Aviation In Canada

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Halifax International Airport Construction

They made the news again. Surprise! This airport, with it's poor planning, has endured a very small bit of attention for their part in their issues since this all began, but things are finally starting to change.

They're reconstructing the entire manoeuvring surface at the airport in phases as time goes on. Reportedly, they consulted some 30 years of historical weather data and decided that July would be the best time of year, with prevailing VFR conditions, to do the critical part of the airport, the intersection of the two runways. During this phase, the localizer for 06 would be shut down, as well as the glidepath for 24. The construction activities have also required the closing of ruway 15/33, and the shutdown of their ILS, too. Remaining for instrument approach aids are the localizer 24 (to a displaced threshold) and the NDBs for 06 and 24.

Funny. All the "old timers" I work with agreed that this was probably the worst time of the year, historically, to run with this phase. October points to the best. July? There are always extended periods of fog in July there, hence the requirement for the CAT II ILS. Lately? There have been many days of 200-300 OVC, meaning that airplanes are trying the approach, missing, and heading elsewhere, leaving passengers in a lurch. At times, as many as 1,500 passengers crowd the airport, waiting for their flights that will never arrive. The ramp remains empty, while the the other airports in the region scramble to take the passengers in and process the luggage. The Canada Day holiday weekend was the worst, with local hotels everywhere booked solid.

The best part of this was the media release from the airport authority. They said today, publically, "only the most experienced pilots can land without NAVAIDs." If I were a regional airline or a newer airline, commonly misperceived by the public as having inexperienced pilots, I'd be pissed. This comment is incorrect at best, but inflamatory on any account. The good news is that the airlines have finally tired of taking the heat for the HIAA's piss poor decision making -- remove the most critical NAVAID during the peak of summer passenger traffic and throwing travel plans of thousands into the trash. I'm glad I'll fly out of Moncton where the airport is available, as they boast, 97% of the time. Even without the ILS's functioning, it's more accessible than Halifax. But then, so are the other airports (Saint John excluded) in our region, too. Halifax may have dealt themselves a long term publica relations nightmare with this operation.