Floatplane service could start arriving at Port Alberni’s Centennial Pier now that it’s finished, says the owner of Tofino Air.
Chris Danroth, president of Gibsons-based All Sports Group, which owns Tofino Air, said he has been in discussion with the Port Alberni Port Authority for more than a year to offer flight service between Tofino and Port Alberni, and beyond. Danroth said the discussion was so in-depth that his company had some influence on the pier’s construction.
“We helped them by giving them all the information they needed to lay out a proper facility there [for float planes],” Danroth explained. “We’ve been waiting for them to get it completed.”
Danroth said he plans to meet with the port authority again as he wasn’t aware that the infrastructure and low-lying docks were already completed.
The docks were in place in time for the arrival of Holland America’s cruise ship, Amsterdam, in May. The ship’s tender ferried passengers from the ship, moored in the harbour, to the new docks built on the sheltered side of the pier.
For Tofino Air to start servicing Port Alberni, Danroth said he is seeking an exclusivity deal. If that is met, a survey will be conducted to determine demand, which will dictate the service schedule. A refuelling arrangement would then need to be made with the nearby marina while Tofino Air builds its own facility.
Danforth speculated that year-round service is possible and Port Alberni’s notorious fog is not a deterrent.
“We are used to it from flying in and out of Tofino,” Danroth said about the fog. “I’ve been stuck in Port Alberni many times before because of the fog. It’s the nature of the business.”
Port Alberni economic manager Pat Deakin said it was always the city’s intention to encourage a floatplane service at the breakwater, even before it was constructed.
“We got in touch with everyone we could find operating a floatplane service in the Pacific Northwest,” Deakin said. “Some of them said this didn’t fit their business model or expansion plan because of where we are located to where they are based. There was also some interest and some said to keep us informed with our plans.”
Tofino Air expressed an interest from the start, but nothing was finalized, Deakin explained.
“We’ve been in discussion with them but it’s not a done deal,” Deakin added. “We have also been in discussion with other providers that have indicated an interest.”
Calls to Port Alberni Port Authority were not returned by press deadline.
All Sports Group also owns Westwind Pub in Port Alberni.