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What it would take to increase large aircraft capacity at Saskatchewan’s major airports

A Boeing 787 plane is photographed on July 4, 2022 in Regina, Sask. The flight transported 230 Ukrainian refugees from Warsaw, Poland to Saskatchewan. File / Global News

It has been over a month since the first flight transporting Ukrainian refugees to Saskatchewan arrived in early July at the Regina International Airport.

The event saw 230 Ukrainians, who fled their country amid the Russian war on Ukraine, arrive on a Boeing 787 to the Queen City in an effort by the province to provide safe refuge for them.

Last week, more Ukrainian refugees arrived in Saskatchewan. However, their flight did not land in the province since it needed to make a scheduled layover in a neighbouring province.

“We made a decision to actually charter a couple of smaller planes from Edmonton to Regina and allow the Edmonton airport to unload,” explained Premier Scott Moe during an event on Friday to mark the latest arrival of Ukrainians to the province.

The first flight that landed in Regina required special equipment and additional staff to help with its arrival, according to officials.

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Read more: Saskatchewan welcomes more Ukrainians to the Prairies after flight arrives

Since more coordinating and accommodations were needed to make the Regina arrival back in July a success, organizers felt it was best to have the 787 –– the same aircraft that landed in July –– land in the Alberta capital where larger aircraft arrivals are more common.

After passengers disembarked the 787 in Edmonton, they were then transported on the two smaller planes to Regina.

It’s not often that Regina and Saskatoon’s airports work with these types of planes, but the premier thinks it should happen more often.

“Both of our airports in Saskatchewan should be increasing in the capacity and the other types of planes that they are able to accept,” Moe said on Friday.

In order to get more large aircraft landing at Saskatchewan’s largest airports, airlines and ground-handling companies would need to invest in appropriate equipment and training.

James Bogusz, president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, said this would be the case unless more of these types of planes were coming in.

“Airports of our size just don’t see a frequency of what we call larger wide-body jets that often would necessitate a company, such as Air Canada or ATS, to make the investments in equipment and training required to handle those flights,” noted Bogusz.

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“They would have to see a critical mass of scheduled service because this equipment and the training requirements to manage some of these larger aircraft are quite different than what we would have on a typical day-to-day basis, but we certainly support the province’s initiative with the displaced Ukrainians coming in.”

Read more: Frustrated Regina travellers searching for answers with ArriveCAN app

In addition, it could potentially mean more staffing requirements –– especially if the flight arrives from another country.

“There’s a high level of intricate and delicate work that has to be done with public health and their requirements around processing those passengers, which are all in addition to other processes that occur at the airport,” stated Andrew Leeming, vice president of operational excellence for the Saskatoon Airport Authority.

“There is a lot of planning that needs to go into it, and because it’s not a day-to-day operation, it falls under a unique operation. So more management needs to happen around that.”

On Friday, the province signed a memorandum of understanding to partner on a total of five humanitarian flights planning on bringing over 1,000 Ukrainian refugees to Saskatchewan, including the two flights that arrived this summer.

No confirmation has been given as to where the remaining three flights will touch down.

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