December 16, 2005

Airstrip fixes coming to four communities

Five-year plan outlines airport investment strategy

JOHN THOMPSON

Several airports in Nunavut are slated for fix-ups over the next four years. (FILE PHOTO)

The Government of Nunavut has unveiled its four-year strategy to upgrade the territory’s aging airstrips.

A report titled “Airports for Nunavummiut and their economy,” tabled in the legislative assembly this session, outlines plans to spend $97.6 million over the next four years.

Given the GN’s current budget crunch, the report urges the federal government to assist with “significant investment.”

The bulk of that money would be spent on four communities.

Iqaluit: $40 million to implement the Iqaluit airport master plan. This includes repairing paved stretches currently not in use, building a new fire hall and maintenance building, and eventually, a new terminal building.

“The airport has operated below acceptable standards for many years and levels of service continue to deteriorate as passenger and air traffic continue to rise,” the report said.

Half of all Nunavummiut depend on Iqaluit’s airport for food and cargo, and 80,000 passengers use the airport annually.

This summer the federal government committed $10.7 million to assist with completing the Iqaluit airport’s master plan.

Cambridge Bay: $18 million to pave the runway, which is scarred with ruts and raveling, caused by soft soil giving way beneath the pressure of landing aircraft.

For that reason, 737s can’t land on the airstrip while carrying full payloads. And the next generation of jet aircraft will require a paved runway, airline companies warn. The airport receives 12,000 passengers annually.

Pangnirtung: $34.6 million for a new airport, set on a plateau eight kilometres from the community.

The current 900-metre runway is located right in the middle of the community, and is too short for ATR42 aircraft to land. Airport observers are sometimes unable to spot extreme turbulence for incoming flights. And airline companies have told the government that new aircraft won’t be introduced in the Baffin Region until the Pangnirtung airstrip is lengthened.

Rankin Inlet: $3 million for an improved instrument landing system and expanded airstrip apron.

Flight cancellations and missed approaches cost airlines over $1 million a year. And pilots have difficulty safely parking and manoeuvring aircraft on the existing parking apron because of its small size. Rankin serves as the main Medevac centre and aircraft refueling point for central Nunavut.

In addition, $2 million is proposed for planning and engineering studies in communities like Repulse Bay, Kimmirut and Arctic Bay. These studies would look at the cost of projects like airport relocation and runway lengthening.

The Department of Economic Development and Transportation plans to spend $26.5 million in 2006-07 on capital projects, according to the GN’s capital estimates. That’s up from $19.1 million this year. The bulk of that spending aims at addressing the growing pressures on the transportation system.

That includes $4 million to construct a new airport in Arctic Bay. That project is expected to cost $16.4 million over three years.

It also includes spending $400,000 to repair Grise Fiord’s airstrip, in a project that will cost $925,000 over three years; $125,000 to fix Kimmirut’s airstrip, which will cost $1.07 million over three years; and $450,000 to repair Taloyoak’s strip, which will cost $2 million over three years.

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