The Bella Bella Airport is a major gateway for visitors travelling to Bella Bella and the central coast region. Given the community’s remote location, the airport is a critical asset that permits access to essential services such as medical care and also makes it a vital link to world-class sport fishing and pristine natural surroundings enjoyed by recreational visitors. Despite these strategic benefits, the facility had been operating unprofitably and the financial crisis of 2008 drastically reduced visitors to the area. Additionally, the terminal building itself was identified as requiring upgrades to both improve operations and passenger comfort.
Sauder S3i looked at these challenges and identified three areas of research focus: (1) historical flight data to support forecasts and infrastructure upgrades, (2) analyses of revenue streams and amenities compared to similar sized airports across BC, and (3) safety management systems to ensure safe operations according to Transport Canada regulations. In response to these analyses, a Sauder S3i Graduate Fellow and a supervising professor from the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture generated high-level recommendations and concept drawings to improve airport terminal infrastructure and operations. HEDC has begun implementing the recommendations and is now providing increased amenities including a small coffee shop organized by a local entrepreneur and wireless internet connections. More changes are scheduled for 2011 including improvements to the luggage handling area and an expansion of the terminal’s waiting room to accommodate sales of paintings and carvings by local artists. Finally, the review of safety issues has prompted HEDC to make landscaping changes that will limit the opportunity for contact between airplanes and wildlife near its runways.