MEDICINE HAT, AB — The City of Medicine Hat will be closing the Medicine Hat Regional Airport for 24 days next year for rehabilitation work.
The second phase of the airport rehabilitation project will begin of May 7 and last until May 31, and will rehabilitate the airport’s main runway and taxiway pavement surface, which has not received a major surface treatment in more than 20 years.
During the time of construction, all runways at the airport will be closed, and all scheduled airline flights will be cancelled.
Crews will be working 24 hours a day to complete the work, which involves removal of the existing pavement surface, placing additional gravel structure, and repaving the new runway.
Super T Aviation says the closure will be detrimental to their business.
“This would mean a total shut down of our entire operation, no income, but all the expenses are still there,” said co-owner Les Little.
Super T took over the flight training school from Bar XH back in 2008. Since then, they’ve trained countless students to pilot aircrafts.
Little said they aren’t sure they could recover financially if the city does move forward with its plans to close the runways.
“We've served the city well over the last 40-50 years,” he said. “Surely some concessions can be made to accommodate the folks who are already here.”
Integra Air is also disappointed with the city’s announcement.
Integra currently provides round trip flights from Medicine Hat to Edmonton, carry out fixed-wing medivac service and provide fuel for private and commercial planes.
Base manager Adam Kiess said the closure of the runways will hurt them.
“I don't know what we're going to do,” he said.
“We have a little over 20 [employees] what do I do? Put them all on vacation for a month? Shut down? How do I pay my overhead or my bills or my taxes or everything else that continues? It's going to be seriously detrimental.”
Both companies said that in consultations with the city there were options presented to keep half of the runway open during construction. That option would have met both of their needs and aren’t sure why it isn’t being done.
“We would be willing to continue our medivac services on a half strip, I could get my commercial and scheduled services on a half strip,” explained Kiess. “Private aircraft could still come in and I could keep my [fuel services] open.”
The City said Air Canada, the biggest passenger carrier to and from Medicine Hat, refused to land on a shortened or narrowed runway. The new fixed-wing air ambulance service, who will take over from Integra Air, also refused.
Airport manager Jeff Huntus said he feels for the companies affected but maintains that this was the best decision with the least impact.
“The least intrusive least impactful option was to simply close the runway for 24 days, up to 24 days, and undertake construction,” said Huntus. “That construction is going to go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Super T said it is looking at possible legal action to prevent the city from closing the air strip which will hurt their business.
“The City of Medicine Hat is putting us in a position that we certainly do not want to be put in,” said Little.
The city says Alberta Health Services is working on alternatives to continue air ambulance operations, and further details will be provided once available.
Customers who have bookings during this time will be advised accordingly by their booking agent. For alternative travel arrangements, customers should contact their travel agent or visit the City of Medicine Hat webpage at www.medicinehat.ca and search for the Regional Airport Page for further information.
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