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WASCO exec says there are opportunities out there that it wants to explore for the Stephenville Airport

Tyler MacAfee is the vice-president of communications and government relations with the Winnipeg Airports Authority.
Tyler MacAfee is the vice-president of communications and government relations with the Winnipeg Airports Authority. - Contributed

Saltwire Network

STEPHENVILLE

Tyler MacAfee doesn’t want to pretend to promise the moon or anything over the top, but when it comes to the Stephenville Airport, he said there are opportunities out there.

It’s those opportunities that Winnipeg Airport Services Corp. (WASCO) wants to explore when it takes over the running of the airport.

MacAfee is the vice-president of communications and government relations with the Winnipeg Airports Authority.

WASCO is one of its subsidiaries and is in the process of finalizing a $223,000-contract with the Town of Stephenville to run the airport. The town is putting in $13,000 towards the cost with the rest coming from the provincial government.

"I think we’ve really got to do a good deep dive into this to really identify where those opportunities are, where there’s some competitive advantages in Stephenville that can be leveraged.”  - Tyler MacAfee

WASCO approached the town on taking over operation of the airport, which is currently run by the Stephenville Airport Corporation.

MacAfee said aviation is one of the most heavily regulated industries in Canada, especially from a technical side.

“So, the ability of smaller communities to take that on and be able to do that in house, we’re finding that that’s increasingly difficult.”

Part of what WASCO offers is the ability for airports to lean on the expertise of the company.

“It’s really just around being able to bring experts to the table who have worked at other airports of a similar size and worked in kind of the whole airport environment.”

It’s something the company already does in Iqaluit and in Dawson Creek, B.C.

“It’s an expertise we’re able to come in and provide and by doing it in multiple locations we’re able to kind of have a company that has that expertise to be able to deliver that service.”

Stephenville Airport - SaltWire Network File Photo
Stephenville Airport - SaltWire Network File Photo

Outside of the operational aspects of running the airport, MacAfee said there are also some development opportunities around the airport that could be explored together.

“With again being able to tap into that expertise with the whole Winnipeg Airport Authority company. And WASCO is able to tap into that, to really see where there may be some opportunities for Stephenville,” he said.

With work still to be done on the contract before taking over the operation, MacAfee declined to comment on the potential opportunities.

“I think it’s still pretty early in the process. I think we’ve really got to do a good deep dive into this to really identify where those opportunities are, where there’s some competitive advantages in Stephenville that can be leveraged.”

Even though the contract has not been signed, some work has already started as WASCO is advertising for an airport manager. The search is ongoing, and MacAfee is confident they’ll find the right person for the role.

All this is happening at time when the industry is suffering because of COVID-19.

“It’s an entirely different industry right now and that’s the part that’s going to be interesting to see as we move forward,” said MacAfee.

“It’s going to take a while for this industry to recover. And I think a lot of it will depend on where government programs come in and if there’s supports, or if the industry is kind of left to itself to kind of revive itself.

“But in that there’s always opportunity as well. And that’s what we will be looking at. As the landscape shifts where does that create opportunities for Stephenville.”

Joe Sheen, chair of the Stephenville Airport Corporation, declined to comment on what’s happening with the airport and WASCO because the contract has not been finalized.

“Certainly, when that does come about we’ll be doing some kind of information release. This involves people’s livelihoods, so it’s irresponsible to go talking before things have happened.”

Sheen said he was not being secretive but trying to pay respect to the employees that are in place.

“It’s no good to contribute to rumours and stuff. When there’s something definitive we’ll certainly be in a position to speak.”

diane.crocker@thewesternstar.com

WS_DianeCrocker

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