A group of about 40 government officials, pilots and flying enthusiasts descended on the regional airport outside of Liverpool July 8 to attend the South Shore Flying Club's open house in the newly converted former terminal building.
The officials included the Mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality, David Dagley, and a number of members of his council, as well as Kim Masland, MLA for Queens-Shelburne, and Bernadette Jordan, MP for South Shore-St. Margaret's.
"Exciting," is how Masland described the development.
"I was shocked when I walked in," Masland commented to LighthouseNOW. She said club members have done a "dynamic job. It's just beautiful."
The club has struck long-term rental agreement with Queens for use of the building, the operation of the airstrip area and more than 40,000 square feet of land off the tarmac to be made available for members to build hangars for their aircraft.
They share the airport grounds with the Nova Scotia Drag Racers Association.
Commenting on concern some members expressed about the security of tenure for any facilities that they may develop since the property is leased, Masland said, "If you think about it, the next nearest airport would be Yarmouth. And then we have Halifax. I think it's really important for the South Shore that we do whatever we can to maintain this."
Dagley told LighthouseNOW that since being elected in 2016 he's been working with members to develop a satisfactory lease agreement for all concerned.
"It's a long enough term to get their efforts established, their feet on the ground, build a facility up. And I know they're ambitious to do that."
The mayor said the club may decide at the end of the lease, which has 12 and a half more years remaining, that the membership numbers have dropped to make it sustainable, and a lease allows them the option to then wind things down.
"But it's my expectation that things will continue to grow and they will continue to be here. It's economic development to the Region of Queens."
Brian Pound, the Atlantic director of the Canadian Owners Pilots Association (COPA,) drove the point home in a small address following a speech by Dagley.
Pound said the Liverpool airport reminded him of a small regional airport in Alberta he flew out of 35 years ago that started with a clubhouse and two hangars.
The airport now boasts 58 airplanes, 42 hangars and full flying school. It allows for instrument flight ruling approaches and there are two full-time avionics mechanics based there.
"The economic engine that it produced and the spin-offs is amazing," he said.
Pound added that to reproduce the landing strip that exists at the Liverpool airport now alone would cost in the region of $4 million.
"I think you have a little gem here," said Pound."It's a diamond in the rough and it looks like it's getting polished quite well."
David Oickle, a club member who helped organize the event, told the gathering the founding members of the club deserved recognition for getting the clubhouse off the ground, naming Glenn Parlee, president of the club, along with Peter Gow, Barry Mercer, Brian Parsons, and David John Oickle.