By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
In only a few short weeks, the main runway of the Oshawa airport will shut down, marking the culmination of years of planning to replace the aging pavement along with the extensive preparations for mitigating the potential impacts on business and air travel.
“It’s something that we’ve been talking (about) with our tenants for a number of years and as we moved through the process with extensive consultation with them and the community as well,” says Stephen Wilcox, the manager of the Oshawa Executive Airport.
The closure begins on Sept. 5, and is slated to last for a minimum of 35 days, weather permitting. The timeline has Wilcox praying for a much drier fall season compared to the wet summer experienced across the GTA, as rains could draw out the construction process.
“There’s a lot of work that can take place when it’s raining, but there’s certainly some things that can’t take place,” he says.
Currently, Metric Consulting Services, the contractor for the $6 million rehabilitation have begun some of the preliminary work on site, including delivering equipment, stockpiling materials and starting some of the excavation work that will go into the noise berm being constructed on the Jane Street side of the airport.
“As much of the preliminary work that can be done has been done so that on the 5th of September they’re going to hit the ground running,” Wilcox says.
The project is a complete overhaul of Runway 12/30, the airport’s main runway, including electrical and lighting systems, something that hasn’t been done since the runway was built in 1941. Upgrades to the runway end safety areas will also be undertaken to bring them up to Transport Canada standards.
In order to limit the time of the closure, work will go on 24/7.
For Wilcox, there was no question the project needed to happen this year.
“It really is the end of its life cycle,” he says of the runway. “Its had a couple bandages on it since then, but its never really had any major reconstruction work and because of that we’re getting to a point where we can just no longer maintain it in a safe and efficient manner.”
In the coming years, a smooth functioning airport will become increasingly important for the Oshawa area as air travel is only predicted to increase steadily. And with the projected closure of the Buttonville Airport sometime in the next couple years, it is projected that aircraft movements in Oshawa will increase to more than 100,000 annually, more than double 2014’s numbers of 51,758 movements.
“The business plan has been very clear that we’re going to continue to get busier and of course we’re doing our best to manage that within the context of being a good community neighbour,” Wilcox says.
Currently, 250 aircraft and 18 different aviation-related businesses use the Oshawa airport.
Wilcox says that some will be taking a late “summer holiday” of sorts during the closure, while others will be moving their air transport elsewhere to Buttonville, Lindsay or Peterborough until Oshawa reopens. He doesn’t foresee any long term impacts on the businesses resulting from the closure. If anything, the impacts are only positive, he says.
“Aviation always sees those as very, very positive signs,” Wilcox says of the improvements. “What we’re doing here is not unique to us and aviation always adjusts.”