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Monday, February 26, 2024
Niagara paves SkyGTA path for other cities, gets investment in airport

Flying to Toronto in 12 minutes sure beats taking the QEW — and now you can go even further.

For the last year, FlyGTA has been operating commuter flights from the Niagara District Airport to Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport.

The flight takes passengers over Lake Ontario in an an eight-seater plane, flying at just 2,000 ft. altitude.

The flight isn’t just convenient, but offers a view of Niagara you don’t see often and is also the shortest scheduled flight in Ontario.

After the launch of flights in September of 2016, response was so good that they soon after increased the number of flights from two per day on weekdays to four per day, all week, attracting between 600 and 700 passengers per month, said Robin Garrett, vice-chair of the Niagara District Airport, when talking at a public announcement from FlyGTA on Tuesday.

Combine that traffic with FlyGTA’s business model, which requires just three passengers to break even, and things are literally taking off.

The airline announced Tuesday it will be adding three new southern Ontario destinations which will fly to and from Toronto, following in the footsteps of Niagara.

FlyGTA president Chris Nowrouzi made the announcement at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport. The three added locations will be Barrie, Kitchener/Waterloo, and London.

He also added the airline would be ceasing cargo operations and focusing solely on passenger flights.

In addition to the new flight routes, Nowrouzi announced the airline is investing further into Niagara, by building a large-scale maintenance facility at the Niagara District Airport. He said the maintenance facility will be more than 40,000 square feet, and that construction of a second maintenance facility will begin shortly after the completion of the first.

The airline will also be providing jet management at the Niagara District airport, Nowrouzi said, along with new hangers, both commercial and private, including a luxury terminal.

More than 70 new terminals are in the works to be built.

The new maintenance hanger provides huge potential for the Niagara District Airport, said Airport Commission Chair, Terry Flynn.

“One of the key pieces that was missing from the infrastructure of the airport was the ability to have a maintenance facility, so when flights were coming in — in particular larger jets — they could be maintained while they were at our site,” said Flynn.

He says along with that, the increased traffic requires more terminals, ranging in sizes to accommodate different sizes of planes.

He says the airport will not be expanding the runway, but that they want to use its infrastructure to the fullest capacity.

Because the maintenance terminal will allows planes to be fixed and fuelled on site, it opens up a wide range of options for the future, said Flynn.

He said it’s possible now for Niagara to do things like get its own Ornge unit, hinting he’s been in talks with the emergency rescue group about the idea already.

Flynn said a new four-storey communications tower is scheduled to be built too, construction starting in 2019.

He said down the road, the airport and FlyGTA are hoping to expand from their eight-seater jets to larger Bombardier Q400, which can hold up to 90 passengers.

Federal funding is a big part of that, said both Flynn and Garrett speaking after the conference Tuesday.

To receive federal funding, the FlyGTA and Niagara District Airport need to have more than 1,000 passengers per year for three years. Flynn and Garrett both said they’re well on track to receive the funding, which Flynn says will be extremely good for the airport.

The flights in and out of Niagara are “game changers,” said Regional Chair Alan Caslin.

“Whether it’s active transportation, highways, trains, or now air travel, it’s something that we value highly as a necessity in terms of how we do our business and how we attract business to Niagara,” said Caslin.

He said the region is already seeing results of the expanded transportation in Niagara.

“We can see the results in the growth of business in our cities and towns in Niagara, as well as the people knocking on our doors inquiring about what it takes to be in Niagara.”

“Having a transportation system that not only links us to the major centres in southern Ontario, but further now into Windsor and Barrie, it makes a lot of sense for those companies that may want to think about Niagara as their next home for their business.”

A FlyGTA jet about to depart for Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport. (Harley Davidson/Now Staff)
A FlyGTA plane at the Niagara District Airport in Niagara-on-the-Lake. (Harley Davidson/Now Staff)


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