NANAIMO – After overseeing Nanaimo Airport’s evolution into one of the country’s fastest growing airports, Mike Hooper has announced his plan to retire as Chief Executive Officer and President.

Hooper, who assumed the airport’s top executive position in 2006, will step down in June 2020. The Airport Commission will begin the search for his successor immediately and expects to appoint a new CEO early next year.

“We’ve come a long way,” Hooper says of his 14 years leading the airport team. “When I started at YCD we had four employees and now we are proud to be one of the fastest growing airports in Canada.”

“Mike’s solid leadership and round the clock commitment have been instrumental to the Airport’s steady growth and success,” says Board Chair Wendy Clifford. “He has been the face and the heart of the airport for 14 years, and the Board couldn’t be prouder or more appreciative of his efforts.”

In 2018 a record-setting 435,000 passengers passed through the airport’s gates. During Hooper’s tenure, Air Canada and WestJet have implemented scheduled service to the main connecting hubs in the country including Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Charters and cargo shipping have also grown substantially in the last 8 years.

Several multi- million-dollar expansion projects completed under Hooper’s watch have transformed the airport. The runway was extended to accommodate large jets, which helped attract more commercial flights. A high-tech Instrument Landing System (ILS created more favourable landing conditions for planes in all weather conditions. “It allowed us to go from 74 per cent reliability to over 99 per cent today,” Hooper notes.

The Air Terminal Building has been substantially enlarged. The latest expansion, due for completion in January, increases space to reduce congestion at peak periods and enable faster security screening.

Mike Hooper

“Our projects are carefully planned and managed,” Hooper says of the airport’s growth. “It’s been truly a team effort, starting with the community-minded leaders who have served on the Nanaimo Airport Commission. They’ve laid out a clear vision not just for the last decade but also for the next generation, and I’ve enjoyed their support in implementing that vision. Airport partners including Transport Canada, Nav Canada (FSS, Air Carriers, G4S, Enex Fuels, Nanaimo Flying Club, contractors, consultants and many others have been amazing to work with, in a win-win environment. Our administrative and operation teams have done a fantastic job of providing safe, convenient and affordable air service that makes life better for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”

To manage the growth, Nanaimo Airport’s team has also grown significantly since Hooper was hired as CEO. Today it numbers 28 full time staff and over 40 Blue Navigator Volunteers who help passengers travel through YCD.

Nanaimo Airport is more than a vital transportation centre; it’s a major economic driver. Last year the airport generated $486 million to the region and created 2,750 direct and indirect jobs that support Central Island families.

“We’ve always embraced our role as a key player in the local economy,” Hooper says. “We’ve also delivered on our commitment to being a good corporate neighbour by providing sustainable financial management and environmental stewardship.”

“I’m leaving at a good time. The airport is in a great position,” says Hooper. “We’ve put in place the critical infrastructure components and have built a strong team directed by the Airport Commission. Our organization will continue to meet the challenges of increased demand for service in our communities.”