Annapolis Valley Flying Association

General Aviation for the Annapolis Valley – COPA Flight 147

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Employees at Kings County Municipal Airport ask why council members want to take away their jobs.
May 7, 2014

WATERVILLE, NS – When it comes to business as usual around the Kings County Municipal Airport, that expression is now a thing of the past. With the uncertainty of the future not only of existing airport but a future airport, too, businesses like Rouleau Aviation are struggling to stay positive.

“It is difficult to drum up future business if there’s no guarantee of a future,” states Peter Rouleau, owner and operator of Rouleau Aviation based out of the Waterville Airport. “My business, my livelihood… it’s all gone once the airport is gone.”

And Rouleau is not the only one. There are several businesses with employees based out at the airport including a flight school, a skydiving school, and aircraft maintenance.

Municipality of Kings council members voted in March to close the 3,500ft runway and adjacent airport facilities effective September 30, 2014 to make way for Michelin in the event that they wished to expand. Having recently lain off a number of workers at their Granton plant, many people are left to question why the airport must be closed so quickly if Michelin is removing jobs from Nova Scotia.

Walter Isenor, president of the Annapolis Valley Flying Association says, “Many of the users of the Waterville airport want to know why we can’t just stay on the land until Michelin publicly announces and provides a timeline for any expansion. We are very willing to work together with Michelin so that the airport and the tire plant can work together. As an organization, however, we do not understand why we would be forced to move if there’s no expansion in the works.”

With the Kings County Municipal Airport being the second busiest airport in the province as per takeoffs and landings, and being amongst the busiest 12% of uncontrolled airports in Canada, many are left to question why their jobs that currently exist are not as important as those that may never exist.

The Annapolis Valley Flying Association can be found at: http://www.avfa.ca.
———————————————————- 30 ————————————————————For more information, contact:
Nancy Sweeney, Public Relations – Annapolis Valley Flying Association
(902) 266-9081
publicrelations@avfa.ca

The Kings County Municipal Airport or Waterville Airport (CCW3) is situated approximately 16 km west of Kentville. It has a 3,500 ft x 75 ft asphalt runway, paved taxiway, a paved apron with tie downs and above ground fuel tanks. The airport covers approximately 94 acres and is operated year-round seven-days-a-week (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

The airport has a long history, starting as an auxiliary landing strip for a World War II training centre at Greenwood, N.S. After the war it reverted to farm fields for short while before being revitalized as a private airport. The air-strip changed ownership several times before it was purchased by the Municipality of Kings (MOK) in about 1976 with a $50,000 grant from the Provincial Government. This allowed the MOK to apply for Federal funds to improve the airport. By 2013 it was home to an aviation training centre, two aviation shops, a sky-diving school and centre, and over 30 aircraft. Many aviators had invested significant money in building hangers and shops to make the airport an active aviation centre.

The Airport is a public facility that contributes to our community in many ways. It not only serves the county of Kings but people in Wolfville, Berwick, Kentville, and the whole region. It provides air transportation, tourism, training in aviation, repair services and a centre for any citizen who wants to enjoy aviation. Pilots from all over the Maritimes use the airport and it is a part of a network of facilities in our region. It is operated by a volunteer cooperative (Waterville Airport Cooperative Ltd or WACL) with a subsidy (about $50,000) from the Municipality. For the cost of what an average employee earns per year it generates economic activity of more than a million dollars a year. Each summer a dozen Canadian Air Cadets earn their pilot’s licences here. Many Valley pilots who work in the industry as bush pilots, airline pilots, and fly as recreational pilots got their training at Waterville Airport.

Time Line of the Maneuvering to Remove the Airport

  • In 2012 the Michelin Tire company invested $346 Million in its North American plants but none in any of the three in Nova Scotia. Michelin Tire plants must compete against each other to get money for expansion. The provincial government (New Democratics) wanted jobs for Nova Scotia and so they asked Michelin Canada what would be required to expand operations. Company officials indicated that due to the layout of the plant and location of equipment, the only possible area to expand was northward into airport lands. Michelin requested a province study on relocating the Waterville Airport.
     
  • In May 2012, the province paid $100,000 for a study to look at moving the Waterville airport. There was no inquiry as to whether the airport should be moved but the users of the airport were asked what a new airport would be like.
     
  • Due to the uncertainty of its future, progress at the Waterville airport stopped. Three hangers to be built and a business that was planned for the airport were canceled as a result of this.
     
