By Emily Jaycox
For the Independent
The Stettler airport will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as part of its 42nd annual Fly-in Breakfast on Labour Day, Sept. 3, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Residents can pull up a lawn chair and watch as the planes come in, get some breakfast, and maybe get a ride in a plane, too.
The breakfast feeds anywhere from 600 to 800 people and between 50 to 100 recreational aircrafts usually fly in for it, depending on the weather, according to Cam Andres.
Andres is the president of the Stettler Flying Club (SFC) and chairman of the airport board.
“If the weather is nice, they come,” he said.
Aircrafts have come from Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, and a gentleman in his late 80’s flies in from Saskatchewan each year.
This year commemorative mugs will be sold to mark the 50-year anniversary.
The airport has been in its current location since March 13, 1968.
“That’s the mark on the calendar when the airport, in its present location, became real,” said Andres.
The SFC has been around since the 1930’s and this area has a rich aviation history, according to Andres.
The first official grass runway was where the golf course is now, and opened in 1959.
The development of the Stettler area caused the airstrip to be moved in 1968 to its current location.
A government grant of $30k allowed for the construction of the new grass strip.
An additional $100k grant in 1976 made it possible for the 3,000-foot asphalt runway to be paved.
In 1984, a third grant of $25k was received, which was used to add a new terminal building.
The airport is owned by the Town of Stettler, operated and funded by the county and SFC and advised by the volunteer airport board.
It is used today for a variety of agricultural, healthcare and commercial purposes.
“It still remains operable and viable.”
The airport is used by air tractors, helicopters out surveying pipelines and grass fires and other commercial operations in east country, says Andres.
The airport recently installed a self-serve fuel system.
The airport will also be receiving a new GPS precision approach control, which will help guide air ambulances in during adverse weather, according to Andres.
Only smaller STARS helicopters are able to land on the Stettler hospital’s helipad, so the airport is used.
The new approach is not a piece of equipment, but certified, precisely mapped routes.
It is anticipated to be operational by the end of the year.
“It will be a really good thing for the area.”