Fog-bound no more

Moira Baird
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St. John’s airport getting $25.8 million worth of navigation equipment

Defence Minister Peter MacKay (left), regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, announces infrastructure funding at the St. John’s International Airport Wednesday morning as Senator Fabian Manning and Susan Sullivan, the province’s minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, look on. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

As wind, snow and federal election predictions swirled around St. John’s airport Wednesday, federal and provincial politicians announced $25.8 million for a new instrument landing system that will make it easier to land planes in fog.

Airport officials say fog delays 700 planes and 70,000 passengers annually.

Known as a Category 3 instrument landing system, the navigation aid is designed for extreme fog conditions.

“It’s going to improve traffic dramatically,” said Fraser Edison, chairman of the St. John’s International Airport Authority.

“We’ve got 70,000 passengers that get displaced because of fog in the City of St. John’s every year, and this will eliminate that issue.”

Work on the new landing system will begin this year and the bulk of construction will take place in 2012.

Edison expects completion by early 2013.

Four projects funded

The airport landing system was one of four projects in the province that received a combined $43.3 million under the Atlantic Gateway program to develop an air, rail, marine, and road freight transportation network in the region.

The other projects are:

‰    $10 million for runway upgrades at Gander International Airport;

‰    $5 million for the Marine Institute’s Smart Bay project to install additional buoys and sensors in Placentia Bay;

‰    $2.5 million for a roll-on/roll-off ramp for shipping operations at Argentia.

The cost of each project is paid for jointly by Ottawa, the province, and the airport, port or institution.

Improved airport reliability

Peter MacKay, federal defence minister and the minister responsible for this province, said equipment upgrades will improve reliability and increase traffic at St. John’s airport.

“We all know that weather can be a challenge.

“I was thinking a lot about the importance of this announcement as we were landing in a small aircraft here moments ago,” said MacKay, who arrived in the city late for Wednesday’s news conference.

See CRITICAL, page A2

Critical to trade and transportation

“We’ve got 70,000 passengers that get displaced because of fog in the City of St. John’s every year, and this will eliminate that issue.” Fraser Edison, chairman of the St. John’s International Airport Authority.

“The local infrastructure investments that we’re unveiling here today will help this region continue to grow as a preferred route for goods and people and services coming into and leaving North America.”

The federal contribution to all four projects totals $15.7 million.

Susan Sullivan, minister of innovation, trade and rural development, said the four projects announced Wednesday are critical to the province’s trade and transportation network.

“This offers many benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador’s business community.”

Sullivan said exports accounted for almost 40 per cent of the province’s gross domestic product in 2009 — “and created one in every five jobs.”

The provincial contribution to the projects is $14.4 million.

A gateway funding first

It’s the first time provincial projects have received money under the Atlantic Gateway program established three years ago.

When asked about the delay, MacKay said the fund doesn’t work like other programs, such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“There will be further investments. There’s more money in the fund. There will be other projects announced, and there are significant projects that are under examination here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

MacKay said the federal government is working closely with Sullivan, Premier Kathy Dunderdale and other provincial counterparts.

“I’m very confident that we’re going to see future co-operation and future announcements in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said.

Sullivan said it took about two years to analyse and advance the projects through the Atlantic Gateway fund.

“When you’re looking at major expenditures of money — and we’re looking at $43 million in total here this morning — then you really want to make sure that you have it right.”

Organizations: International Airport Authority, Gander International Airport, Marine Institute Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Edison, Smart Bay Placentia Bay Ottawa North America

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Recent comments

  • Flight Dispatcher
    March 27, 2011 - 08:54

    What a great investment! Finally we will be able to land in St John's when weather is terrible. Long awaited Cat 3 nav system. The people of Newfoundland will certainly appreciate it I am sure

  • townie
    March 24, 2011 - 21:34

    This is long overdue and great news, over 99% of flights will now land regardless of reduced visibility be it fog or snow. I will not miss driving from gander to st. john's in the fog watching for moose.

  • Frank M
    March 24, 2011 - 15:56

    They are buying our votes and we love it! Bad news for Coady and Andres I'm afraid. neither has enough time in for a cushy pension.

  • Thomas Griffiths
    March 24, 2011 - 15:37

    Newfoundlanders & Labradorians need to think long and hard about who they send to Ottawa when this election is done.How things look now is if Haper doesn't form a majority goverment the liberals and the ndp will form a goverment supported by the bloc. Given the history, does any Newfoundlander think that a goverment proped up by Que MP's are going to be looking out for Newfoundlands interests.Well if any Newfoundlander has any dought, stop and think if there is one group of people in Canada that has taken and continues to take more from NFLD who is it.I'm a NFLDer living in Alberta and all i've ever heard was how happy Albertans are that NFLD has finally getting a far deal,when i tell Albertans about Churchill Falls they are stopped dead, but then realize this is how things are done in Canada.Now if that same group of people all of the sudden has a say to where ships get built,where roads are built, are you getting what i'm saying here people.Maybe some NFLDers don't like Harper and that's fine, but NFLDers need to look beyound that and ask themselves if Que MP's haveing the last say over what NFLD should or shouldn't get,like help with Musgrat Fall say or any number of things NFLD may need Canada's help with, how high do you think NFLD is going to be on their list?I can tell you if you think Harper with no MP's in NFLD now is doing nothing for you wait until the liberals are beholding the the Bloc to stay in power, i can asure you NFLD will be forgotten.

  • DON
    March 24, 2011 - 09:50

    What a waste of tax payer money this is! It is just pork barrel spending at it's worst! This navigation technology is being promoted by the politicians and media as the cure all for fog related delays at St. John's. Not so! No pilot who values his/her life and the lives of their passengers would ever rely on this or any other navigation technology to try to land on a runway which he/she cannot actually see except in dire emergency situations. I expect that fog and snow related delays and flight rerouting will continue to be a fact of life at the airport in St. John's. I have been on many flights to St. John's during which the pilots tried several attempts to land in heavy fog or blowing snow only to give up and return to Gander, Halifax , Moncton or Toronto. I would rather return to Gander than try my luck on this so called fog busting technology. I hope that pilots will not rely on this new navigation aid. If they can't see the runway, don't try to land,period! The problem, which the politicians won't recognize, is the location of the St. John's airport itself. The St. John's airport is located in an area near the coastline which has a propensity for heavy crosswinds and dense fog. In addition, it is located in what is now a heavily developed residential and commercial area. The tax payer money that has been wasted trying to improve the St. John's airport would have been better invested in building a new airport to serve St. John's and area. Perhaps a site further to the West would be a better choice. The airport in Halifax is actually not located inside the city of Halifax but is situated in a rural area some distance outside of Halifax. I have experienced far fewer weather related delays and less flight cancellations and rerouting at the Halifax airport.

    • Eric
      March 24, 2011 - 21:29

      To DON Regarding your statement: "No pilot who values his/her life and the lives of their passengers would ever rely on this or any other navigation technology to try to land on a runway which he/she cannot actually see except in dire emergency situations" Your statement is simply untrue. Pilots all over the world conduct CAT III auto landings routinely. Please see the links below.

    • Airbus driver
      March 24, 2011 - 23:54

      Cat III is Autoland. We don't need to see the runway. Completely safe as long as certain aircraft systems and ground navaids are working fine.

  • Harvey Jackman
    March 24, 2011 - 07:54

    Do all other senators in Ottawa scurry back and forth between their province distributing money every week? WHY IS IT THAT ELECTED MEMBERS ARE NOT DOING THIS? Or is this the childish mind of Fabian still at work?