One runway at the Goose Bay airport will open for four hours on Friday, Nov. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"The team at 5 Wing Goose Bay and at 1 Canadian Air Division are working tirelessly towards finding the safest and quickest solution to returning the runways to full operational status," Lt-Col. Andrew Wedgwood, wing commander at 5 Wing Goose Bay, said in a press release issued Thursday evening.

The short reopening is a "starting point ... a timeline for a return to full operations is not yet available," according to the release.

Maj. Sonya Scanlon-Simms

Maj. Sonya Scanlon-Simms says crews have been able to remove a large amount of the problematic sealant. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"Moving forward, plans are being developed and phased in with the goal of safely returning the runways to full operations," the statement read.

'Very slow-moving process'

It all started Tuesday after snowclearing crews found sealant used to fix cracks on the runway was sticking to their tires, which the airport decided posed too big a safety risk to allow planes to land or take off.

Maj. Sonya Scanlon-Simms, 5 Wing Goose Bay's wing logistics and engineering officer, said workers have taken up a "considerable amount" of the problem-causing sealant by Thursday afternoon, but said it's hard to put a timeframe on when the work will be completed.

"It is, I will say, a very slow-moving process," she said.

Goose Bay airport

The runways at Goose Bay Airport were closed Tuesday evening after crews noticed sealant used to fill cracks on the runway was coming loose and sticking to their tires. (goosebayairport.com)

Crews were using high pressure water to blast out the sealant Tuesday afternoon while the grinding work was being done at the same time.

"It is actually a quicker process, and if we do them both simultaneously that should speed it up quite a bit," Scanlon-Simms said.

"If we do one runway first it'll lead to operations resuming much quicker."

Impact on air travel

Airlines with scheduled flights in and out of Goose Bay are finding alternate arrangements for affected passengers.

PAL Airlines says it is redirecting all of its Goose Bay flights to Churchill Falls Airport for Thursday, and will use buses to transport passengers from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Churchill Falls, which is approximately 290 kilometres away.

The airline created a temporary flight schedule Thursday evening to accommodate Friday's reopening.

Voisey's Bay mine workers are also travelling via the Churchill Falls airport while the runway woes continue, but a company spokesperson said it's unclear the number of employees that are flying in and out. 

Air Borealis, which is operated by PAL and serves Labrador's northern coastal communities, is currently not in operation at all, as all of its aircraft are on the ground at Goose Bay airport and unable to leave.

Air Canada says it has revised its ticketing policy for those passengers affected by the closure of the Goose Bay runways, and is allowing them to rebook tickets all day Thursday with no financial penalty.

It says customers can use the online rebooking tool to schedule a new flight, depending on availability.

Sealant issue

Experts from Winnipeg arrived in Goose Bay Wednesday night to start assessing the condition of the runways and see what can be done to resolve the issue with the sealant.

Meanwhile, ground crews were busy inspecting the tarmac on Wednesday and removing any of the sticky sealant they could find. 

While commercial fixed-wing flights were cancelled, helicopters are still allowed to land and take off from the airport, and emergency flights are being allowed on a case-by-case basis.

One emergency flight did manage to take off from Goose Bay Wednesday evening. According to Joint Task Force Atlantic, when a Hercules safely transported a medical patient from the airport to St. John's, through coordination with Eastern Health.

Officials said no sealant was reported as sticking to the landing gear of the Hercules.

With files from Labrador Morning