Goderich Regional Airport
Airborne Aspirations: Unleashing the Potential of Goderich Regional Airport
Serving as the gateway to a beautiful region, Goderich Regional Airport lands top-tier initiatives for an area ripe for economic expansion
Nestled along the eastern shores of Lake Huron, Goderich, Ontario, affectionately known as “the prettiest little Town in Canada,” is much more than a town of around 8000 inhabitants. A place where scenic beauty, vibrant community spirit, and accessibility converge, Goderich is a living tribute to the charm of small-town Canada, painted with the brushstrokes of progress and innovation.
“Our town has the heart of a lion,” says Myles Murdock, the proud Mayor of Goderich. “We’re small, but we’re mighty. It’s a paradoxical charm from being a big little town.” Mayor Murdock is not just weaving pretty words; his description of Goderich has a grounding in reality. Goderich is a place that offers a range of services and amenities to its residents, much like its bigger urban counterparts, while retaining the charming allure of small-town living.
Goderich is known as a tourist destination, but there is more to it. An exciting development has been the introduction of flights by Papple Aviation, a local air transport company, from Goderich to the Island Airport in Toronto. This service provides a transportation link and a significant economic benefit. “The prospect of being able to fly from Goderich to downtown Toronto in less than an hour opens up new opportunities for business and tourism,” explains Mayor Murdock.
An Aerial Trip Down Memory Lane: Goderich Airport’s Evolution
Delving into the past, Mayor Murdock introduces Goderich Regional Airport’s inception, “In 1938, the airport was established in anticipation of the war. From 1940 to 1944, it served as a flight training school. Its location was chosen for its resemblance to the Dover area – a cliff, or bluff as some may call it, and planes flying in off the lake – effectively mimicking the conditions pilots would face when they got to Europe.”
Janice Hallahan, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer builds on Mayor Murdock’s account, adding, “After the war, a Flight Instructor named Hoppy Hopkinson, who had stayed in Goderich, set up Sky Harbour Air Services. This saw 400 aircraft ferried over to Goderich for servicing and delivery. An era was born that saw the rise of an aviation repair shop, a flight training center, and an aircraft paint shop.”
Hallahan adds, “At its peak in the 80’s, Sky Harbor aircraft refinishing had a workforce of 100. It became internationally renowned for painting warbirds back to their original wartime colors and won many awards at Oshkosh. They also painted interiors for many corporate jets from around the world and many other private aircraft from around North America.”
Goderich Airport Today: Upgrades in Full Swing
Mayor Murdock divulges current efforts to elevate Goderich Regional Airport’s infrastructure and services. “We have established a task force to look into future development and future uses of the airport. This initiative, started by the previous mayor, is something I am keen to continue. The goal is to have a master plan ready within the next two years.”
Mayor Murdock continues, “HM Aero Aviation Consulting conducted a Strategic Plan Study on our airport in 2021, and we have implemented some of the recommendations from their report. Ben Crook has greatly aided this process, and he has provided crucial leadership in this unfamiliar territory for me.”
Hallahan elaborates on the specifics of the strategic plan outlined by HM Aero. “We’ve overhauled the terminal building by renovating the kitchen and pilot’s lounge and installed a digital kiosk. We have also launched a new website, separate from the Town’s, providing comprehensive information on rates, fees, and instructions for incoming pilots. Furthermore, we’ve upgraded the taxiways with new asphalt, conducted mastic sealing on the runway, introduced upgrades to the fuel tank and the airport roof with funds from the Town’s Airport Reserve.”
Daily Flight Traffic and Community Connections
When it comes to the number and types of flights gracing the skies of Goderich daily, Hallahan provides some insight. “Our airport regularly accommodates King Air, Falcon, Pilatus, CC-130H Hercules, and Gulfstream 200 aircraft, particularly from corporations closely tied to Bruce Power. Given our unique positioning as the only airport within Bruce County and Huron County with a 5000 foot runway, we’re ideally suited for these larger jets. We have had the privilege of hosting the prime minister twice over the last five years. There is a very vibrant flying community in Goderich and Huron County. The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA Flight 45) have monthly meetings and organize fly-ins and flyouts to other Airports. The Goderich Modelers fly their miniature model airplanes at the airport and host competitions throughout the summer.”
Mayor Murdock adds, “Indeed, our airport is often the first point of contact for anyone wishing to visit the area, so we’ve been quite fortunate in that regard. The opportunity to develop economically comes in different ways, and this is an avenue that we must aggressively address.”
Hallahan further underscores the airport’s role as a community hub by outlining the local amenities and tourist attractions for visiting pilots and passengers. “For those wishing to explore our community, we offer bicycles for leisurely rides around town. Additionally, through partnerships with local car dealerships, we can provide rental cars, truly bridging the gap between air travel and terrestrial exploration,” she details.
