Kapuskasing Airport – Kapuskasing, Northern Ontario

March 28, 2024

Kapuskasing Airport

A Dynamic Gateway to a Beautiful Region


Kapuskasing Airport’s Path to Community Resilience

Flying ahead into 2024, The Kapuskasing Airport remains a vital lifeline at the core of Kapuskasing’s infrastructure. Facilitating many essential services ranging from cargo shipments to medical evacuations. Rock Robitaille, Airport Manager, highlights the airport’s role during emergencies, particularly facilitating evacuations for communities affected by natural disasters such as flooding. The airport’s resilience and adaptability shine through as it navigates operational challenges while remaining dedicated to serving the community.

In Kapuskasing Airport’s ongoing efforts to navigate budget constraints and prioritize essential upgrades, the prospect of major construction projects hangs uncertain. With financial resources stretched, the focus remains on optimizing existing infrastructure rather than ambitious new developments. However, the pressing need for a runway upgrade stands out prominently on the horizon, projected to become imperative within the next seven to eight years.

An operational overview

Whether this upgrade entails lengthening the runway or simply repaving, it prompts deliberation among stakeholders. Yet, the situation’s urgency becomes apparent as it becomes clear that the runway is overdue for maintenance, having surpassed its expected life cycle. Despite the harsh winter conditions in Kapuskasing, which may offer some respite to the runway’s wear and tear, there’s an acknowledgment that action is needed to ensure its long-term viability.

In discussing the airport’s flight composition, the prevalence of cargo flights emerges as a consistent feature, with an average of three cargo flights per day transporting essential goods to northern communities. Alongside this steady stream, medical evacuation flights, or “medevacs,” maintain a stable presence, providing critical support to those in need. However, the most notable increase in traffic is observed in general aviation (GA), particularly in charter flights and survey work.

As the demand for GA flights continues to rise, albeit somewhat under the radar, considerations for infrastructure enhancements come to the forefront. Exploring options to accommodate increased GA traffic, discussions revolve around expanding hangar space and upgrading the apron area to align with the evolving needs of the airport. This proactive approach anticipates future growth trends and aims to position Kapuskasing Airport as a responsive and adaptable hub for aviation activities.

Navigating airspace

At Kapuskasing Airport, North Star Air’s principal tenant occupying the airport’s largest hangar influences the aviation environment. Specializing in cargo transportation, North Star Air’s operations predominantly center on their own aircraft, posing challenges for public access to hangar space.

Given North Star Air’s significant presence and utilization of hangar facilities at Kapuskasing Airport, accommodating the general public’s hangar space needs becomes increasingly challenging. While the airport aims to provide equitable access to its resources, the dominance of a major player like North Star Air underscores the complexities of balancing competing demands within the aviation ecosystem.

Concerning fixed-base operations (FBO) at Kapuskasing Airport, it’s important to note that the airport functions as the primary FBO. This distinction highlights Kapuskasing Airport’s role in providing essential services and support to the aviation community, further underscoring the airport’s significance as a critical infrastructure asset within Northern Ontario’s transportation network.

As discussions surrounding hangar space allocation and operational dynamics continue, North Star Air looms large, shaping the airport’s operational landscape and posing unique challenges for accommodating diverse user needs. Finding a balance between serving the interests of major stakeholders like North Star Air and meeting the broader aviation needs of the community remains a key consideration for Kapuskasing Airport’s ongoing management and development.

Strength amidst industry challenges

Robitaille stresses the pervasive labor shortages plaguing the aviation industry, particularly in recruiting pilots and ground crews. While Kapuskasing Airport maintains stability in staffing, challenges persist for cargo operators like North Star Air. Collaborative efforts are essential to address industry-wide workforce shortages, ensuring the continued viability of regional aviation operations.

Serving the public’s aviation needs is multifaceted, encompassing the provision of jet fuel and avgas and catering to various aircraft requirements. The breadth of services offered underlines the airport’s commitment to meeting diverse needs within the aviation community. Amidst these operational considerations, the discussion pivots towards cargo flights, particularly considering the evolving landscape shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 resilience

Reflecting on the past year and a half, marked by the peak of the pandemic and subsequent transitions, the question arises: has the trajectory of cargo flights shifted in response to these changes? Surprisingly, Kapuskasing Airport’s cargo operations remained constant amidst the turbulence of COVID-19.

