McNeill Airport award uplifting

The Port McNeill Airport has been awarded the William Templeton trophy.

The Port McNeill Municipal Airport has been awarded the B.C. Aviation Council’s 2016 William Templeton Trophy.

The award is made annually for outstanding initiative and achievement in the successful development of a community airport, regional airport, heliport or floatplane landing facility by an individual, association, municipal government or company.

West Coast Helicopters Vice President Peter Barratt nominated the airport for the award, specifically mentioning Bill Velie’s contributions to the airport and the Port McNeill Flying Club in his nomination letter.

“Prior to 1970 there were no aviation facilities in the growing town of Port McNeill,” wrote Barratt. “Several like-minded individuals who had pilot licences took it upon their shoulders to bring aviation to Port McNeill. Two aviators at the time were Dale Chilton of Rayonier Forest Productions and Bill Velie of General Properties. They had a vision to carve out a runway system from the existing heavily forested area, 2.75 miles east of the town of Port McNeill. Between them they were able to use logging company vehicles to clear the area and a gravel runway was finally completed in 1972.”

Barratt continued on in his letter describing the history of aviation in Port McNeill, stating that in the late 1970s “a provincial grant was given to pave the existing runway and upon completion the Port McNeill Flying Club was born.”

With Velie as president, the airport upgrades continued over the next decade until finally in 1993 “West Coast Helicopters was born and moved to the airport,” Barratt wrote, adding that Velie and club members found over the years that “the prevailing winds and runway exit extensions were somewhat more favourable for another runway.”

Western Forest Products, MacMillan & Bloedel and Dayley Construction helped to clear the land and build the second runway.

“Bill was able to get the required volunteers to help in its construction, once again gravel with a look to paving in the future,” wrote Barratt, before summing up Velie’s contributions to aviation in Port McNeill by stating that “this small airport, like all airports today, started with a vision. Bill Velie has made it happen and continues as its ambassador today.”

At the Port McNeill town council meeting Monday, Sept. 19, Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland spoke on behalf of council, stating they wanted to “congratulate Bill for the recognition,” and added that she personally wanted to thank Velie for “the hundreds of free plane rides you gave children every year (during Canada Day celebrations), and also what you do for Angel Flights and the search and rescue. Thank you for everything you’ve done for the town.”