Despite the mild winter that befell most of North America this past year, one might be excused for believing one of the few areas not to experience a severe decline in de-icing demand to be Vancouver, British Columbia. After all, the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort (host to the 2010 Winter Olympics) just 70 miles away received 45 feet of snow this past season. Yet at Vancouver’s Boundary Bay Airport (CZBB), unseasonable weather prevailed. “In terms of winters, it’s been a wet one, but it hasn’t been a cold one,” said Lyle Soetaert, the manager of the airport’s FBO, Boundary Bay Air Services. “We had snow just two times this year and in both cases it was gone by midday.”
Situated approximately a half-hour drive from downtown Vancouver, Boundary Bay Airport traces its existence to 1941 as a training base for the Royal Canadian Air Force, to provide pilots for the conflict overseas. After World War II it was decommissioned and served in a variety of non-aviation roles until the late 1980s, when it was reactivated as a general aviation and flight-training airport by Transport Canada to relieve traffic at nearby Vancouver International Airport (CYVR).
Once re-established, the airport (now ranked as the eighth busiest in Canada) was handed over to the local municipal government, which signed a lease with Alpha Aviation in 2004 to operate it until 2099. Since it took over, the company has invested approximately $20 million in the airport, including a 2,000-foot runway extension, a new fuel farm and the construction of a modern 15,000-sq-ft FBO terminal that was completed in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The FBO was initially named Alpha Aviation (the same as the parent airport operator Alpha Aviation, which is housed in the same building), creating some confusion among customers. The FBO was renamed Boundary Bay Air Services last year. According to Soetaert, being the airport operator as well as the FBO provider streamlines billing for the customers as they can deal with just one point of contact for everything from landing fees to fueling costs.
Plenty of Room for Bizav
The new environmentally friendly terminal was built to Leed silver certification standards and features the latest amenities, including a VIP passenger and crew lounges, a restaurant, a board/conference room, flight-planning room, kitchen facilities for crew, showers, crew cars and Wi-Fi throughout the building. Other services include onsite car rental as well as a Canadian customs office (staffed from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.). The facility itself is open from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., but call-out staffing is available for late night/early morning arrivals.
Currently the FBO has 25,000 sq ft of heated hangar space and an additional 30,000-sq-ft heated hangar is slated for completion this summer. Outdoors there is approximately five acres of ramp space. Among the dozen or so based business aircraft are some Citation Mustangs, as well as several King Airs and PC-12s. The runway, which was extended from 3,600 to 5,600 feet, can now accommodate most business aircraft, up to the occasional bizliner. A similar extension will begin on another runway around the end of the year, according to Soetaert.
Along with the recent renovations was a new tank farm that can hold 25,000 gallons each of jet-A and avgas; supplies aircraft with a fleet of four 2,500-gallon tankers, two for each fuel type. There is also a self-service card-lock avgas pump.
A renaming of the FBO wasn’t the only recent modification in the location’s identity. The former Air BP-branded FBO is, like others in North America, currently in the process of rebranding to fuel distributor Epic’s own brand following the conclusion of the licensing agreement between Epic Aviation and Air BP.
Despite the initial crush from the 2010 Olympics, Boundary Bay Airport still has a bit of an identity crisis, according to Soetaert. “I get comments from people who didn’t know we were here, didn’t realize how close we are to metro Vancouver and didn’t know how easy it is to come and go.” That perception is slowly fading, though, as more private aviation passengers and flight departments discover its benefits, such as accessibility for limos and rental cars to meet arriving aircraft on the ramp.
As the airport grows, it continues to eye the business aircraft based just 10 minutes away at CYVR. “As cost and structures and space requirements change there, we’ve been having a lot of conversations with customers who are there, who at some point are likely going to be moving to our airfield,” Soetaert told AIN. As for accommodating those potential new tenants, Boundary Bay has approximately 50 acres of undeveloped greenfields which the company said it could either lease to flight departments or build to suit.