FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The North Peace Regional Airport has a new managing director as Carolyn Turner is no longer with the organization.
Stacy Smith has moved in to fill the vacant position and will also continue his role as the manager of operations and emergency services at the airport until someone new is hired.
Smith said his new position is more on the business side of the airport, while the manager of operations and emergency services looks after the internal processes.
“The managing director position is more the business side, a higher level overview of the airport and working a little more closely with the contracts, leases and stakeholders,” Smith explained.
“The managing director is the accountable executive for the airport, so it has signing authority for all of the business-related things to do with the manager.”
The manager of operations and emergency services is in charge of the operational side as well as the airport firefighting department, which Smith will still be doing until a new manager is hired.
Smith also still maintains the position of airport fire chief for Aircraft Rescue Firefighting.
He said his route to the managing director position differs slightly from others.
“Typically, because it’s an executive, higher-level position, they tend to float people in from the outside, whereas I started at the airport in 2016,” Smith said.
In 2016, he said the airport had to take on having an Aircraft Rescue Firefighting (ARF) department.
Smith said he was hired while ARF was being established, as the airport needed to acquire fire trucks as well as hire and train more staff.
“Because of the growth of the airport at the time, they discovered that they had to move into being able to provide a certain category of protection for the airport, for the aircraft that were coming in,” Smith said.
He said coming up to the new position from the inside gives him a different perspective of the airport.
“It’s given me, I think, the ability to really know the airport well, from the inside out, rather than just coming from the outside and trying to figure things out,” Smith said.
“I know this airport inside out because I worked at all levels to get to this point.”
Smith is a mechanic by trade, and before the airport, he worked at the Northern Lights College campus in Fort St. John for nine years, starting as an instructor for the trades program.
He then moved into the program chair for the trades and apprenticeship department before he became the associate dean of the college for the department.
At the airport, below the management positions is a supervisor, who looks after a lot of the hands-on type of work at the airport, Smith said. Then there are airport technicians, or APTs, in APT one, two and three.
“Threes are the ones that have certifications, which allow them to have a slightly different role than a two,” Smith said.
“A two is basically maintenance and firefighting… The one is basically just maintenance.”
North Peace Airport Services is the society that owns the airport and has a contract with Vantage Airport Group, which manages the airport, he said.
“It’s fairly common, most airports either have some type of an arrangement where a society or a board may have physical ownership, so to speak, of the airport, then they sublet to a company to manage the actual airport itself, for the operations side of it,” Smith said.
Vantage Airport Group is a global company with a wealth of knowledge, and though he has done a lot of on-the-job training for the new position, he also has access to an extensive network of people through Vantage and other airports.
“There’s this camaraderie between airports,” Smith said.
Many people don’t understand some of the intricacies involved with running, maintaining and operating an airport, Smith noted.
The managing director thinks there’s a bit of a misconception that the airport runs everything within the building. However, the space is instead leased to other companies.
“Some people equate it to being like the mall; you have a bunch of businesses in the mall, and airports are similar,” Smith said.
“The airlines and stuff like that, they leased space from us, but they’re independent from us. We have a general oversight for the building.”
He said the aviation industry is highly regulated, so the managers must ensure that regulation compliances are met in all areas.
“This airport here in Fort St. John has a large footprint. There’s a lot of space here that takes a lot of dedication to maintain and keep in good shape,” Smith said.
He emphasized that maintaining an airport is a lot of work, especially in winter.
“If people just knew some of the stresses involved with keeping the runways open, making sure they’re clean and swept, making sure that they’re safe for planes to take off and land,” Smith said.
“I think that’s where sometimes people get frustrated because of delays and stuff like that, but there’s a lot of work that goes into keeping an airport.”
Smith was working as an interim managing director before officially moving into the role at the beginning of September.