A STRUGGLING airport could receive a major investment boost after it emerged that a Canadian company is looking to take a stake in the business.

The Northern Echo understands that talks are ongoing between Vancouver Airport Services and Peel Holdings, which operates Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA), near Darlington.

Peel Holdings would not confirm or deny that negotiations had taken place when asked last night, but a spokesman reiterated the firm’s desire to sell part of its airport business, Peel Airports.

Industry expert David Bentley said DTVA would benefit from the potential investment by Vancouver Airport Services, a firm he said was “wellrespected in the industry”.

Vancouver Airport Services operates 18 small to mediumsized airports around the world, serving a combined 30 million passengers annually.

Several failing airports had been turned around by the Canadian company, said Mr Bentley, joint managing director of consultancy Big Pond Aviation.

“They have the funding, they have the expertise, I think it would be a good thing for the North-East if they are involved in a deal,” he added.

As well as DTVA, Peel Airports operates Robin Hood Doncaster-Sheffield, and Liverpool John Lennon airports.

There is understood to be no danger that the airports would be sold individually.

As reported yesterday, a survey by an industry magazine rated DTVA bottom of 300 European airports after figures revealed that passenger numbers had halved within a year. Airlines bmi, Flyglobespan, Thomson and Ryanair all axed routes from the airport last year.

But Mr Bentley said: “DTVA had a very bad year in 2009, but I don’t think it has reached the end of the line.”

Meanwhile, DTVA bosses are on a collision course with the Government over controversial body scanners that produce a naked image of passengers.

Peel Airports is refusing to commit to installing the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), which Gordon Brown has insisted is vital to defeat terrorists.

The Prime Minister backed the scanners, which allow security staff to detect explosives hidden on a passenger’s body, after the Christmas Day attempted bombing on a flight to Detroit, in the US.

Yesterday, the department for Transport (DfT) ordered all airports to install them before the summer holiday season, stating they must be in place “in the coming months”.

The scanners cost between £80,000 and £100,000 each, and a major airport would need to have several. So far, the Dft has only “encouraged” airports to adopt the scanners, although it has the power to order them into line, if necessary.

But a spokesman for Peel Airports Group said there was only the “potential” for the scanners to be introduced.

He added: “We are awaiting clarification from the DfT over the use of body scanners and so are unable to comment as to whether Durham Tees Valley Airport will see such machines being installed.”

Newcastle Airport also said it was awaiting further information from the DfT, but added: “We will work with them on whatever measures are deemed necessary.”