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Bad weather forcing delays at Comox airport

Oct 21 2012

Travellers planning their holidays through Comox Valley Airport should be prepared for delays due to bad weather this fall and winter, warns airport manager Fred Bigelow.

While the roughly 3,000-metre runway in Comox equals that of Vancouver International Airport, ongoing construction has shortened its working length to about 2,100 metres, equal to the longest runway at Victoria International Airport.

There are also nesting eagles and herons in trees at one end of the runway, forcing aircraft to approach the runway at a steeper pitch than normal, Bigelow said.

“It caused us some problems last year, and until this all is resolved, there will be challenges when we have periods of low ceiling and low visibility,” he said.

The restrictions give pilots less wiggle room on landings and mean that at times — such as during last weekend’s rainfall — aircraft can’t land at Comox and travellers are left stranded.

One WestJet aircraft destined for Comox last weekend had to return to Calgary. Several other flights were cancelled or rerouted.

Commercial flights have been servicing Comox since 1988. Last year, close to 310,000 travellers used Comox Valley Airport as a point of departure or arrival.

The airport “is hugely popular” with Island residents from Nanaimo north, Bigelow said.

“Certainly we can attribute a lot of that to the WestJet connections to Calgary and Alberta,” he said.

Some Albertans have chosen the Comox Valley as a retirement location so they can easily travel back home to visit friends and family, Bigelow said.

The airport’s runway is also long enough to handle flights to Europe, should market demand make such flights profitable.

“At one point, we were looking at scheduled heavy freighter service to Asia — the demand for that’s not there, but it’s nice to know you’ve got a runway that can do anything.”

The runway work is expected to be completed by March 2013.


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