North

Flare pots used to light Pangnirtung, Nunavut runway after electrical outage

The airport in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, found an old-time solution to a uniquely northern situation last weekend when its lighting system went down. Crews used flare pots to light the runway so planes could land.

Rain 3 weeks ago played havoc on electrical system

The airport in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, found an old-time solution to a uniquely northern situation last weekend when its lighting system went down. Crews used flare pots to light the runway so planes could land. (submitted by Seetee Kilabuk)

The airport in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, had to revert to an old-time solution to a uniquely northern situation last weekend when its lighting system went down.

Flying into Pangnirtung can be a challenge at the best of times. The community of 1,500 people lies on a strip of land at the edge of a fiord; its runway cuts through the middle of town. On top of that, the community currently gets about three hours of daylight, with the sun setting before 1 p.m.

So when an electrical problem plunged the runway's lighting system into darkness last weekend, it created a big problem for planes trying to land in the community.

These flare pots lit the way when Pangnirtung's runway went dark last weekend. (submitted by Todd McKay)

Keewatin Air Captain Joel Pensivy piloted his King Air 200 into Pangnirtung on Saturday for a medevac.

"For us to be able to conduct that medevac that night they had revert to an emergency procedure — they put a flare pot candle burner at each runway light."

Flare pots are a throwback to the pioneering days of bush pilots, when they were often used to light remote landing strips. But they aren't so common these days.

"It means the guy's gotta be aware of the flight being inbound, and getting out there to light the pots," said Todd McKay, Nunavut's director of airports. "And then again to stick around until he can to extinguish them at the end of the trip."
'There's a little bit more work involved, but it did maintain flights,' says Todd McKay, Nunavut's director of airports. (submitted)

McKay said the pots came in handy, but they require a lot of time and attention.

"There's a little bit more work involved, but it did maintain flights and that's what kept the community going for the weekend."

McKay suspects ground water from rain several weeks ago affected the wiring of the lighting system. Electricians were flown in and dug into the frozen gravel runway to fix the system.

By Tuesday the runway's lights were fully operational again. 

A view of the airport runway in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, lit by flare pots. (submitted by Seetee Kilabuk)

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