Dozens of pilots must soon find a new home for their ultralight aircraft as the owner of the land where King George Airpark is situated on wants to turn it into a blueberry farm.
The storied airpark and flight school on site has operated for 36 years, at 4981 King George Boulevard.
“They’ve had a change of plans; they want to do something different with the property,” said airpark operator Arnold Klappe. “A pure 100 per cent exit date has not been set, but they do want it sooner rather than later.”
There are 35 aircraft on site now, he said.
“Property values are property values,” Klappe noted. “The lease came up and they wanted the property back; I did the math, I saw the numbers, I don’t blame them. I believe it’ll probably be a multi-purpose field to supply their Surrey farm market.”
Klappe said it’s “for sure” the end of an era but he’ll continue his flight school elsewhere, though “probably not” in Surrey.
The land’s owner, Sukhi Rai, who is also president of the PHI Hotel Group and CEO of the RBI Group of Companies, said the property was being rented for $1,300 monthly, for “30, 40” acres. “That’s nothing, right.”
The Rais bought the land about 30 years ago and are one of the biggest blueberry growers in the area, owning adjacent properties as well.
“The land prices have gone so high. We’re blueberry growers, we’re not in the airport business, right. It’s agriculture land – we need to produce something on agriculture land.”
Still, the federal licence for the airport, he said, “is still going to stay intact.
“Down the road,” he said, he might “restart this thing,” but added that “right now it’s the biggest eyesore on any farm property.”
Meantime, Rai said he will work with the pilots.
Rai said he “could talk” with other farmers, with vacant land, on the pilots’ behalf to try to help them find a new home for their aircraft.
“Some of these guys have been there for 35 years, before I even owned this property. I’m not going to tell somebody ‘get out of here,’ right. They need to find a place too.”
“I’ll work with them however it is, whatever time they need,” Rai said. “But eventually it’s zoned that I have to make the agricultural land work for me, growing some kind of produce or vegetable in there.”