After 12 years managing the South Cariboo Regional Airport, Nick Christianson is leaving the hangar.
Christianson announced his retirement last week at the South Cariboo Regional Airport Commission’s monthly meeting. As he prepared to hand over control to his successor Ross Donahue, Christianson joked that he’s happy to give someone else the responsibility of shovelling off the 108 runway in the freezing cold.
“I’ve enjoyed it, I really have. It’s in my blood flying and will probably be in my blood until the day I die but it’s time to pass the torch on to someone else,” Christianson said.
The 108 Mile-based airport is owned by Cariboo Regional District, which changed a clause in the contract to allow for the smooth transfer of the airport management contract to Donahue Airport Services, said Darron Campbell, the CRD’s manager of community services. Donahue and his wife Wendy were present at the meeting to introduce themselves and get a feel for the airport.
Donahue started his career with Transport Canada at the Prince George Airport in 1992 just as the federal institution pulled out of the airport business. He then went on to log for a decade before the Prince George airport manager invited him back as an operator. While there, Donahue did an apprenticeship with the airport mechanic and learned how to do everything at the airport, including firefighting.
“I just stayed with it, it’s where I want to be,” Donahue said, adding he and his wife Wendy have always had an eye on the South Cariboo. “I kept in touch with Nick over the years and when he mentioned the word retirement I just kind of went ‘we need to chat’ because I was really interested in doing this.”
Donahue said the job gave him the chance to move further south, which is also closer to his parents and siblings in Williams Lake and his children’s families, he said. He and Wendy are currently living in a camper and Donahue said they intend to move into the apartment above the office until he gets his bearings.
District of 100 Mile Mayor Mitch Campsall, acclaimed as chair of the commission, said when he received Donahue’s resume and proposal, it was a “no brainer.” He said he hopes Donahue will come to love the South Cariboo as much as he does and that he’s sure the community will embrace them.
“You’re going to fit into this community really well,” Campsall said.
Campsall also thanked Christianson for all his hard work, saying he has been an asset over the years. During the 2017 wildfires, Campsall said that Christianson jumped in “hog wild” and really stepped up to do his part for the community.
“You will be missed but the way you’ve talked about the new couple coming in to take over the airport, you won’t be missed as much, I’m sorry to say, but they will love to have you around,” Campsall said. “Thank you so much for your service, you’ve been amazing as far as I’m concerned.”
Commission members Margo Wagner and hobby pilot Les Kallos, the Canim Lake representative, also thanked Christianson for his service. Kallos said he’s flown out of the airport for many years and Christianson has been a great source of knowledge on flying and local matters.
Christianson said it’s been a pleasure to do the job during the past 12 years and said he plans to still hang around the airport working on planes and helping out. If the opportunity arose, he said, he wouldn’t mind sitting on the commission to give his input.
He added the airport is an asset for the community, noting that during disasters, the two places people head to are the fire halls and airports. Keeping the airport maintained and in good shape has been his goal as manager and one that Christianson hopes will continue after he leaves.
“I really want to see the airport continue on and grow. The CRD has done a wonderful job over the years to fund it and keep it moving forward,” Christianson said. “I look back to 12 years ago, what was here, and we’re just constantly growing.”