Kimberley Mayor Ron McRae (front

All aboard the OK Connector!

Pacific Coastal Airlines runs inaugural flight from Cranbrook to Kelowna MOnday, Nov. 18.

On Monday, Nov. 18, Pacific Coastal kicked off its new Cranbrook to Kelowna flight route.

The company invited local politicians, travel agents and media to take part in the inaugural flight. As a member of the latter group, I was invited to take the flight as well.

Before the flight everyone gathered around in the foyer of the Canadian Rockies International Airport. The Sookenai Singers played a ceremonial drum prior to a speech by Spencer Smith, Vice President of Pacific Coastal. There was also an inaugural cake with an image of a Pacific Coastal plane on it.

Then, we all headed through security and onto the plane — a Beechcraft 1900c. The plane fits 19 passengers and the pilot and co-pilot. It’s one of two types of airline Pacific Coastal flies from Cranbrook to Vancouver — the other is a Saab 340, which seats 30 passengers. For me, at six feet four inches tall, the flight cabin is not something I can stand up in, but since the flight is only between 30 and 45 minutes depending on the headwind, there really isn’t any need to walk around the cabin.

Kevin Boothroyd, Director of Sales and Marketing for the airline, said that the Cranbrook-Kelowna route helps to bring the two cities closer together. The flight also made sense as there was enough of a layover time between the Cranbrook to Vancouver flights to fly to Kelowna and back. So Pacific Coastal didn’t even have to change the flight schedules.

In Kelowna the plane was greeted by two airport fire trucks, which ceremoniously welcomed the flight to the airport with an arc of water sprayed from each side by the top-mounted water cannons.

There was a red carpet set up on the tarmac, and there we were met by Minister Steve Thomson, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray and Sam Samadar, Kelowna’s airport manager, as well as a host of media camera crews, local representatives and airport staff.

Kaytee Wheaton, Director of Sales for the Kootenay Ice, exchanged jerseys with Dr. Gavin Hamilton from the Kelowna Rockets.

On both the flight there and return, I sat in the furthest seat forward, which afforded me a view into the cockpit and out of the plane’s windshield. The approach to the flashing lights of the Cranbrook runway in the dark, cloudy, rainy night was a stunning sight. Both landings were quite smooth despite the weather.

The flight is a nice quick way for those travelling to and from Kelowna to save themselves driving time, whether a university student, business person or simply a vacationer.

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