The Wiarton-Keppel International Airport is a safe place to land, says the mayor of Georgian Bluffs.
"As far as Transport Canada is concerned, the airport is very safe to operate," Al Barfoot said Friday. "There has been a lot of hype around everything with it and that is one thing we wanted to assure people."
The Wiarton-Keppel airport board met Thursday to discuss a recent Transport Canada report on the condition of the airport.
Barfoot, who was invited to attend the meeting along with South Bruce Peninsula Mayor John Close, said the main reason for the meeting was to updated board members on the report, which was received late last month.
In it Transport Canada said the airport runway and lightning need immediate attention. The report indicated the surface of the main runway shows signs of deterioration, "specifically of the runway shoulders" and "cracks and gaps in the runway surface."
The report cited inspections carried out by Transport Canada in 2006 and 2011.
"The private taxiways and aprons to the west of the main apron did not have retro-reflective markers," the report states. "The area was declared as being used at night."
The report also noted airport officials had indicated required management reviews at the airport had not been conducted. A scheduled management review to be conducted in December was not done and has since been rescheduled.
Barfoot said it is important to note that even though work has been identified as needing to be done, airplanes can land safely at the airport.
"The first line really in the report was that the airport is certainly very safe and operating as it should," said Barfoot. "They are comfortable with that. That is for sure."
Barfoot said there is going to be a process to go through and he is "comfortable" some work will be done, but a plan needs to be put in place and that will determine when the work proceeds.
Transport Canada has directed the owners of the airport — Georgian Bluffs and South Bruce Peninsula — to provide a plan by the end of August on how it intends to proceed with major work at the airport.
Since it was downloaded from the federal government in 1999, very little work has been done to the airport. The main runway, which is just over 5,000 feet long and 150 feet wide, is about 30 years old, with a life expectancy of 15 years. Some patchwork, crack sealing and paving of edges has been done. Approach lighting also has to be upgraded.
An exact cost of the work is not known, but past estimates have been upwards of $4 million.
Barfoot said Thursday's meeting provided board with information that can be taken back to both councils for discussion to see how they wanted to proceed.
"It is just kind of business as normal," he said Friday. "They will be reporting back to council and stuff like that. It was more explaining what has been going on."
Airport board chairman Dwight Burley declined to comment on Thursday's meeting until further discussions.
"The board decided there would be no comment from anybody until next Thursday," said Burley. "That's what we agreed upon and the only response would come from the board chair."
Minutes of the meeting were taken, but will not be available until after they are approved at the next board meeting. They then go to South Bruce Peninsula and Georgian Bluffs councils.
The airport board is scheduled to meet again next Thursday at 7 p.m. in the South Bruce Peninsula council chambers.
The airport is one of 726 certified airports in the country. It can land large passenger jets, foreigners can clear customs, planes can refuel and planes piloted by instruments can make landings guided by Nav Canada in Toronto. Transport Canada, Nav Canada, Environment Canada and the Coast Guard all have equipment there.
Burley said earlier this week that Transport Canada has indicated if the work doesn't proceed, Transport Canada will pull the airport's certification.
South Bruce Peninsula council had the Transport Canada report on its agenda Tuesday, but deferred discussion until after the airport board met. Close could not be reached for comment Friday.