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Stephenville Dymond Airport Update

Updated: Jan 17

CEO shares upcoming plans, including job and info fair

Carl Dymond is the CEO of Dymond Group of Companies. — Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter STEPHENVILLE — Things may have appeared mostly quiet at Stephenville Dymond International Airport since the final paperwork was completed, but that doesn’t mean that work isn’t underway. The airport is currently nearing the end of its very extensive lighting project, which has proven to be a significant undertaking. “I think we’re still working on Taxiway Bravo and the apron, but the Runway is completely done, and Taxiway Alpha, which is our main taxiway, is completely done. So there’s a bit more to it that we’re working on, but for the most part, the runway was the biggest thing that’s completed, and it looks fantastic,” said Carl Dymond, CEO of the Dymond Group of Companies, during a phone interview shortly before the Christmas holiday. “We’ve been working with the SAC (Stephenville Airport Corporation) because we had to approve the second phase, because there was a cost to us, so we put up about two and a half million. I think it ended up being almost three million by the time it was all said and done to cover off a lot of the work that needed to be finished on there, because Transport Canada only covered 1.7 million out of five, so we had to put up the rest of it.” And after all of that, there are still a few things left to be completed. “There’s still a little bit more to do with regards to centralizing all the wiring at the base of 927. So on not the ocean side, the land side of the runway, there’s going to be a big control switch box put down there. So that’s probably like a phase three for us, but it’s just to consolidate all the lighting. So when technicians go in to fix it, then they’ll have to go into that box, which is standard, but it’s a lot of work,” said Dymond. “And Tristar, the company who’s done it for us, they do this around the country. They are the best in the business at lighting, and they’ve proven it. We had Transport Canada in there last week with rulers measuring how far out of the ground the lights were and the space in between, and it was like dead on millimeter specific. It’s incredible.” The lighting project was something that had to be completed in order to meet the very strict regulations of Transport Canada. “New Transport Canada regulations have LED lighting as an energy efficiency mandate that they have from the federal government and it’s much easier to maintain than those incandescent bulbs. They got pretty hot, and sometimes they would overpower when a plane came in, or if the wings dipped they would smash the light bulb. Now with the LEDs, it’s a bit more of a resilient system, holds up better and the visibility from those lights is far superior than the old school incandescent bulbs that they used to have there,” explained Dymond. “And for that too, if you go down to the runway and you’re still trying to slow down from a landing, if you’re at 2,000 feet the lights turn yellow instead of the regular colour to warn you that you’re at your last bit of threshold before you go off the end of the runway. It’s fantastic. It’s such a complex system, but it’s one of the most advanced in the country right now.” Even though that meant extra money, Dymond considers it to be a worthy investment. “We didn’t mind putting up that extra money for that. That’s such an investment in the future of Stephenville. That was a no brainer for us. It’s one of those things you just got to do,” said Dymond. “They had to order the new lights, and there was a back order on those, so we had to wait. Post-COVID supply chains are not where they should be still. A lot of lights were on backorder, so we had to wait for those to be brought in for them to start working again. I think that was mostly the delay from the summer to, I think it was mid-November. They had to wait on them to be delivered before they could come back in, but they had all the trenching and stuff already done. They dug trenches to put the lines in. They are just such professionals, the guys that did this.” The runway was in good condition overall, considering how long it had been since proper maintenance was able to be carried out. “The runway itself, we need the lines painted, and it has to be above ten degrees for the lines be painted. So we have a company contracted to come in and do that in April. We’re anticipating the temperature is going to be plus ten around April, so we’ve contracted a company to come in in April to be able to paint those lines for us,” said Dymond. “They were painted several years ago, but they were done completely wrong. Now that we had ours inspected independently through our aviation group, Transport Canada agreed that the lines are not up to specs, that they are going to have to be repainted. So that’s maybe half a million dollars, I think it is, by the time it’s all said and done to have those lines done. But we have very specific ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) rules that we have to follow. The full runway will be done, all the taxiways and aprons will be completely repainted and resurfaced in April, and that means not necessarily new pavement put down, but some of the pavement is going to be tarred, a lot of the cracks are going to be filled in. If you’ve been on the airport, you’ll see that on some of the apron next to Pike’s hangar, there was a lot of grass growing up through the concrete cracks there. So we’re going to have those resurfaced and filled so that it doesn’t look like there’s grass growing up through the apron anymore, which is important to us because esthetically it doesn’t look pleasing right now. If we want planes, I don’t want them to be going through a grassy field.” There are also more plans now that the lighting project has been basically completed. “We’re working on hangers now to have those installed. If we’re attracting airlines, and we have several airlines that will be coming in in the new year. We’re working through the route development now for them. Our 2019 numbers were not the best before we came along, and then, of course, with the pandemic, that just made it substantially worse. So we’re working with several professional accounting firms and stuff now to sort of work out those projections so that the airlines can come in with confidence, knowing that we can put bums in seats, but that’s a hard part because the historical numbers don’t show that,” said Dymond. “So we’re taking on a little bit of a risk ourselves in promising airlines a certain level of business, but that’s okay. That’s what we call capacity agreements. And then we’re working on having the hangars there in case you have to overnight. We’re working on maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities, paint shops, stuff like that. So we’ve got a very aggressive seven-to-ten-year plan with the airport. We’re going to be building out a lot of the infrastructure that needs to be done, the new terminal will have to be brought in and we’re going to have to do that in phases, because we’re just not busy enough to justify 200,000 square feet of a terminal. So as we get busier, we build on the additional