Our History

Nanaimo Airport started life as a Royal Canadian Air Force glider pilot training facility and war-time emergency airfield. More than 80 years later it’s a regional airport connecting Vancouver Island to the world.

The airport sits on 522 acres that the Department of National Defence purchased in 1942 from Thomas Cassidy for $20,000. DND constructed an airstrip.

Following the war, the City of Nanaimo leased the airfield for $1 per year from the federal government. The city assumed responsibility for the operations of the facility.

By 1967, 150 aircraft used the airstrip during a six-month period and soon people were beginning to see the airport’s growth potential.

In 1969 the federal government offered the site to the City of Nanaimo for $16,000. City council felt that the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) was better-suited to take over ownership and operations, but the RDN expressed no interest.

Badly in need of repair, half of the runway was closed for the year. It was later determined that wood drainage pipes under the runway had collapsed.

Aerial View, Cassidy Airport, BC, 1943, used with permission by Christopher Weicht©

In 1975 the city appointed aldermen Ray Brookbank and Ted Kelly to be responsible for the airport. The two worked towards obtaining a $445,000 federal government grant to resurface the runway and a further grant of $287,000 from the provincial government for runway lighting. Brookbank later went on to become the Board Chairman of the Nanaimo Airport Commission.

In 1983 the city’s property manager, Dennis Geddes, was asked to oversee operations with the assistance of Stan Budd.

In 1985 a modern flight service station was added to the infrastructure courtesy of the Ministry of Transport. Soon after, in 1990, a new air terminal building, road and parking lot were constructed to support the steadily increasing scheduled passenger service.

The city was again offered the opportunity to purchase the airport and declined. The independent Nanaimo Airport Commission, comprised mainly of general aviation enthusiasts from the Nanaimo Flying Club, was formed and Ottawa transferred the lease to them.

The Nanaimo Airport Commission was incorporated in August of 1990 as a not-for profit authority under the Canada Corporations Act – Part II. In April of 1992 the Commission assumed management and operation of the Nanaimo Airport under a 30-year lease from the federal Ministry of Transport.

In 1994 the Commission purchased the facility for $1. It was granted fee simple title to the Nanaimo Airport lands through the National Airports Policy transfer initiative in December of 1996. Earlier that year Curtis Grad was appointed as airport manager.

In October 1999 the Air Terminal Building was named in honor of World War I Flying Ace Raymond Collishaw, who was born in Nanaimo. During this year Mark Lawson was appointed airport manager.

David Hunter replaced Lawson as the general manager in 2001. In 2004, the Air Terminal Building was expanded to accommodate a new passenger baggage screening room and a holding lounge.

Mike Hooper joined the Board of Directors in 2005 and one year later stepped down from the Board to accept the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of the Nanaimo Airport.

In 2009, a $16.4 million project extended the runway and added an Instrument Landing System and new lighting. This gave YCD the ability to accommodate more commercial flights. Since then, millions more have been invested in upgrading the runway, taxiway, parking and other infrastructure.

The Air Terminal Building has more than tripled in size over the years, thanks to projects in 2004, 2012, and 2018. A 20-year master plan for the building envisions additional expansion, which will be completed as demand warrants it and funding is available.

In May 2020 Dave Devana was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer.