Drumheller Municipal Airport has undergone several improvements since 2021, and both local and visiting pilots are recognizing these efforts with positive feedback and reviews.
In April 2021, the Mail reported new airport managers Patrick and Catherine Bonneville were hoping to revive the facility, increase awareness, and make the airport known as a gateway to the community.
During the regular Monday, November 7 Drumheller council meeting, Ms. Bonneville shared the airport draws “over 1,000 visiting aircraft per year.”
Of these visits, over 70 per cent are returning visitors, and about half are for overnight stays. Additionally, about three in five aircraft purchase fuel and about one in six will visit the Town of Drumheller.
There have also been some aviation events, which have attracted not only members of the aviation community, but also members of the Drumheller and surrounding communities.
Alberta Aerobatics Club practiced over the municipal airport in July 2021 and Elevate Aviation, an Edmonton-based non-profit supporting awareness of and introducing women and youth to aviation career opportunities, held a fly-in event at the end of August 2021.
These events attracted upwards of 200 visiting aircraft, along with hundreds of spectators.
This increased awareness has also attracted some potential commercial business.
In May 2022, the Mail reported Jack Paquette with Air Pocket Adventures had considered using the Drumheller Municipal Airport as a flight training sub-base. Although this has not yet been realized, this is something which could become a reality-especially with recent paving and lighting improvements.
The airport was closed for a six-week period between June and July to allow for the runway and adjacent strips to be repaved. Drumheller council awarded the project in April 2022 to Border Paving Ltd. for a total of $1,314,442.38; the Alberta government is supporting 75 per cent of the project through the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program - Community Airport Program (STIP-CAP), with the Town responsible for the remaining 25 per cent portion.
At the time, the Town postponed awarding the lighting portion of the project due to costs over $200,000 over the approved budget. In May, Drumheller Mayor Heather Colberg and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Darryl Drohomerski lobbied the provincial government for additional funding for multiple projects, including the airport lighting.
Shortly afterwards, a letter was received from Alberta Minister of Transportation Prasad Panda informing the Town it had been successful and additional funding was provided for the project.
The lighting project was awarded to Border Paving in October 2022 in the amount of $336,650.
Work to replace the aging lighting system with a modern LED system is currently underway and is expected to be finished by mid-January 2023. This will allow the airport to resume nighttime operations, which it has been unable to do for about four years.
Along with necessary rehabilitation of the runway and lighting, there have also been renovations to the airport terminal building. These renovations have included improving internet connectivity and providing meeting room spaces
Drumheller council approved a new schedule of fees for the airport at the November 7 meeting to help ensure the facility becomes self-sustaining in the future.