Flying home to Fort McMurray

YMM Airport celebrates return of commercial air service 

By Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

Red Cross representatives were on-site helping to provide residents with information and assistance on June 10. Comfort kits were also handed out to arriving passengers, which included a cooler bag, bottled water, energy bars, hand sanitizer and notebooks. Supplied photos

Red Cross representatives were on-site helping to provide residents with information and assistance on June 10. Comfort kits were also handed out to arriving passengers, which included a cooler bag, bottled water, energy bars, hand sanitizer and notebooks. Supplied photos

It was two years ago in June when Astronaut Chris Hadfield was performing on stage with Bachman & Turner for the celebratory event of Fort McMurray International Airport’s grand opening gala.

Fast-forward to the present and the airport is celebrating another remarkable milestone as residents return home on commercial air flights after escaping the fire. The first flight landed at 9:11 a.m. from with Air Canada flight 8371 from Calgary.

“Today marks an important milestone for the community as we celebrate the return of commercial air service to YMM”, said Scott Clements, President & CEO of the Fort McMurray Airport Authority (FMAA).

For the past month, the airport has been operating solely for emergency services. It allowed Alberta Agriculture and Forestry to access airspace, and also provided transportation for food and supplies for first responders.
Clements first returned to YMM to access the facilities’ damage on May 13. Reports indicate the loss is short compared to the total cost of $258 million of the 150,000 square-foot main terminal.

“I am pleased to share that there has been no damage to the main terminal building or the north terminal building,” Clements stated. “There has been some damage to several structures on the north side of the airport.”

Airline partners from WestJet and Air Canada expressed their gratitude to the community.

“This is a very important day for the city of Fort McMurray as we again see guests and employees walking through the concourse of Fort McMurray International Airport,” said Bob Cummings, WestJet Executive Vice President, Commercial. “WestJet is proud to be part of this big step towards a return to normal activities in the area.”

Kevin Howlett, Senior Vice President, Regional Markets & Government Relations at Air Canada, echoed welcomes by extending thanks to first responders and the tireless efforts from the YMM staff.

“We have been honoured to transport members of Team Rubicon, other first responders, and work with Global Medic to transport supplies to support Fort McMurray,” Howlett stated. “Our focus at Air Canada is helping Fort McMurray residents get back home as quickly, conveniently and comfortably as possible,” said Kevin Howlett, Senior Vice President, Regional Markets & Government Relations at Air Canada.

As residents continue making their way back into the region, the airport authority is encouraging passengers and community members to take part in their Welcome Home / Thank You art installation by writing messages on boards located at both the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) and YMM. The installation has been jointly designed by the two airports and will be exchanged and displayed throughout both cities.

-Connect Weekly-