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Feds reject Pitt Meadows request to become an ‘airport of entry’
A border services agency whose resources are already stretched to the limit means Pitt Meadows airport won’t be seeing more cross-border flights anytime soon.
Known by the code YPK, traffic into Pitt Meadows Regional Airport is currently restricted to people who have a CANPASS permit.
This designation means that all of the passengers and crew on board a flight from the U.S. must be “CANPASS Qualified.”
“This is an inconvenient and unlikely situation,” Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters wrote in a letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, sent by council in January on behalf of the airport board.
The letter asked to upgrade YPK’s designation to an “airport of entry.”
The designation would permit international arrivals at Pitt Meadows via charter flights, air taxi, corporate aircrafts and sea planes, as Pitt Meadows is the only other sea plane destination in the Lower Mainland outside Vancouver International.
The designation would also allow the airport to attract business from Washington State, a hub of the aerospace industry.
Airport management said it has a number of proposals and has been nurturing leads with U.S.-based companies, but have been thwarted by their CANPASS designation.
Current tenants are also missing out on serving U.S.-based companies as their clients have to be cleared via alternate airports such as Boundary Bay or Abbotsford International.
In a reply to council, Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney revealed the Canada Border Services Agency was unable to accommodate their request at present.
“Pacific Highway District continues to face operational capacity challenges as traffic volumes and service demands continue to increase,” Blaney said.
One of the strategies used by the Pacific district to address these challenges is to beef up staffing levels by drawing on resources from other districts.
“The added pressure of sending officers to the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport from any of the CBSA Pacific Region Districts would likely result in an increase of both wait times for travelers at ports of entry, and the use of officers on overtime and travel status,” Blaney noted.
Though disappointed by the response, Walters noted the ministry said it would consider possible options should there be a “change in the current circumstances.”
The Pitt Meadows Regional Airport Society took over the airport from the federal government in 1997.
The society is currently run by a board of directors appointed by Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows municipal councils.
This year, there are several new faces on the board, including RCMP Supt. Dave Walsh, the former officer in charge of the Ridge Meadows detachment.
Walsh’s term expires in 2015.
Wendy Boyes was appointed to a term that expires in 2016, while Murray Day, Jim Barret and Greg Andrew were all renamed to the board, each to serve a final term which expires in 2017.