No end in sight to Penticton Regional Airport runway restrictions | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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No end in sight to Penticton Regional Airport runway restrictions

It's not new, but it's a problem now. This exhaust stack at Greenwood Forest Products in Penticton was recently identified as a navigation issue needing immediate attention by Transport Canada in an audit of Penticton Regional Airport.
October 17, 2019 - 3:30 PM

Transport Canada isn’t saying when commercial flight operations will return to normal following operations restrictions at Penticton Regional Airport.

The return to Calgary of WestJet flight 3297 on the evening of Oct. 13 was one of several cancelled flights into the airport since the notice was issued in late September, raising the ire of travellers who vented their frustration on social media earlier this week.

A recent audit of the airport facility by Transport Canada resulted in issuing of a NOTAM (notice to airmen) regarding the exhaust stack at Greenwood Forest Products, located near the north end of the runway.

Transport Canada media spokesperson Alexandre Desjardins said in an email today, Oct. 16, the agency was “working on a long term solution” to the stack, but the issue was raised during the audit, resulting in immediate action by Transport Canada to address the problem.

The solution was to effectively shorten the 6,000 foot length of the runway by displacing the threshold by nearly 500 feet, impacting navigational aids that affect night time and poor weather flights.

“Transport Canada is working to finding a solution that maintains airport accessibility and to best serve operators and passengers that use the airport. Despite the NOTAM, the airport remains accessible when visibility isn’t reduced and some operators have adjusted their schedules accordingly,” Desjardins said in the email.

Desjardins said while Transport Canada is assessing several long term options, it was also working with Nav Canada to redesign the GPS instrument approach to reflect the runway space available.

WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said in an email yesterday, Oct. 15, the cancelled Oct. 13 flight turned back due to weather, but all passengers were subsequently re-accommodated on an “extra section” flight.

One social media posting included a photograph of the moon lighting up the night sky around Penticton Regional Airport Sunday night.

Weather on Sunday night was clear to the south of the city, with little or no wind.

Bell called the situation “challenging” but outside of WestJet’s control.

He said Penticton Regional Airport was required to remove the only instrument approach that allows WestJet to land straight in.

"A straight in approach allows the pilots to transition from using the flight instruments to visually identifying the runway and then landing straight ahead. Although there are other instrument approaches in Penticton, those approaches require us to maneuver or circle in the valley which are unable to do in poor weather or at night for safety reasons,” Bell said.

He says since the NOTAM was introduced, WestJet has completed 95 per cent of its planned departures.

Air Canada Express media spokesperson Debra Williams says Air Canada’s Jazz schedule to and from Penticton has not yet been affected by the current situation.

WestJet’s Calgary to Penticton evening flight on Friday, Sept. 27 was also forced to return to Calgary after aborting due to weather.

The airline’s winter schedule came into effect on Oct. 14 for the Penticton to Calgary route and an evening flight to Calgary was dropped until April 25.

WestJet’s last flight of the day into Penticton now arrives at 5:23 p.m.

In 2017, Penticton Regional Airport’s commercial flight schedules were disrupted when a sight-line hazard created by tall trees bordering the airstrip was identified, resulting in a loss of night time commercial service between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3, 2017.

The trees were eventually trimmed, allowing normal service to resume.

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