UPDATE: Pacific Coastal Airlines has added more flights between Tofino and Vancouver. See below.
Randy Hanna and his staff at Pacific Seaplanes Inc. have had a busy few days flying charters in and out of Port Alberni. The only road heading into the central Vancouver Island city, Highway 4, was shut down on Tuesday, June 6 due to an out-of-control wildfire reaching the road.
Hanna’s “Silver Bullet” seaplane, a twin engine Beech-18 on floats, can be seen flying back and forth to Sproat Lake, where he uses the long dock at Sproat Lake Landing as a base.
“At the moment we’re 158 emails and 40 callbacks behind,” Hanna said Wednesday evening. “We processed hundreds and hundreds today. The plane was full in and out.”
Pacific Seaplanes from Nanaimo is one of several commercial aviation companies offering charters to and from Port Alberni, either on the water or at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport west of the city.
Pacific Seaplanes normally has one flight into Vancouver per day as well as charters, flying from Sproat Lake to the Vancouver South Terminal float plane dock. “We’re just a small company,” Hanna said. “It’s really hard to answer all the queries and questions. It’s just very busy.”
While Hanna usually has three float planes, two are in for servicing at the moment. The Beech-18 can fly eight passengers plus the pilot. Hanna will fly as often as he can to help people get around the highway closure. There is an alternate route open through logging roads, via Bamfield to Lake Cowichan.
“It’s great to continue helping Alberni,” he said. Hanna brought a plane full of visitors from the United Kingdom into the Alberni Valley on Sunday for an aerial tour of Della Falls and the Alberni Inlet. “No sooner had we returned home that we saw the fire had started.”
Charter service available from Qualicum Beach
Iskwew Air, based at the Qualicum Beach Airport, offered a charter on Wednesday from Qualicum Beach to Alberni Valley Regional Airport and will continue to offer charter services between the two airports as required, said Iskwew Air team lead Kiana Hill.
“We will have availability for folks (Thursday) as it is important to us to support where we can and get folks where they need to be,” she said.
People wishing to book with Iskwew Air can call 604-273-7713 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details and availability.
Non-stop flights added from Tofino–Vancouver
Pacific Coastal Airlines has added additional non-stop flights between Vancouver South Terminal and Tofino-Long Beach Airport for Thursday, June 8 and Friday, June 9. More flights were added for Saturday, June 10, Sunday, June 11 and Monday, June 12. The flights will offer additional seats and cargo capacity needed due to the wildfire.
“These additional flights underscore our ongoing commitment to support the communities of Tofino, Ucluelet and Port Alberni in a time of need,” says Pacific Coastal Airlines’ vice-president of customer and commercial, Johnathan Richardson. “We want to ensure that the residents of these communities continue to have access to seats and cargo options during this challenging time.”
Flight 1625 will leave Vancouver South Terminal at 4 p.m. and arrive at Tofino-Long Beach at 4:46 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
Flight 1626 will leave Tofino-Long Beach at 5:10 p.m. at arrive back at Vancouver South Terminal at 5:58 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
Saturday, June 10 flights will leave Vancouver at 3:30 p.m. and arrive in Tofino at 4:16 p.m., then leave at 4:40 p.m. and return to Vancouver at 5:28 p.m.
Sunday, June 11 flights will leave Vancouver at 4 p.m. and arrive in Tofino at 4:46 p.m. then leave Tofino at 5:10 p.m. and arrive back in Vancouver at 5:58 p.m.
Monday, June 12 flights will leave Vancouver at 3:40 p.m. and arrive in Tofino at 4:26 p.m. then leave Tofino at 4:50 p.m. and arrive back at Vancouver South Terminal at 5:38 p.m.
For more information or to book a flight go online to pacificcoastal.com, call a customer service agent at 1-800-663-2872 or go through a travel agent.
Harbour Air offers more ways to connect to Tofino
Harbour Air on June 2 began daily flights between Tofino and Vancouver South Terminal’s floatplane dock, with connections available from Victoria. The airline also offers up to three daily flights between downtown Vancouver and Tofino. Call 1-800-665-0212 or check the website at harbourair.com for flight and booking information.
Small charters available from east side of Island
BC Air, a division of Sealand Flight, operates a small aircraft charter business from bases at Qualicum Beach Airport, Courtenay Airpark and Campbell River Airport. They have aircraft that can take three to five passengers or cargo as required. Phone 250-895-9089 or email@example.com.