It took seven years of hard work but in the end, it paid off with the Canadian government awarding a 25-year contract valued at $11.2 billion to SkyAlyne Canada Limited Partnership for the Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) program.

What does this mean to the community we call Southport just south of Portage la Prairie? While there will be some changes, it will mean the future is bright for the next several decades. Peter Fedak is the Vice President of Defence Programs with KF Aerospace, the group that is in charge of the current contracted flying training and support program being run at the base. That contract comes to an end in 2027.

In 2018, KF joined together with another group to form SkyAlyne, with the purpose of getting the next contract when it was awarded. While numerous groups were in on the bidding, it was made official at the end of May that SkyAlyne would be in charge of the government's investment which is part of the largest recapitalization of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) since the Second World War. Through the contract, Canada will acquire over 70 training aircraft in total, split into five fleets which include the Grob G120TP, Pilatus PC-21, Beechcraft King Air 260; Airbus Helicopters H135 and De Havilland Dash 8-400 equipped with a mission training system in the cabin.

The contract will also include classroom instruction, simulator and flight training, as well as numerous on-site support activities for prospective RCAF pilots, Air Combat Systems Officers, and Airborne Electronic Sensor Operators. Training under this new contract will continue to take place at key RCAF Wings at Southport. MB, Moose Jaw, SK, and Winnipeg, MB. It's expected to begin in spring 2029.

Fedak spells out what some of this means.

"Currently in Southport, we do the primary and basic flight training on the Grob aircraft. We also do advanced flying training for the rotary wing program on the two versions of the Bell helicopters. There is also advanced flying training for the multi engine on the King Air C90B aircraft. For those programs moving forward, all of the basic flying training is going to move to Moose Jaw. We're going to continue on in Southport with a much expanded version of the multi engine and the rotary wing training. So even though we're not going to have some of the basic flying training here, the growth of the advanced flying training programs will increase the student body that's already here."

New aircraft will be needed for the training and Fedak comments about what some of it will be.

"We're going to get 19 brand new Airbus H135 helicopters. It's a twin engine advanced helicopter, and also the King Air 260 multi engine aircraft, which also has very advanced avionics, and those two aircraft fleets will provide the training here for the Royal Canadian Air Force in Southport."

With more activity planned in the future, many infrastructure projects are already in the works and Fedak comments it will be very busy starting this year already.

"We're going to spend about a year with Canada going through design and working on that with Southport, completing the infrastructure builds and it varies. But we know there's going to be new accommodations buildings and a new dining facility, if nothing else, as we build through with other infrastructure plans."

Other improvements will be needed as well and Fedak says radar improvements will be huge for other potential opportunities.

"All of the airfield activities, airfield support, and the air traffic control services. Right now there are no radar services at Southport, it's all out of Winnipeg, which doesn't pick up radar coverage until you're about 3,000 feet. The plan will include an instrument flight rules control center which will have radar services right down to the ground at Southport that will greatly expand the ability to do instrument flight rule training at Southport."

Fedak says it has been a very complex and long drawn-out process that will continue over the next five years. As complicated as it is, he is happy that it is great news for the RCAF, KF Aerospace, Southport Aerospace, and the City of Portage la Prairie.