In 1942 the Department of National Defence purchased the 522 acre site that the Nanaimo Airport is situated on for $20,000 from Thomas Cassidy. They then commenced to construct an airstrip making it war-ready. The airport was first known as a Royal Canadian Air Force glider pilot training facility and a war-time emergency airfield.
Following the war, the City of Nanaimo leased the airfield for $1 per annum from the federal government and assumed responsibility for the operations of the facility.
By 1967, 150 aircraft used the airstrip during a six-month period and soon people were beginning to see the airports’ growth potential. In 1969 the federal government offered the City of Nanaimo an opportunity to purchase the Nanaimo Airport for $16,000 but City council felt that the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) was better-suited to take over ownership and operations, however they expressed no interest.
Badly in need of repair, half of the runway was closed for the year. Contrary to the belief of many, that the damage was caused by buried explosives during the war, it was later determined that wood drainage pipes under the runway had collapsed.
In 1975 the City appointed aldermen Ray Brookbank and Ted Kelly to be responsible for the Airport. The two worked towards obtaining a $445,000 federal government grant to resurface the runway and a further grant of $287,000 from the provincial government for runway lighting. Mr. Brookbank later went on to become the Board Chairman of the Nanaimo Airport Commission.
In 1983 the city’s Property Manager, Dennis Geddes was asked to oversee operations along with the assistance of Stan Budd.
In 1985 a modern flight service station was added to the infrastructure courtesy of the Ministry of Transport. Soon after, in 1990, a new air terminal building with associated road and parking lot works were constructed to support the steadily increasing scheduled passenger service.
When the city was again offered to purchase the airport and declined, the independent Nanaimo Airport Commission, comprised mainly of general aviation enthusiasts of the Nanaimo Flying Club, was formed and Ottawa transferred the lease to them.
The Nanaimo Airport Commission was incorporated in August of 1990 as a not-for profit authority under the Canada Corporations Act – Part II. In April of 1992 the Commission assumed management and operation of the Nanaimo Airport under a 30 year lease from the Federal Ministry of Transport.
In 1994 the Commission purchased the facility for $1 and was granted fee simple title to the Nanaimo Airport lands through the National Airports Policy transfer initiative in December of 1996. Earlier that year Curtis Grad was appointed the Airport Manager.
In October of 1999 the air terminal building was named in honor of World War I Flying Ace Raymond Collishaw who was born in Nanaimo. During this year Mark Lawson was also appointed airport Manager.
David Hunter replaced Lawson as the General Manager in 2001. In 2004, the Air Terminal Building was expanded to accommodate a new passenger baggage-screening room and a hold-room.
Mike Hooper joined the Board of Directors in 2005 and one year later stepped down from the Board and accepted the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of the Nanaimo Airport.