Deal would put Airport in major league's

The Niagara District Airport has negotiated a contract to sell its aircraft fuelling service and possibly its hangar in a deal that will put the airport in “the major leagues.”

St. Catharines Coun. Greg Washuta said the deal with a company known as a “fixed-base operator” will generate revenue for the airport and will allow it to attract more customers and more businesses.

“This puts us in the major leagues,” said Washuta, who is the city’s representative on the airport commission.

St. Catharines councillors were asked to approve the deal with the un-named operator at Monday night’s city council meeting because the airport is partially funded by an annual contribution from the city and it needs the city’s permission to dispose of assets. Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, the other funding municipalities, will be asked to give their permission as well.

The airport only took over the fuelling service in response to a crisis in 2008, airport commission chairman Ruedi Suter said at Monday night’s city council meeting. And it similarly came to own the hanger after four parties were involved in a legal dispute over leases, taxes and mortgage arrears, Suter said. The airport commission ended up owning the building for less than half of its real value.

But owning and operating those assets don’t fit with the airport commission’s vision, Suter said, and the deal with the outside operator will deliver added services and a level of professionalism that will allow the airport to attract more corporate and personal jets, Suter said.

“Our mission is not to compete with the private sector,” Suter explained. “We are not good at providing these services and we are not meant to provide these services.”

The deal won’t cost the airport any money, “but there is extraordinary income,” Suter told councillors. The only thing more important to the “the long-term viability of the airport” was last year’s $12 million renovation and expansion. “This will put our airport on the fixed-base operator’s map, together with major airports in North and South America, such as Toronto Pearson, New York JFK, Montreal, Gander and more,” Suter wrote in a letter to council. “Our new FBO’s extensive aviation business network and strong financial position will help promote the Niagara District Airport far beyond its regional borders.”

Some councillors objected to the deal, saying they should have been informed about the airport’s request for proposal process and should be given more details.

But Mayor Brian McMullan said council does not approve the leases of other boards and commissions. He said the mayors of all three municipalities were informed, and the chief administrators of all three are recommending the deal be approved.

Suter said the FBO will begin operations in August.

The agreement includes a five-year lease of the hanger, but also includes an option for the FBO to purchase the building while continuing to lease the land.

Only St. Andrew’s Coun. Matt Harris voted against the deal.


Services to be offered

— fuel

— aircraft handling

— aircraft cleaning

— aircraft storage

— de-icing

— pilot amenities

— courtesy car

— catering