One of Prince Rupert’s most unique features is that its airport is located on Digby Island, separated from the city by approximately nine kilometers of water and land. Thus, people accessing the airport are given the opportunity of travelling on land, water, and air… all within a couple of hours.
The Digby Island ferry connects the city to its airport. Owned and operated by the City of Prince Rupert, the ferry has been part of people’s journey to and from Prince Rupert since 1970. The vessel was built at Vancouver Shipyards Ltd. and was officially launched on May 22, 1970.
Before an airport was built for the City of Prince Rupert, residents travelling to Vancouver relied on an amphibian aircraft (Canso) from Seal Cove to Sandspit in the Queen Charlotte Islands. From Sandspit, they boarded a Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-4 to Vancouver. After a detailed search from 1951 to 1955, the Department of Transport determined that a safe site could not be found amongst the mainland mountains and so decided to construct the airport on Digby Island.
To stabilize the base for the airport 10-12 feet of muskeg had to be removed and approximately 700 cubic meters of rock fill had to be barged to Digby Island before a runway could be constructed. From 1957 to 1959 a runway 6000’ by 200’ was constructed as well as a dock and access road. In 1960 to 1961 navigational aids, water supply, sewage, power from the mainland and meteorological services were completed. In 1961 an airport license was issued in Transport Canada’s name for day operation only and Canadian Pacific began scheduled service. In 1962 the air terminal building, instrument landing system and staff dwellings were completed and in 1971 the maintenance complex and firehall was built.
In April of 1997 under the National Airports Policy the Prince Rupert Airport was transferred from Transport Canada to the Prince Rupert Airport Authority. The City of Prince Rupert owns the airport through the incorporation of the Prince Rupert Airport Authority. The Prince Rupert Airport Authority is the operator and holder of the Airport Certification.