The Sault Ste. Marie Airport held an open house on Saturday to celebrate 20 successful years as a privately-owned facility.
“We’re a little unique in being the only regional airport in the country that is privately owned and operated with no ties to any level of government, so we’re really trying to tell our story today so that people fully understand that we’re not a government agency, we’re a private business just like everyone else,” said Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation CEO Terry Bos.
The day included displays by partners such as Entomica and the Bush Plane Museum in the terminal, and almost every building at the airport was open to the public, including the combined services building and the JD Arrow and Sault College hangers.
Along with the open house, the fourth annual COPA for Kids event took place at the airport as well.
Event co-organizer and Captain of the local Flight 66 Terry Mortimer said although the weather wasn’t ideal, the kids were excited to have the opportunity to fly over the city.
Mortimer said the “exaggerated circuit” takes them about four miles down to the I-75, hangs a right and comes back along the American shoreline, and then right back into the airport.
“It’s a little shorter than what we normally do, or would like to do, but it’s weather considerations that are driving that (today.)”
With a decline in enrollment in aviation courses, there is a shortage in pilots and aircraft mechanics. Mortimer and Bos both said they hope COPA will encourage children to pursue a career in aviation, changing this dynamic.
Mortimer said some kids have gone on to do so, taking additional flying lessons or enrolling in Sault College for aviation.
“Two years ago, there was a young fella that went from here and went to Sault College and is doing quite well in the program over there, and there were a couple of young girls that have done something similar as well. They’ve been taking lessons here with the Sault Academy of Flight,” he explained. “So it has been positive and I hope we spark some interest in it. There is a shortage looming in the airline industry and hopefully this will be the start of some of these careers.”
Bos thanked the community for their role in the airport’s success over the past 20 years, saying the number of passengers has gone from 119,000 to 215,000 every year.
“Everything seems to be going in the right direction and certainly it’s the community of Sault Ste. Marie and the general public that makes us what we are, because without people flying there are no airports,” he expressed. “It’s been 20 years, and we’re completely private with no ties to any level of government. And I think that’s our key message today is it’s the community of Sault Ste. Marie that supports us and it’s not the tax payers’ dollars that support us.”
For more information on the airport, visit their website here.