Northern and Remote Airports
The North needs air services to support economic development and to connect its communities with one another and the world. It also needs modern aviation infrastructure to support these services.
But aviation infrastructure development has stalled. Much of Canada's northern airport infrastructure dates to the 1950s and 1960s. There are only 10 paved runaways across the territories, while there are 61 in Alaska. Now, developments in technology and government regulation threaten to push this aging aviation infrastructure into obsolescence.
The predominant airstrip in the territories is compacted gravel. The only jet aircraft in service that can use these airstrips, Boeing's 737-200, are between 25 and 45 years old and no longer manufactured. Airports not equipped to receive the 737-200 are limited to smaller and slower propeller and turbo-prop aircraft. These carry less cargo, contributing to the high cost of living in remote communities.
This infrastructure deficit may soon be aggravated by Transport Canada's proposed Runway End Safety Area (RESA) regulations. These regulations will require Canadian airports to add an extra "clearway" of up to 500 ft. to the end of their runways.
For most small airports, lengthening runways can be prohibitively expensive if not physically impossible. Northern and remote airports unable to add a clearway will be forced to shorten their runways. This will further limit the aircraft they can receive and the maximum aircraft payload, increasing cargo and passenger fees as a result.
The Government of Canada should:
Implement a new Northern and Remote Airports Infrastructure Investment Program to deal with the airport infrastructure deficit in the territories and remote airports in the provincial north. Similar to the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP), this program would include airport infrastructure improvements (e.g. paving) not only maintenance.
- Globe and Mail article, "Pilots say aging Arctic airports are reducing service to notherners," (June 2, 2013)
- Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications report, One Size Doesn't Fit All: The Future Growth and Competitiveness of Canadian Air Travel, (April 2013)