In fact, rather than experiencing a downturn, cargo flights witnessed an uptick during the pandemic’s peak, attributed to the heightened demand for essential goods in remote northern regions. Robitaille states, “Cargo flights were not affected by COVID; we saw an increase during COVID because our northern neighbors were shut down.” However, as the pandemic wanes, the stability of cargo flights persists, showcasing resilience in the face of shifting circumstances.

While general aviation experiences a notable surge in activity post-COVID, cargo operations maintain a steady course, unaffected by fluctuations in external conditions. This strength speaks to cargo transportation’s fundamental importance in facilitating vital resource flow to remote communities, regardless of broader economic or public health challenges.

While Kapuskasing Airport’s internal operations remain stable with a dedicated team, challenges persist within cargo carriers like North Star. Despite aspirations for growth, the shortage of pilots and ground crews poses a significant barrier to expansion. The realities of the labor shortage emphasize the complexities facing the aviation industry and highlight the ongoing need for strategic workforce planning and recruitment efforts.

In navigating these challenges, Kapuskasing Airport remains persistent in its commitment to providing essential services to the community while adapting to the dynamic realities of the aviation landscape. With a focus on stability and resilience, the airport stands prepared to weather uncertainties and continue serving as a vital lifeline for Northern Ontario’s aviation needs.


Charting a course for growth

Kapuskasing Airport has recently completed a significant project to renovate the terminal roof during the summer of 2023, with a price tag of over $100,000. With this renovation in place, Kapuskasing Airport anticipates smooth operations for the next three decades, marking a significant milestone in its ongoing journey of maintenance and enhancement.

Shifting the focus to training, discussions arise concerning the scarcity of skilled personnel, encompassing both pilots and aircraft maintenance professionals. In addressing this challenge, the prospect of forging partnerships with community colleges or implementing on-site flight training programs is considered.

However, it becomes evident that flight training lies beyond the airport’s core responsibilities, which primarily revolve around airline operations. Consequently, the airport looks to external resources like the Airport Management Council of Ontario (AMCO) to deliver crucial training for its staff, covering essential safety protocols and management practices.

Participation in AMCO workshops and annual general meetings ensures Kapuskasing Airport’s commitment to staying abreast of industry standards and best practices. As part of this collaborative network, the airport benefits from shared knowledge and resources, ensuring its staff remains well-equipped to handle the complexities of airport management in a dynamic environment.

Forward-focused initiatives

Looking ahead, Robitaille envisions expanding the airport’s services to include a regular charter service, catering to the community’s needs for medical travel and beyond. This aspiration aligns with Kapuskasing Airport’s overarching goal of enhancing accessibility and connectivity for residents, positioning it as a vital hub within the regional transportation network.

In mapping out the next five years, Kapuskasing Airport’s vision encompasses strategic infrastructure improvements, ongoing training initiatives, and expanding services to meet the community’s evolving needs. Despite financial constraints, the airport remains steadfast in its commitment to innovation and progress, paving the way for a brighter future for aviation in Northern Ontario.

A legacy of passion

Robitaille’s sentiments reflect his dedication to the aviation industry: “I still love what I do. It’s something I look forward to every day,” he affirms, echoing his 45 years of experience and persistent passion.

Amidst the challenges inherent in aviation, Robitaille’s enthusiasm remains palpable, underscoring his commitment even as retirement approaches. As Kapuskasing Airport thrives under his guidance, his legacy of passion and dedication promises to shape the aviation landscape of Northern Ontario and beyond.


Kapuskasing Airport

What: Regional airport serving primarily domestic flights, cargo shipments, and emergency services.

Where: Located in Kapuskasing, Northern Ontario, with strategic access to nearby communities and essential transportation networks.

Website: https://www.kapuskasing.ca/en/index.aspx


North Star Air Ltd – www.northstarair.ca

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