Iqaluit's $300M airport makeover prepares for decades to come

When passengers arrive in Iqaluit's new airport terminal they'll start in the rotunda, a large room with towering ceilings, an elevated platform, a gift shop and a restaurant.

New airport terminal is 8 times larger than the current one

After arriving passengers will walk into the area known as the rotunda. Media were given a tour inside Iqaluit`s new airport terminal Tuesday. (John Van Dusen/CBC News)

When passengers arrive in Iqaluit's new airport terminal they'll walk into the room known as the rotunda, a large room with towering ceilings, an elevated platform, a gift shop and a restaurant.

It's a stark difference from the crammed confines of Iqaluit's current, 1980s-era yellow-painted airport.

Iqaluit's current airport terminal was completed in the late 1980s. (John Van Dusen/CBC News)
At the far end of the new terminal, where 16 check-in counters are under construction, the person in charge of overseeing the project for the Government of Nunavut explains why the building's footprint — eight-times the size of the current terminal — is justified.

"This building is expected to serve the territory for the next 50 years," says Barry Reimer, chief project officer for the $300-million Iqaluit International Improvement Project. The money is split between the new terminal building and an overhaul of air-side operations.

A large portion of the new building is taken up by a behind-the-scenes baggage handling area, moving work currently done out in the elements indoors. There are two baggage carousels, two security lanes and five gates, including one set up to handle international flights.

Up to 160 employees are working on the terminal and air-side improvements, where work is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Iqaluit's future airport terminal is eight times larger than the current one. (John Van Dusen/CBC News)

On time, on budget

The upgrades are on time and on budget says Reimer, despite a fire to the roof of the new terminal building last September. Repair work to the roof is underway and should be completed by the end of August. There's no final estimate on the cost of the damage, but Reimer says it's covered by insurance.

"The most exciting part of it all is to get the airport fixed," said John Hawkins, manager of Iqaluit's airport.

Barry Reimer, chief project officer for the Iqaluit International Improvement Project and John Hawkins, manager of Iqaluit's airport, gave media a tour of the new terminal Tuesday. (John Van Dusen/CBC News)
All surfaces are being repaved. Cracks are being fixed and runways insulated. New lights and wiring will replace the current, outdated technology "that you would only find in the Smithsonian," says Reimer.

A new fuelling station will cut down on the amount of time it takes to gas-up planes. There'll be new taxiways, including one leading out to a new commercial development area west of the new terminal for potential construction of new hangars for helicopters and fixed winged aircraft. 

A new building will allow easy access to repair the airport's vehicles from sweepers to snowploughs and cut down the time it takes to fill up fire trucks in case of an emergency, from currently over half an hour to a matter of minutes 

"A lot of the attention is on the air terminal building but that`s not necessarily the heart of the project," Reimer said.


John Van Dusen is a journalist with CBC North based in Yellowknife. Find him on Twitter @jvdCBC.


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