The first Pacific Coastal flight landed in Revelstoke last week — a test flight for their staff to visit the city in advance of regularly scheduled Revelstoke Air flights that start January 26.
The anticipation built inside the small Revelstoke airport terminal as representatives from various stakeholders huddled inside on a cold Thursday morning, waiting for the plane to arrive from Vancouver.
A light cloud sat overhead — pretty good conditions by Revelstoke winter standards.
The flight’s scheduled arrival was delayed slightly, but eventually word came that it would be landing at 11:37 a.m. I waited out in the cold with photographer John Morrison and airport employee Judd Popplewell, hoping for the photo of the flight cruising in past Begbie.
Suddenly, the Beech aircraft appeared overhead, flying in from the south. It cruised through the valley, around the small hill at the base of Mount Macpherson, and arced back around towards the airport. The small twin engine plane was lost in the backdrop of the mountains and only became visible when its landing lights started flashing on its final descent to the 1,500 metre runway.
Finally, it touched down and eased its way to a slow cruise down the runway and to the small terminal building where the pilots and a small contingent of Pacific Coastal employees debarked to meet the locals on the ground.
“You’re definitely coming in at a nice altitude. The scenery is spectacular,” said Jenelle Hynes, the business development manager for Pacific Coastal in the Okanagan-Kootenay region. “You’re not way up in the clouds. You get to see an awful lot, which is fantastic.”
The successful test was a key moment for the effort to bring in scheduled charter flights to Revelstoke.
Photo: Representatives of Pacific Coastal, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Everything Revelstoke, the City of Revelstoke, Columbia Shuswap Regional District and Pacific Coastal gather for a photo op after the successful test flight. ~ By Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review
Revelstoke Air, which is being run by Everything Revelstoke, was announced in the summer. Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the Revelstoke Accommodation Association and the City of Revelstoke, through the Economic Opportunity Fund, each put up $37,500 to guarantee the flights. They hope the money will be recouped through ticket sales.
One way tickets from Vancouver to Revelstoke or back are $199 for flights on Jan. 26 & 29, $299 for flights from Feb. 2 to Mar. 12, and $249 for flights on Mar. 16 & 19.
Ange Mowbray, the general manager of Everything Revelstoke, said on Thursday tickets were 28 per cent sold.
“Considering we haven’t had a flight take off yet, for sales in the travel industry that’s huge. We’re way ahead of the average,” she said. “A lot of people will wait for the flights to actually start to make a reservation. We’ve got some flights already sold out.”
The airport has seen some upgrades in recent years to make it easier for larger planes to land. In 2012, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, which runs the airport, installed a global navigation satellite system to guide flights to an elevation of about 500 metres above ground level. From there, pilots have to make the final descent themselves.
“That gives them a highway to come in through the valley when it’s cloudy to give them a better chance to land,” said airport manager Ed Wozniak.
Turning pads were added to the runway to make landing safer. “What happens is now, instead of say a heavier plane being able to take 10 people because of the runway length, now it can take 15,” said Wozniak.
Pilot Ryan Evans said the approach and landing was smooth. A thin layer of snow covered the runway, but breaking was still easy.
“No problems with the approach at all,” he said. “We got visual from about 10,000 feet. We had a good view all the way up the Arrow Lakes.”
He said that even if the cloud cover was lower, there was still lots of room to maneuver in the valley.
If planes can’t land in Revelstoke, they will be diverted to Salmon Arm or, in a worst-case scenario, Kelowna. Passengers will then be shuttled at no extra cost to Revelstoke.
The first passenger flight is scheduled to depart Vancouver on Thursday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. and land in Revelstoke an hour later. It will return to Vancouver at 3 p.m. Flights will then run every Thursday and Sunday until March 12.
Make reservations at EverythingRevelstoke.com.