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New eco-friendly air traffic control tower going in at Vancouver Island airport

Tower to have improved line-of-sight, as well as being state-of-the-art and LEED certified
Raymond Bohn of Nav Canada and Elizabeth Brown of the Victoria Airport Authority at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new air traffic control tower. (Mark Page/News Staff)

Construction is officially underway at the Victoria International Airport on a new, modern and eco-friendly control tower with a better view of the runways — and of the new 2019 taxiway accidentally built out of view of the current tower.

“It’s going to create a greater line of sight for the operation,” said Nav Canada CEO Raymond Bohn at the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday (May 14). “So that will be better for the airport and will be better for the air operators.”

This new tower will also be the first in Canada to receive certification through the U.S. Green Building Council. It will be built on the other side of the runways from the current tower and will be about the same size. It is expected to be completed by the fall of 2027.

The old control tower seen from the construction site of the new one. (Mark Page/News Staff)

Nav Canada is a non-profit organization that manages Canadian air traffic control. The organization is partnering with the Victoria Airport Authority to build the tower with funding from airlines.

Bohn said the organization does not disclose the cost of infrastructure projects.

This project follows an error that created a blind spot for the current tower when a $4.3 million taxiway extension was completed in 2019, but ended up being out of view of the control tower.

The current control tower manager could not recall whether the taxiway was built out of view or if a building was built in the way after — the airport undertook a roughly $20 million terminal expansion around the same time — but did say the new tower fixes the issues.

“Basically there’s a hangar over there that doesn’t allow us to see aircraft on a certain portion of the taxiway,” air traffic control manager Christopher Csatlos said. “And so there are three cameras that are installed that kind of give a panoramic view.”

Nav Canada spokesperson Jonathan Bagg gave assurances the current set up with the cameras is safe.

Raymond Bohn, President and CEO of Nav Canada. (Mark Page/News Staff)

Bohn did say the decision to build the new tower wasn’t just to improve the line of sight and fix the previous taxiway location error. He said it is more sustainable and made more sense financially than renovating the current tower.

“It wasn’t just the line of sight,” Bohn said, adding that the current structure dates back to the 1950s. “This was a better option, both environmentally and economically.”

Once built, it will be the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified air traffic control tower in Canada, and aside from its emergency power generator, is to operate with zero greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to the building itself, sustainability plans include the incorporation of native plants and wildflowers in the area around the tower to restore the former Garry oak meadow it is to sit in.

Csatlos said the airport saw roughly 54,000 departures and and equal amount of arrivals last year. Adding in overflights by things like float planes, this made for about 126,000 movements managed by the tower.

This makes Victoria airport the 11th busiest in Canada.

READ MORE: Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable