YLW 75th anniversary

Celebrating 75 Trips Around the Sun

In the fall of 1947, the first plane took off from Ellison Field, which could not have happened without the support of the local community. Fast forward to 2022 and the Kelowna International Airport stands on Ellison Field and the grass runway has transformed to an 8,900 foot asphalt runway. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of the Okanagan community to the success of YLW. This milestone is not only YLW’s to celebrate, but one for the entire community!  Throughout 2022, we celebrated our anniversary together and below are some of the activities that took place.

Listen to KelownaTalks podcast What's Soaring at YLW • Kelowna Talks (spotify.com) to learn more about the past, present and future of the Kelowna International Airport. 

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - July 9 & 10, 2022

To celebrate with the Okanagan community, and thank you for your support over the last 75 years, we invited the Canadian Forces Snowbirds to Kelowna. On July 9 & 10  the Snowbirds performed an air demonstration over Okanagan Lake.  

Thank you to  KF Aerospace, Pattison Media and August Motor Cars for helping to bring the Snowbirds to Kelowna in celebration of YLW’s 75th Anniversary.


Wings n' Wheels - July 9, 2022

Following the CF Snowbirds Demonstration on July 9, YLW hosted a Wings n’ Wheels event at the new KF Centre for Excellence. Thousands had the opportunity to meet the Snowbirds and see vintage planes up close – other activities included a vintage + luxury car show, face painting, live music and food trucks.

Thank you to everyone who joined in the #YLW75 celebrations and all of our partners for making this event possible. 


YLW Timeline
1946: Purchase of Dickson Ranch

Kelowna International Airport’s story began when local residents voted in favour of purchasing the 320-acre Dickson Ranch in Ellison in 1946. Without the support of the local community, YLW could have never grown into what it is today. 

1947: Opening of Ellison Field

Kelowna International Airport took off in 1947 with the first flight happening in the late fall with a Piper Cub. The Terminal Building officially opened in 1949 with a small terminal building, a 3,000-foot-long grass airstrip and a variety of small aircraft.

1950: Demand for Increased Service

During the 1950s, demand for increased service prompted the federal Department of Transport to help gravel the airstrip and pave the parking lot and aircraft parking apron.

1958: Partners in Growth

The first major expansion of the airport was the result of a partnership between former Mayor R.F. Parkinson and Grant McConachie of Canadian Pacific Airways. Grant (a futurist) believed Kelowna would become a key city in the region one day. Canadian Pacific Airlines became the first airline to service Kelowna with return flights to Vancouver. Because of this partnership, Mayor Parkinson was able to obtain funding from Ottawa for the first expansion of the YLW runway.


1960: Spearheading Change

Mayor Parkinson, an avid supporter of aviation and its economic benefits to the Okanagan, spearheaded the upgrade to the runway extending it to 5,350 feet. The increased traffic this brought prompted local leaders to raise funding for construction of a new air terminal building at the south end of the runway.

1971: A Brand-New Tower

With so much increased traffic, there was a need to build a new air traffic control tower, along with an on-site weather office. This tower is still in use today as an Emergency Coordination Center. The original tower was built on the flat deck of a truck.

1980: We Need More Hangars

More people. More planes. More hangars to service them in. In the 1980’s we saw such incredible growth that Kelowna Flightcraft (KF Aerospace), YLW's oldest tenant, had to add four new hangers to keep up with it. 


1990: Building More Runway

The Okanagan kept on growing, and so YLW needed to keep up with the times. To facilitate the growth happening in local industries and communities, the airport needed to expand as well. In 1990, the runway extended to 7,300 feet with great support from MP Al Horning and former Mayor James Stuart.

1996: WestJet Service Begins

In 1996 WestJet commenced service with YLW as one of five inaugural launch cities. The discount airfares resulted in traffic levels growing so quickly that major investments in the Terminal Building had to made. By the year 2000, the building had doubled in size to accommodate the growth.

2002: Air Canada begins non-stop Toronto Service

With such a high demand from travellers flying between Toronto and Kelowna, Air Canada began its non-stop service to Toronto in 2002. This not only created a connection between our two cities but allowed visitors to come from around the world to enjoy the Okanagan.

2008: Your Link To the World

After 61 trips around the sun, it was time to start making trips around the globe. In 2008 YLW’s runway was extended to 8,900 feet, which made flights beyond North America possible. This expansion took YLW from continental to intercontinental.

2018: 2 Million Passengers

With more routes came even more travellers, and by 2018 YLW was breaking records and eclipsed the 2.06 million passenger mark.

2022: YLW Today

75 trips around the sun and YLW keeps on growing as demand from travellers and local businesses continues to increase.  As we continue to grow YLW is constantly finding new and innovative ways to improve the customer experience.  We look forward to serving the Okanagan for the next 75 years and beyond! 

Throughout the year celebrations will include contests and giveaways. To stay up-to-date on ways we will be celebrating 75 Trips Around the Sun subscribe for email updates