The airport offers a wealth of opportunities for showcasing Maple Creek, Town Council heard.
Councillor Len Barkman said pilots landing at Maple Creek’s airport tended to make their way downtown. This provided a chance for businesses to promote themselves.
His comments at Town Council followed a tour of the airport.
“I was glad to hear that pilots would rather land here than at bigger centres,” he said. “It is great to hear that our airport is being used.”
Barkman said one of things that stuck out from the airport tour was how many pilots go downtown to visit business.
“There is an avenue of even further development there as far as promoting our business there at the airport because these guys come there and see that.”
Barkman said the airport provided a chance to put Maple Creek even more on the map.
He added that he was very appreciative of the”enlightening” tour.
Councillor Colline Collura said she had also enjoyed the Airport Committee meeting and tour of the grounds.
“I was really happy to hear that our airport is regarded by pilots as a quality facility,” she said. “I look forward to working with that committee to continue to keep our airport the best it can be.”
Collura said among the interesting facts she learned was that there are more than 800 takeoffs and landings at the airport each year and about 80 per cent of air traffic is for personal and recreation use.
Councillor Betty Abbott said she too had found the airport tour very informative.
Councillor Jill Roy said she was glad to hear about the positive reaction to the Airport Committee meeting.
“You don’t realize you have an airport until you go to the airport,” she said. “Those guys there are great.”
Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor of Maple Creek, said the group operating the airport was full of passion.
She agreed with Barkman that there were ideas for showcasing Maple Creek that were worth exploring. One idea was for pilots to be able to cycle to downtown Maple Creek and enjoy a coffee. Speaking at the April 23 Council meeting, McKenzie said Councillor Collura could take suggestions to the Chamber of Commerce, whose meetings she attends as a council representative.
The two people behind the creation of Maple Creek Airport were local resident Bob Gilchrist and retired Fort Walsh rancher Ben Mitchell, who had plans to buy a Cessna 180.
The pair petitioned the Ministry of Transport to build an airfield in Maple Creek and were told that they needed to generate interest and start a flying club. Mitchell graded a basic landing strip and in 1968 the first flight school was held, which saw a dozen Maple Creek residents take to the air as amateur aviators. The airport was soon an active hub, often hosting fly-ins for local farmers.