Iqaluit Airport upgrades could mean cargo delays

Iqaluit's airport runway is set to be resurfaced for the first time in decades, but the extensive repairs mean that large cargo jets will be unable to land for nearly a month this summer.

Airport's runway to be split during resurfacing, meaning larger planes will be unable to land

The splitting of Iqaluit's runway due to extensive repair work means that large cargo planes, like the Cargojet 767 that flies into the capital most days, won't be able to land.

Iqaluit's airport runway will see a major overhaul this July, and airport officials are warning that it could cause significant cargo delays.

The airport's single runway will be resurfaced for the first time in about 20 years. To do that, crews will split the runway lengthwise, narrowing it by half. 

"That's major work," says John Hawkins, airport manager. "To undertake that kind of work on an active runway that we're trying to keep using is quite difficult.

"There are a lot of logistics to it, there's a lot of timing and obviously some compromising. Two runways is pretty easy, but we've only got one here and it has to operate."

That's not a problem for smaller planes heading into Nunavut's capital, but the reduced width means some cargo jets won't be able to land. 

"The only real restriction will be on the cargo flights coming in," says John Hawkins, the airport's director. "So the Cargojet 767 that provides most of the service here for cargo will be restricted for 30 days."

Iqaluit's airport sees a 767 arrive most days, filled with cargo. More is flown in on smaller aircraft, which will still be able to land during the resurfacing. 

Hawkins described the work as "deep depth" repairs. In addition to the resurfacing, crews will dig about a metre down into the concrete to repair large cracks in the runway, rather than simply patch them from the surface.

In October of 2014, the Nunavut Government announced that $77.2 million had been allocated to improvements to the Iqaluit Airport for the 2015/2016 fiscal year. Those upgrades include which will go towards a new terminal building, expanded aprons for planes to park, and new lighting systems, as well as the upgraded runway.

A First Air spokesperson told CBC that it's in the early stages of discussions to find an alternative method to delivering cargo to Iqaluit so service isn't disrupted.

Hawkins didn't comment on whether larger passenger jets will be affected during the resurfacing. 


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