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Why there aren't yet more scheduled flights to the lower Sunshine Coast's only airport

It may be 2023 before more scheduled service takes off. Sechelt's expanded runway opened ten months ago, thanks to a $3.5 million municipal investment, but airlines are waiting for lighting and approach tree clearing to complete before considering scheduled service.
Plane taking off or landing at an airport

An expanded runway at the Sechelt Airport opened 10 months ago, thanks to the investment by Sechelt of $3.5 million in grant and community works funding.  But airlines are waiting until lighting and approach tree clearing are done before considering scheduled service to the airport.

In a May 16 interview, councillor and airport development select committee chairperson Eric Scott told Coast Reporter two new firms have submitted expressions of interest in starting operations from that Sechelt-owned facility.

One airline, Sunshine Coast Air, does have two scheduled flights from the Sechelt air field to Victoria in the summer months.

Work Required

It may be into 2023 before the airport is ready for scheduled service to takeoff. A contract for the lighting, valued at just over $309,000 for Continental Power of Burnaby, B.C. was slated to be considered at the May 18 council meeting (past Coast Reporter deadline).  

While that project should be complete within two months after the award, work has not started on the 200 meters of tree clearing on the airport’s approach. Council asked the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) to manage that project last September. SCCF administrator Sara Zieleman advised via email that “the clearing and topping at the Sechelt Airport is awaiting archeological field reconnaissance by the shíshálh Nation.  As it is already late May, we will soon be into fire hazard season and no harvesting is anticipated until at least the fall, and it could be later.”

“Full-on scheduled service will require the airport to be GPS certified. That is a procedural thing for the airport. A company comes in and does an evaluation and creates the framework of the approach and submits it to be published. There is nothing extra required on the ground at the airport,” said Scott. He added that the potential new operators may opt to start out as flight charter businesses until everything is in place for scheduled service.

Scott said no work related to the weather information system is required to bring Sechelt airport to a higher service level.

“We don’t need to run full aviation weather to run instrument flight rules (IFR). Vancouver Harbour runs IFR flights without weather reporting right there. It changes some of the criteria, but it is not insurmountable.”

Aviation gas can be purchased at the airport at any time using a card lock system. Fuel system expansion to include jet fuel is an option Scott would like to see explored, potentially through a private contractor. 

Flights are up but no one is counting

“You do see a lot more general aviation traffic coming in and out of Sechelt,” Scott stated, but the activity level isn’t being measured.  Airport management does not record or report on flight activity levels and Scott says airports of Sechelt’s size normally don’t maintain that type of data. 

Airport manager Greg Caple, has a different view. He said that there haven’t really been any changes to the amount or types of aircraft using the facility. His assessment was that other airports are also seeing lower activity levels and estimates that is due to the dramatic hikes in fuel prices.

Paying for the master plan

Flight movement recording and commercial landing fees are things Scott would like to see implemented as a new airport master plan is developed to generate revenue for airport operations and improvements.

The master plan process is on hold until there is airport-related revenue to cover the costs, estimated at $80,000. During 2022 budget deliberations, council agreed that revenue from the sale of lumber from the tree clearing project should top up the airport revenue fund and allow for that work to proceed. 

Getting ready for racing

While the level of aviation activity may have seen a marginal increase, the activity related to preparations for drag racing at the facility has been in full swing throughout May. According to Facebook posts, the Sunshine Coast Drag Racing Association has efforts scheduled to continue through to May 23. If community members want to volunteer to help the association complete the changes needed to make the site safe for racing, they should contact Richard Austin at

The group is getting ready for its first public event at the airport in almost three years on July 9.

Correction: An earlier version of this story state that there were no scheduled flights from the Sechelt airport. That is incorrect. Sunshine Coast Air does have  scheduled service in the summer months. We regret the error. 

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