phases, but we have a plan for that.” The concept art for the new terminal has been completed, but they aren’t releasing the images yet. “We had a couple of architects that signed that for us, so we do have some. We’re just not releasing it until we can source the materials for it. So that’s the biggest thing is that we don’t want to put out terminal that looks like XYZ, then it looks like ABC afterwards. So we’re trying to hold that because we have to make sure that we can actually build what we think we can build, and with the weather systems in western Newfoundland, then we have to be able to house that stuff. If we’re going to bring in the materials, we have to put that somewhere,” said Dymond. “Our terminal will be accessible to anybody with any ability, which is important to us. Robert Cahill from Homestead, which is a nonprofit in St. John’s, is a good friend of mine, and he brought that up, saying, ‘you know there’s no real accessible buildings in Newfoundland that are designed this way’, so we took the universal design concept and said we want anybody of any ability to be able to use this airport. If you’re in a wheelchair, if you read Braille, if you have hearing or sensory disorders, we want everyone to be able to avail of the terminal in the most proficient way possible for them. That’s really important to us, so we’ve designed that in that way. We’re just not ready to make that public yet, because we want to make sure that we can source the materials that we need, and that’s different heights of counters and all that kind of stuff, but our goal is to make this a universally accessible airport, to be the first one in the world that’s built this way.” People can expect job notices will start rolling out sooner rather than later. “I think in the new year, we’re going to be holding a job fair to sort of just showcase, because we’ve been putting that together the last three to four months now about exactly what we need. A lot of parameters have changed over the last couple of years with World Energy coming in, and then we got slowed down a little bit by the bankruptcy being cleared, so we sort of just had to circle the wagons, really consolidate a lot of the work that we were doing. Now that we have more of an appreciation, actually owning the airport now, we’re really looking at what do we need with regards to the airlines? Do we start our own airline? Do we bring in airlines? Things like that that we’re really trying to figure out, but we’re hoping to have a job fair in the new year, in the first quarter, where we can put tables there with different trades and have people come in and apply and interview and stuff there,” said Dymond. “We want to be able to showcase what we have, so having a new terminal design and build a 3D model to put that on the table so people can tangibly see. Same with our aircraft, bringing in the 3D model so people can actually walk through, or virtually walk through some of our aircraft concept designs. We want to make this a fully interactive kind of thing, so in the new year, we’re going to be putting together a lot of this stuff into sort of a job fair showcase so people can come in and have a look at exactly what we’re going to be doing.” Drone development is still underway as well, but don’t expect unmanned flights anytime soon. “It’s actually very exciting because we’re looking at different kinds of markets with regard to cargo and firefighting and passenger service. I personally would not fly in an unmanned aircraft, and I don’t expect anyone to want to. That might be the future, but it’s not the future for us yet, so essentially, we’re going to be concentrating on cargo and firefighting and a whole host of other multi-mission roles that an aircraft can do, but we’re not going to be putting passengers in unmanned aircraft. That’s a no go for me,” said Dymond. “But working with different companies, such as Duction on hydrogen engines and stuff like that, those are things that are well into development. Now, usually for aerospace, when you’re designing a novel design, a brand-new design, these programs are sometimes seven to ten years at least to get it to where you want to get it. The goal is that you don’t want to design an aircraft and go through all the wind tunnel testing and then build a model for it and all that stuff, and then realize it’s not going to work. So we take our time in the initial phases to make sure we have one that obeys the laws of physics and aerodynamics.” Recently, it was announced that Virgin Atlantic made the first flight on 100 per cent sustainable fuel, and finding more sustainable ways to fly is a concept Stephenville Dymond International Airport is completely behind. “We’ve always been an alternate for the major carriers because of the incredible weather systems that we have in Stephenville. Like when St. John’s and Gander and Goose Bay and Halifax are closed, we are the alternative, and because of that island in the St. Lawrence, the way the jet stream and everything comes together, it’s just almost like the perfect storm. The Americans chose Stephenville for a reason in 1940 because of the weather patterns that are there, and it works so well,” said Dymond. “So we’ve always been an alternate for these big airlines. We have the runway capacity with the weight-bearing capacity on the runway and aprons. We talked to Virgin Atlantic and all the different iterations of Virgin Airways, so they asked us if we could be an alternative for them. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to land with us. It just means that if an emergency happens, then we’re there, ready to go, lights on, ready to receive an aircraft.” What Virgin Atlantic is doing is where Dymond Group of Companies eventually aims to be. “The engines we’re putting on our drone aircraft are going to be able to accept sustainable air fuels as well. As far as I know, Mr. Risley is into that business as well, for sustainable air fuels. So it’s sort of fitting that it’s going to be around the airport. We would love to be able to do that, so putting banana peels and all that kind of stuff into a fuel and making it work is an incredible feat,” said Dymond. “I think that’s going to be one of those major things before we get to that full transition to hydrogen. If we were to put that hydrogen system into our aircraft now, it would add 100 per cent weight. So if our aircraft was at 25,000 pounds without takeoff weight, we would add another 25,000 pounds on that, just to have the electrolysis and everything in the aircraft, so it’s not feasible, but sustainable air fuels are absolutely a critical bridge toward a net zero on aircraft.” The mission behind the SV Dymond International Airport remains family-focused, bringing a future for generations to come. “We’re not looking for pats on the back or high fives or nothing. If people are happy and they’re living their lives and they can tell people that we’re good people to work for, that’s the most important part,” said Dymond. “Because that’s what’s going to build the trust and build the business. We just want to be that employer, that even though we’re always for profit, it doesn’t have to be all the profit. Profit with purpose is really our thing. That’s how we do it.”

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