One of the Saanich Peninsula’s biggest success stories over the past half-decade has been Viking Air and they stand to benefit from the province’s recent commitment of $5 million to thier industry association.
Five years ago, Viking Air had plans to revamp the aging Twin Otter aircraft design and 100 employees with which to do it.
Since then, they have ballooned to 600 employees and have built 50 aircraft for a wold-wide marketplace. President and CEO David Curtis says the company has another 50 Twin Otters left to build — meaning there’s potential for even more growth on the Peninsula.
In Viking Air’s case, they had to go out and work with area post-secondary institutions to create training grounds for new staff. Curtis said they spent a lot of their own money to ensure they had the necessary workforce.
While the $1 million announced by Finance Minister Mike de Jong this week (the first installment of the government’s five-year commitment) is a drop in the bucket, the industry hopes to use it as a runway to tap into the estimated $1.9 trillion in aerospace contracts expected over the next 20 years.
As a part of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada Pacific Division (AIAC Pacific), Viking Air and other B.C. companies — many of them at the Victoria International Airport — will be better able to position themselves to earn some of that large pie.
This investment and the AIAC Pacific program to expand international trade opportunities, among other goals, has the potential to keep jobs on the Saanich Peninsula and to create new ones.
There are millions of dollars being generated in the aviation industry here every year and it happens under our noses — and the flight paths of the aircraft we see coming and going from the airport every day.
Any expansion in the aerospace industry in this province can only help to shore up local economic fortunes.