  • By January 2013, the engineering and airport cost study was finished and submitted to the province but it was kept secret until May 2013. The study estimated a $12 Million cost to build a new airport and mentioned several possible sites (not revealed in the public report). An alternative move to Canadian Force Base (CFB) Greenwood, 20 km to the west, would cost less but still be about $7 Million. This latter option relies on the base command allowing civilian aviation on the base which it currently does not do.
     
  • Meanwhile in April 2013, Michelin invested $750 Million building a new modular and expandable plant in South Carolina.
     
  • The Municipality of Kings has continued to work towards making the airport land available to Michelin and in June 2013, the Kings County Council formally agreed to make the airport land available to Michelin if it needs it. At the same time Michelin stated that it had no plans to expand the Waterville plant. At that time the MOK promised to work to provide a new airport for the county.
     
  • In the Fall of 2013, MOK inquired into the possibility of a civilian airport at CFB Greenwood. The Waterville Airport Cooperative agreed to the airport move, preferably not to Greenwood but placed in the county closer to Halifax. The NDP government was defeated in a provincial election and replaced with a Liberal one.
     
  • February 2014, new Liberal provincial government (via the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism) urged the MOK to quickly make the airport property easily available to Michelin. There was no reason given for this urgency and Michelin had not indicated any possibility of expanding the Waterville plant.
     
  • Finally on 10th of March 2014, with a notice of only a few hours and a Council session closed to the public, the council of MOK voted 10 to 1 to close the Waterville airport after 30 Sept 2014. There still is no commitment by Michelin for expansion here. The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and Warden ordered the members of council to no longer talk about the airport.
  • (Council approved a motion to “divest itself of the lands identified by Michelin as being necessary for the possible expansion of the production line at the Waterville Plant as soon as is reasonably possible taking into consideration all relevant factors including the relocation of the Municipal Airport.” – This is a result of ERDT Minister Michel Samson recommended that the province and MOK develop a purchase and sale agreement that would define the terms and conditions for a future transaction, which would satisfy Michelin’s concerns and make the Waterville plant a competitive option for expansion.)
     
  • In response to the unreasonable and sudden complete elimination of possibilities for aviation in the region, the Annapolis Valley Flying Association invited interested parties to join them in a task force to educate the Council and public to the value of having the airport in Waterville and work to extend the life of the CCW3 at its current site.
  • The owner of the fight training centre at the airport said that he can not survive a delay for new facilities. Hanger owners will be required remove the buildings at their own cost. The sky-diving activities are also planning to leave the Valley and are preparing a small airport and jump zone in Hants County. There will be little aviation left to move to another airport. It is very unlikely, that a new $12 million airport can sustain itself after the existing aviation businesses have been driven away or disappeared.
  • In April 2014, MOK established a Waterville Airport Relocation Project Steering Committee, an advisory body to the Council that will assist with addressing issues related to the airport relocation. This is a result of a letter from ERDT informing the MOK that the province would not commit to any funding without the benefit of a detailed assessment, including a business case study. However, in that same letter the ERDT stated that even after the study the province would not contribute funds to new airport in any significant amount. The MOK believes that money is available from the Infrastructure Canada for a new airport. The study is expected to cost $75,000 shared between the Province and Municipality. The terms of reference for the study were written without any input from the aviation community.

Consequence of Waterville Airport Closure

The proposal of MOK (at the urging of the provincial ERDT) is to quickIy transfer ownership of the west end of the airport land to Michelin so they can say they have the land in hand when apply for expansion money. This will probably mean tearing up the airport asphalt runways and cleaning up the site. This will not be inexpensive and it is not clear who will pay for this. A figure of $1.35 Million has been quoted as the amount the MOK will receive for the land (It is not clear who is paying for this, the province or Michelin). That monies had been promised by the MOK to go toward the new airport but MOK has already mentioned that some of the money will be used for studies and possibly clean-up costs.

Once the airport is closed, aircraft can not take off and land so they will have to fly to another airport leaving the hangers empty. If Michelin at Waterville never gets any expansion money, the airport will be derelict land destined to become a business park under plans put forth by the MOK.

In April 2014, officials from CFB Greenwood met with pilots, businesses and hanger owners to gather the necessary information for the needs assessment related to using Greenwood military airport for general aviation. The command at CFB Greenwood is willing to consider a partnership with the local aviation community. The needs assessment will be completed soon but it is clear that CFB Greenwood has no funds to provide infrastructure for this partnership. There will also be restrictions related to security at the base along with the permissions necessary from DND in Ottawa. There is also a problem of available land for building any civilian hangers or other structures. The Greenwood Flight Centre currently at Waterville Airport used to operate out of CFB Greenwood but was ejected many years ago due to a policy change and the flight school and club at CFB Shearwater were also kicked out. This sort of thing can happen again .

