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Air tour will land in St. Paul on June 4

The Alberta Air Tour will be coming to St. Paul on June 4, followed by a stop in Cold Lake.
The air tour stopped in Lac La Biche last year, and will be stopping in St. Paul in 2022.

ST. PAUL - In an effort to build interest and awareness around the aviation industry, an air tour is coming to St. Paul with 40 aircraft expected to touch down on June 4.

The air tour will start in Lloydminster and travel to St. Paul, with planes landing at the St. Paul Airport at about 10:30 a.m. A few local vendors and food options will be available, along with a bouncy house and other fun. The planes will be leaving in the afternoon and will head to Cold Lake for the final stop of the tour. 

The Alberta Air Tour includes a number of different routes, based on various areas of the province. The St. Paul stop is part of the northeastern tour. The tour is a fairly new endeavour, starting in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. In its third year now, the objective and goal continues to be creating a spotlight on aviation in Alberta and the industry as a whole.

Scott Holmes of Outlaw Air Racing, Dina Jammaz of Elevate Aviation and Shane Getson, MLA of Lac Ste Anne-Parkland, launched the first Alberta Air Tour in 2020 to celebrate the local aviation industry.

Linda Sallstrom, the Economic Development Officer for the St. Paul/Elk Point Economic Development Alliance, is helping coordinate the air tour's stop in St. Paul. She believes it's important to create awareness about the role rural airports play, and the funding challenges that exist.

Challenges in aviation

Among the challenges facing the aviation industry, Sallstrom says labour shortages are being seen.

“There are labour shortages in that industry right now.”

Sallstrom also believes it's important to reconnect the community to the rural airports, and reaffirms the value they bring to the region. Airports are important to various industries, and are also crucial for medical purposes - both are valuable assets to rural communities. 

"Airports are a huge asset in our region."

She acknowledges another challenge is that there hasn't been good data collection done in the past, which creates a gap between what we see happening and what is actually happening at local airports. This makes it hard to bring a business case around airports, and therefore it's tough to convince municipalities to commit funding to airports, over other projects.

The air tour is one step toward creating that awareness and drawing attention to a handful of airports in the Lakeland region. The event is open to the public and aircraft are expected to be on site until about 2:30 p.m.

People will have an opportunity to get fairly close to the airplanes, and can have conversations with the pilots, says Sallstrom. There will also be delegates on hand throughout the event.

“It’s a fun day,” says Sallstrom. She admits that personally she did not pay much attention to the local airport prior to taking on her role as an economic development officer, even though she would drive past it nearly every day.

“There’s a learning piece,” she says, adding, she would like to encourage youth to also come out and ask questions.  

When talk about the air tour started, the Elk Point Airport and the Bonnyville Airport were also expected to be part of the tour. Unfortunately, logistics resulted in changes having to be made, but Sallstrom is hopeful the Elk Point Airport will be part of a future air tour. 

Elk Point's airport, specifically, is a site where some interesting things are taking place. There is work being done to put in a new GPS system that will allow more access for Medivac, and planes will be able to land more often throughout the year. At the moment, weather plays a large part in when planes can and cannot land in Elk Point. 

Also, there is talk about putting in some fire pits at the airport in Elk Point as a way to encourage a trend known as underwing camping. Underwing camping is when people fly out to a community and camp under the wing of their own plane, explains Sallstrom.

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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