Expansion, Education, and Multi-Faceted Aviation Services
As the wheels of progress turn in the area surrounding Goderich Regional Airport, Mayor Murdock shares insight into future developments. “With 300 acres of arable land at our disposal, we’re looking into developing more hangars and attracting new tenants,” Murdock says. “However, we’re also mindful of potential residential expansion from an adjacent mobile home configuration, even as it lies outside our direct control.”
The Mayor further highlights the importance of regional partnerships, adding, “The Mayor of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, Glen McNeil is part of our airport task force committee and, along with Mayor Jim Ginn from Central Huron, share a vested interest in the airport’s success. They support the airport’s development into a fully operational regional hub, which would be a boon for the entire region.”
Given the ongoing shortage of pilots and aviation personnel, Mayor Murdock also shares plans to establish a flight school, stating, “Pending accreditation from Transport Canada, a flight school could soon be operational here. The less crowded airspace offers a significant advantage for flight training compared to busier areas like Toronto.”
Hallahan provides more specifics about the prospective flight school: “Revival Consulting Inc., headed by Waseem Javed, is working towards accreditation for a flight school at our terminal. They’re preparing for a site visit from Transport Canada and have already installed a flight simulator.”
In addition to the planned developments and educational possibilities, Hallahan also highlights the existing services offered at the airport. “Our airport is also a significant asset for the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Coast Guard for coordinated search and rescue training, Ontario Provincial Police and Medevac services (Ornge),” she shares.
Skyward Tourism: Harnessing the Potential of the Gateway Airport
Discussing how the airport could catalyze tourism in the city, Mayor Murdock expresses a sense of untapped potential. “Recognizing that the airport is underutilized could be a major steppingstone,” he suggests. “Once it’s well-known, hopefully following this article – this could change.”
Strong professional relationships, particularly with Javed of Revival Consulting Inc., Papple Aviation, and COPA Flight 45, are crucial. “We have many doctors, for instance, who own planes or hold pilot’s licenses,” Murdock reveals. “The freedom to fly wherever they wish is a major attraction, not just for these medical professionals, but also for business professionals, and developers in the area.”
Mayor Murdock paints an ambitious picture of the community’s future. “We’re looking at the potential construction of 4,000 residential units in our community within the next decade – more likely within five to seven years,” he asserts. “This would expand the population by 50 to 60%, and many of these new residents would appreciate the ability to fly in and out.”
Expanding the airport’s scope to host incoming regional flights, similar to those seen in London or Waterloo, could further boost its appeal. Mayor Murdock also suggests that Goderich could prove an enticing alternative to the larger cities for corporate events, training, or conventions. “Instead of dealing with the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto, visitors can enjoy a more relaxed environment here,” he explains.
Reimagining Goderich: A Vision of Revitalization and Innovation
Turning to the future, the Mayor states that the Task Force is having conversations with Bruce Power to transport medical isotopes from the Goderich Regional Airport. “We would like to think that our airport could support Bruce Power’s various medical isotope production, and would be advantageous to be flown from here,” he explains, hinting at a yet-to-be-realized potential of the airport.
Murdock highlights the potential of hydrogen hubs as an alternative energy source for southwestern Ontario, a region he describes as the “breadbasket of Canada.” The goal is to leverage the excess power produced by Bruce Power to create hydrogen, ammonia, and, by extension, fertilizer.
“Hydrogen hubs are seen as an alternative energy source to electricity,” says the Mayor. “The concept is that hydrogen, once produced, can be containerized or used to create fertilizer or ammonia, which the marine industry is considering as a power alternative to diesel.” This outlook offers a glimpse into a future, with the local airport potentially serving as a hydrogen transport hub.
Other future initiatives for the airport, as voiced by Hallahan, revolve around infrastructure enhancement. “Rehabilitation of our runways is a priority,” she states, acknowledging that the recommended capital projects for revamping two paved runways is a hefty $7.5 to 8 million. This task is seen as pivotal for the airport, deemed an “aviation centre of excellence, and an economic generator” for the community and surrounding areas, but it’s a cost that cannot be assumed by the taxpayers of Goderich alone.”
“The runway infrastructure rehabilitation is going to require grant funding from the federal and provincial governments,” Hallahan admits. “We also need to look at leveraging other revenue management strategies to support the Airport’s annual deficit. Still, we can’t do it alone.”
With these plans in place, the airport is poised to take flight into a future of sustainable energy and economic growth. With strong leadership and collaboration, Goderich Regional Airport is ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.
AT A GLANCE
Goderich Regional Airport
What: A regional airport with grand aspirations
Where: Goderich, Ontario