New Airport Creates Exciting New Regional Opportunities
Big things are happening at the Comox Valley Airport, and they're literally bringing the world to Mount Washington's doorstep.
"This new, expanded airport is great news for Mount Washington and the entire tourism sector," Mount Washington Alpine Resort President and General Manager Peter Gibson said. "It will open up the ski industry and ensure it is a driving force in this region for years to come."
The new terminal on Knight Road, accompanying airside and parking lot are 10 times bigger than the old airport facility. Passengers flying into and out of Comox will now have a roomy facility with proper security and baggage handling facilities, a customs wing, restaurant, gift shop, real estate kiosk and more.
There are portals and plug-ins for people needing to use their computers, pay phones in the pre-board area and plenty of washroom space - unlike the previous terminal.
"We see the building as being quite inviting to visitors," Airport General Manager Chuck Fast said. "I think with the new site, people will stay for a cup of coffee and enjoy the building."
Dishlevoy Hagarty Architects of Comox capitalized on the airport site's busy nature - they share ramp space with Canadian Forces Base Comox -- when they designed the terminal, and the 40-foot curtain window in the pre-boarding area is the building's main feature.
"It's got the kind of look and ideas and finishing that makes us appear more cosmopolitan," architect Martin Hagarty said.
The customs wing opened up in mid-June to domestic arrivals, and is just waiting for a trans-border airline to come knocking. Seattle-based Horizon Air still hasn't committed to Comox, although airline officials have conducted a site survey. But that's not a concern to the airport commission, which in early June welcomed Air Transat's decision to fly non-stop charters between Comox and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Air Transat will charter a WestJet Boeing 737-700 for the flights, which will depart Comox every Monday between Dec. 20, 2004 and March 21, 2005. "We weren't too sure the market could support an airplane," Air Transat Director of Sales for Western Canada Gerry Roussin said at a recent press conference. Then the Montreal-based wholesale travel company did an internal review and discovered that 1,000 passengers from the Comox Valley area fly to Puerto Vallarta every year. They've already pre-sold 100 tickets and expect to sell out every flight.
"Once you have the customs facility ... you just don't know what's available," Fast said. "Terry Law (CVAC director) got a call from Signature Vacations saying 'why didn't you tell us (about the charter service)?' Aloha Airlines phoned and said 'what about us?' Once you have a suitable facility, the business will come."
The airport has already seen golf charters to Crown Isle come through the new terminal, and another flew out to Whistler, Fast said. Martin Air (KLM) is starting long-haul service into Vancouver International Airport and is looking for side trips; Comox is a possibility. And WestJet announced in June that it is entertaining international flights out of its major centers, which could benefit the Comox-Calgary run.
"Think of it: London-Calgary-Comox is not that far off," Royal LePage Realtor Rick Gibson said.
Did You Know...
• The Comox Valley Airport is also known as "YQQ"? That's the official designator from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). All airports in the world have different designators. In fact, Comox's "official" designator is really "CYQQ", because all airports in Canada have a "C" at the beginning of their name. In comparison, all airports in the United States have a "K" at the front of their designators.
• The airport's first terminal was purpose-built in 1956 by the Department of National Defence to handle the civilian aviation needs of its members at Canadian Forces Base Comox. The terminal shared space with the Coast Guard Marine Radio office (which has since been located to the top of the bluffs at Cape Lazo).
• Rumor has it that Comox was chosen for a Royal Air Force Base on the West Coast because it had good weather and little fog. The base was built in 1942 to protect the strategic Pacific coastline from a possible Japanese invasion (totally unnecessary, as it turned out, because the Japanese navy only made it as far as Midway Island in the Pacific).
• The Comox Valley Airport Commission will demolish the old terminal later this year, and return it to a grassy area. Then CFB Comox will use the old parking lot to store old vehicles until they can be divested by Crown Assets.
• The main runway at CFB Comox is 10,000 feet long and is considered an official emergency runway for the American Space Shuttle. It's one of the longest runways in Canada. Mirabel Airport in Montreal is the longest at 12,000 feet. Vancouver International and Toronto's Pearson Airport are tied for second longest at 11,000 feet.
For information on the Cottingham Terminal or flights at the Comox
Valley Airport, visit them online at