Certain members of the MOK Council believe that the Waterville airport is expendable and are willing to give it away on a chance of some economic benefit will come from it. They quote the recent study by the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy: “a greater willingness to take on the risks associated with economic change and progress “ and as a result they say they “must do whatever is necessary to allow for business expansion while at the same time positioning itself to take maximum advantage of the opportunities associated with the growth of one of the leading export organizations in the Province. “

The MOK or Province have never done any study to determine if there is any real possibility that the Waterville Michelin plant really has to build to the north side of their plant (they always quote the requirements stated by Michelin spokespersons) nor have they analyzed the tire industry economics to know if there is any good chance of Michelin International investing the $500 million always quoted as the size of the investment (all this is taken of hope and belief). Michelin Waterville is already expanding over the next few years with an investment of $73 million to create about 50 jobs and will involve equipment improvements, including the installation of new technologies in all aspects of the manufacturing process. The project will involve adding 32,280 square feet to the factory but will not need airport land.

There has recently (May 2014) been a meeting (Round Table) between representatives of provincial, municipal, Michelin, and stakeholders of the Waterville Airport to exchange information. The exchange provided a clearer picture of the positions of all parties involved but changed none of the realities of situation.

 International Jumping Champs call Waterville Airport “Home”

Skydivers are being told to pack up their chutes and hit the road.
April 23, 2014
WATERVILLE, NS – Cole Harbour is not the only community in Nova Scotia turning out high profile athletes these days. There’s a new breeding ground for champions in Nova Scotia and it can be found at the Kings County Municipal Airport in Waterville, Nova Scotia.

One of Canada’s pioneers in wing suit flying and a teacher of the art to others is Ralph Armstrong. Ralph is based out of the Atlantic Skydiving School at the Waterville Airport, and in 2011, Ralph and his team became the world record holder for largest wing suit formation in a skydive.

And speaking of record holders, a national women’s record holder for skydiving in the category of largest, all-female group formation is none other than Valley-based Lynda Sellon.

World-class freefly instructor, Rob Heron, is an internationally known wing suit base jumper and has been featured on many international extreme sports show and can even be found on a German beer commercial – http://thinkbigmedia.de/warsteiner-with-rob-heron/?fb_action_ids=10202079580054492&fb_action_types=og.likes

Brittany Bell got her start at the Kings County Municipal Airport and is now one of the few female Tandem Masters in the world. She is currently living in the UAE and working at one of the world’s most popular skydiving schools, Skydive Dubai.

Peter Kozak is a member of Team Canada’s Canopy Piloting team. He competes internationally at a world-class level. Andrew Pertus, a skydiver from Halifax who started diving in Watervile, is currently serving in the Canadian Forces and was part of the CF skydiving team, the SkyHawks.

These people and countless others have been able to realize their dreams of flight and world travel because of the Waterville Airport and the Atlantic School of Skydiving. Skydiving is a sport rich in memories and friendships, not in hard cash dollars. While it might appear skydivers are daredevils, they take safety very seriously. Skydiving attracts people of all ages wishing to accept the challenge to experience something different or make skydiving part of a healthy active lifestyle. Without the airport at its current location, skydiving in Nova Scotia runs a risk of ceasing to exist.

—— Then where will the next wave of professionals come from ——

 Article about Kings County Municipal Airport focus of International Aviation Publication

Local aviation enthusiast authors piece for Experimental Aviation Association
April 16, 2014
WATERVILLE, NS – Larry Bogan is all aglow these days. An aviation enthusiast and aircraft hobbyist with an aircraft based at the Kings County Municipal Airport, Bogan recently submitted a piece of writing to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) newsletter about the decision made by Municipality of Kings to close the local airport.

“If the municipal councillors are not going to listen to us, we need to explore other avenues to have our voices heard,” exclaims Bogan. “Publishing an article in the EAA magazine was my way of attracting attention to the airport and to interested pilots who might have some insight into our situation. Maybe others have gone through this battle and can offer us some help.”

Municipality of Kings decided in a March in-camera session to close the airport at its current location effective September 30, 2014. This decision will force the closure and/or displacement of pilots, aircraft, hangars and businesses (including Greenwood Flight Centre, Greenwood Aircraft Maintenance, and the Atlantic Skydiving School) – all left without a home. Though alternatives have been proposed, to this date there has been no concrete decision made that would give airport users a new place to settle. The Municipality has not taken any action in order to provide a new location of the airport as was proposed in an earlier study.

