Nfld. & Labrador

One runway reopens for full service at Goose Bay airport

There is still no timeline for when the other runway will reopen.

A 4-hour window for planes to land and takeoff saw some stranded passengers get out, while others did not

Passengers gather at the airport in Goose Bay, awaiting the first flights in or out in nearly three days. (Caroline Hillier/CBC)

One runway has reopened for full-time operations Friday evening at Goose Bay airport.

The latest development came after a busy day of activity since part of the runway reopened for a four-hour window, allowing flights in and out for the first time since Tuesday evening.

In a statement, the Canadian Armed Forces said that one of the airport's runways returned to normal operating hours at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. 

The runway has been deemed safe by experts after extensive testing, and cleanup will now concentrate on the second runway, however there is no timeline for its reopening.

"Now that we better understand what is needed to correct this situation, work will continue to progress safely, deliberately and as quickly as possible," said Lt.-Col. Andrew Wedgwood, wing commander at 5 Wing Goose Bay.

"Every effort is being made to return 5 Wing Goose Bay's runways to full operations. I am pleased that a safe, well thought out plan is being executed to allow passengers to resume movement through the Goose Bay Airport."

Snowclearing crews first found sealant used to fix cracks on the runway was sticking to their tires Tuesday. The airport decided it posed too much of a safety risk to allow planes to land and take off. 

One runway had reopened between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday. 

Those travellers able to get flights were bussed to the part of the runway that's being used. Not everyone was able to leave, however. 

Rex Hillier was one of the many passengers waiting in Goose Bay, as he was trying to get to the north coast of Labrador.

Hillier was on the last flight into the airport Tuesday evening, and came back on Friday when he heard there was a possibility of a flight out, but wasn't lucky enough to get one.

We're not sure what's going on, what's going to happen over the next few days.- Rex Hillier

"We've been told no, won't get out today. Possibly we might get there tomorrow, but no guarantees," he said.

"Now we have work waiting for us in Hopedale, and now we can't get there. We're not sure what's going on, what's going to happen over the next few days, if we're going to be getting back there or not." 

It's frustrating for Hillier, as he said there's been little communication from the airport, but he plans to try make changes some to get work done.

Not all bad news

We never dreamed that the airstrip would be closed and jeopardize this travel.- Roxanne O'Quinn

However, the brief window to travel worked out for some people.

 Elena Pike was at the airport with her mother Roxanne O'Quinn and boarded a flight to St. John's.

Pike was on her way to the Bucharest Dance Festival in Romania, and has been training for the event for the past few months. 

O'Quinn was relieved her daughter would get to travel, and couldn't have imagined the trip would be threatened by a runway closure.

"Fortunately, she's able to have this experience and be part of this amazing festival in eastern Europe, and we never dreamed that the airstrip would be closed and jeopardize this travel."

Backlog remains

Provincial Airlines had moved four regularly scheduled flights through the airport Friday, plus one extra flight to alleviate some of the backlog.

PAL spokesperson Stephen Dinn said earlier on Friday the situation had been frustrating and complex for all involved, and while things have improved, there's still a bit of a logjam. 

"It cleared up a nice bit, but again, it's four flights. We obviously are not back to full operation yet. There still remains a backlog," Dinn said. 

"We've done everything we can today, obviously, with the limited time to operate to help clear the backlog, but there's still others we need to get cleaned up."

Another airline, Air Borealis, had six flights go through Goose Bay Friday, including four with scheduled service to the north coast, and two medical transport flights for Labrador-Grenfell Health.

With files from Katie Breen and Caroline Hillier