It is difficult to imagine a year flying by as quickly as 2014 did. It is especially difficult when so much was accomplished in that short time.
One of the most visible projects was the complete reconstruction of the airport’s longest runway. Yes, it was time to resurface Runway 14/32, and we could have completed a simple “shave and pave”, as the operations team refers to a resurfacing project. Instead, we decided that the more prudent approach would be a comprehensive project including the replacement of runway lighting, installation of a new stormwater sewer system, and reprofiling the runway from a crossfall configuration to a centre crown configuration. Further, the Authority made a significant investment in safety by adding Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs) to each end of the runway. Ottawa became a leader in runway safety design when it reconstructed its other commercial runway, 07/25 in 2012, making it the only Tier 1 airport in the country with RESAs and a grooved surface. Were we required to make these safety enhancements? The answer is no. But making them was the right thing to do, and we think the investment was worth every penny.
One of our most complex projects continued throughout the year. The $58 million baggage handling system upgrade, which began in 2013, took significant strides forward. The transborder portion of the project was installed and will be ready for implementation in early 2015. A new carousel in the domestic arrivals area was also installed, although the associated back-of-house work will continue throughout 2015 with a planned implementation in 2016.
Ottawa Airport has more firsts to share. In late November, I was fortunate enough to be a participant in the first Active Shooter Training Exercise at a Canadian airport. Together with nearly 300 first responder participants from the Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Paramedic Service, Ottawa Fire Services and many other organizations, the massive exercise featured a scenario that we must prepare for as the events of October 22nd sadly reminded us of. I was amazed at how comprehensive the planning was and how realistic the scenario was, and I am very proud of the way the various stakeholders came together to increase our collective preparedness for an event we hope to never experience in real life.
These and so many other projects kept the team extremely busy, but not so busy that we lost sight of one of our most important priorities - customer service. In fact, efforts to delight our passengers resulted in more Airport Service Quality awards. Remaining in third spot for airports that serve between two and five million passengers and in fifth place for all airports in North America is something to be proud of, and I am. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who did a little extra to make our passengers’ travel experiences more memorable.
Every infrastructure project or customer service initiative is undertaken with one goal in mind - to be a world-class airport. So it should come as no surprise that we want the city we serve to be world-class as well. We believe that a strong transportation system is needed if we are to achieve that status, which is why we are so focused on working with the City of Ottawa on two particular environmental assessment files: the O-Train extension to the airport; and the widening of the Airport Parkway. We believe that an airport link is vital to the future of Ottawa and feel that it needs to be implemented sooner than later. We also feel strongly that the Airport Parkway, the main access route to the airport, is running at capacity during peak hours and causing severe congestion that must be addressed. We look forward working with the City towards a comprehensive transportation plan that serves the needs of the airport and the entire community. It is not about one project over the other - it is about building a multi-modal system that meets the needs of our growing community well into the future.
The strategic plan that we developed last year and set in motion this year has kept us very focused on our goals. As I have mentioned many times, it’s an ambitious plan, but with the support of the Board of Directors and the entire Airport Authority team, we are making tangible progress. I would like to express my appreciation for everyone’s dedication to achieving our goals. I would particularly like to thank the Board of Directors for their confidence in the team, its ability to make sound decisions and to take decisive action; their trust is a testament to the strength of my team, and we will do our best to prove the trust is wellplaced as we continue to move the plan forward.
Gilles Lalonde’s term as Chairman of the Board is coming to a close, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his guidance and leadership. Gilles was a part of the team that selected me to take the Airport Authority forward and has provided a level of support that, I believe, made the transition exceptionally smooth and successful. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with him, and I look forward to his continued involvement as a member of the Board. I also look forward to working with our new Chair and continuing the great work that was initiated under Gilles’ leadership.
There are many signs that the local economy is healthier and our passenger volumes are growing again. With this growth comes opportunity. I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for the Ottawa International Airport and assure you that my team and I will be ready to embrace every opportunity. I hope the community will be right there with us, just as it has been since 1997.
President and Chief Executive Officer