the same for February: 26,892 to 104,127.

For more about Kelowna International Airport’s 75th anniversary, visit the airport’s website.

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