The Penticton Flying Club’s Airport Day drew large crowds Sunday, to the delight of club president Ron Johnson.
“We set up things, we invited people, but we had no idea exactly how many of the public would be interested,” Johnson said. “We have people around everywhere, looking at airplanes, kids playing. We’re just really happy that people are interested in what is going on.”
Airport Day celebrates 76 years of the Penticton Airport operating. The flying club filled the field by the hangars with everything from home-built planes and warplanes to commercial aircraft and helicopters; even a few unusual items like Mark Humbke’s two-seater gyrocopter.
Johnson said the airport being in operation since 1941 is grounds for celebration.
“We know it was build under extreme pressure during the Second World War but it has served the Okanagan Valley, Penticton and its communities very well.”
The airport is sited on land expropriated from the Penticton Indian Band in the 1940s, which was promised to be returned after the end of the Second World War. Band lands surround the airport, and its future remains a concern to the PIB, which blocked Transport Canada transferring the airport to the City of Penticton in 1999.
Delivering a plaque and a proclamation to airport manager Kerri Haybittle-Raffel, Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit noted the federal government’s investment in the airport over the last few years, including the runway and other expanded facilities.
“I think it is close to $15 million that has been invested here,” said Jakubeit. “It’s significant of this area being a prime destination for not just tourists, but the business community, residents and the investment to how it links us to the rest of the world, keeps us competitive.”
With files from Brennan Phillips
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News