In accordance with the taxpayer funded study performed by CBCL Limited in 2013, Kings County Municipal Airport has been responsible for approximately $17.025 million in personal and non-aviation related investment in the county. It ranks 22 out of 186 of uncontrolled airports in the country in terms of takeoffs and landings, placing it amongst the top 12% of Canadian airports. The study also notes that the costs for operating the airport are “modest by the standards of other uncontrolled airports in Canada.” 

The users of the airport are not giving up without a fight. The Annapolis Valley Flying Association has formed a taskforce which is operating under the banner “SAVE OUR AIRPORT”. Several upcoming events have been planned to entice public support for the need for and financial benefit of an airport in the Annapolis Valley.

The above-mentioned article can be found at:

http://www.eaa.org/bitsandpieces/articles/2014-04_imaginaryindustrial-expansion.asp
The Annapolis Valley Flying Association can be found at: http://www.avfa.ca.

Introducing Aviation to the young people of the Annapolis Valley. A Contest April 15 through May 15, 2014. More details on the Introductory Page (pdf)

Contest Poster

A pdf version of this poster is here.

 Free PDF Reader (32 Mb)

(documents updated 24 Apr 2014)

 Peter Rouleau mentioned this as a possiblity and Art Patton created this image of the airport with a modified runway using Google Earth.

Waterville Airport with drawing of an alternate runway leaving room for an expansion north by the Michelin tire plant.

The attached photo is my playing with Google Earth. IF Michelin were to expand only the main building 250 feet north then at the eastern end of that building moving the center line of the runway 250 ft. north would result in the longest red line shown. the next lines out in each direction represent the runway strip and the next lines out each side are where up to 30 ft. high trees/buildings, whatever would not enter the 20% slope transition zone. It would take some work, fill etc. but could be done cheaper than building a new airport. All hangars etc could remain and only minor taxiway adjustments would be needed. Again this is very rough but suggests a possibility.

Art Patton

Event: 10 March -The Kings County Council had voted to close the Waterville Airport on 30 Sept 2014
See – Closure Announcement here

The AVFA met on the 16th of March in Waterville to discuss what to do as a result of the Kings County Council’s decision to close the Waterville Airport next September. There were about 40 aviators and friends present.  A taskforce was established to plan for the future, whether by trying to get an extension of the closing date, by planning for a new airport for the region or other solution. The taskforce plans to work on these and more. See the Taskforce Pages in the menu above for more details.  If you are interesting in helping in the process, please fill in a form on the Taskforce Page and send it to Christoph Both

 On Monday, March 10, 2014, the Kings County Municipal Council met in a closed meeting and then voted to close the Waterville (Kings County Airport). No reasons have been given for the closing other than to say it will make way for a ‘possible’ expansion of the Michelin Tire Plant.  The council seems to keep saying Michelin will use the land but Michelin has said publically that it has no plans to expand the Waterville plant.


The following is from http://www.kingscountynews.ca/

Waterville airport to close

County council voted 10-1 in favour of closing the municipal airport in Waterville during a special meeting held tonight.

The closure will take effect Sept. 30. The county has pledged to undertake a business case for a new airport.

Councillor Patricia Bishop told council she would not support the closure due to the process it took to reach the decision.


For an excellent report of the process behind this decision see Councilor Pauline Raven’s Blog   Behind Closed Doors 2


The Airport is a valuable part of the county infrastructure and has been been in operation off and on since World War II. Kings County took over the airport in 1975 with funds from the federal government.  It’s operations were improved with a grant from the federal government to extend the taxiway a few years ago. The Greenwood Flight School moved here and operates an active business training and repairing aircraft. Many aircraft owners have invested in the airport by building hangers at the airport. There is no other civil airport with a paved runway between Debert and Digby.  There is concern that their investment will now cost them money. See Hanger Owners want help with Airport Move.

All of this will be lost with this decision by the council. 

To replace (move) the airport will be a very expensive business. 

  • Land will have to be purchased
  • The land will have to be cleared and leveled
  • Runways and buildings will have to be built
  • Businesses and users will have to be attracted to the new location

The study that was recently done on the airport suggests a cost on the order of 10 million dollars.  The County does not have that money and will have to get it from other sources.  In reality, it is likely that the Kings County will have no airport any time soon.