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New navigational aid to prevent flight turnarounds at Penticton airport

WATCH: (October 2019) Bad weather isn’t the only reason behind flight delays and cancellations at Penticton Regional Airport. As Shelby Thom reports, a shortened runway is also to blame.

The corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation services (ANS) said a fix is en route to the Penticton Regional Airport (YYF), which has been plagued by flight delays and cancellations.

Media relations manager Brian Boudreau said a new navigational aid has been developed to allow airplanes to land at YYF during inclement weather and at night.

The issue with landings at the airport arose in June after Transport Canada issued a “Notice to Airmen” (NOTAM) that was posted to Nav Canada’s website, alerting pilots to a shortened runway at YYF by about 470 feet due to an obstacle.

READ MORE: No timeline fix for shortened runway at Penticton airport: Transport Canada

“When we found out about that in June, our team started looking at a new procedure that they could develop to be used at the airport that would allow greater accessibility in low visibility conditions,” Boudreau said.

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The federal agency said the obstacle is the exhaust system at the nearby Greenwood Forest Products sawmill.

Shortened Penticton airport runway prompting flight delays and cancellations
Shortened Penticton airport runway prompting flight delays and cancellations

The exhaust system has reportedly been in place for several years, but was flagged during a recent audit of the airport.

“What they wanted to make sure about was that this procedure would work effectively to accommodate that obstacle that shortened the runway, and allow for planes to land and take off safely,” Boudreau said.

WestJet said the shortened runway impacted specific navigational aids.

READ MORE: Okanagan flight school trains military helicopter pilots from around the globe

It resulted in a handful of WestJet flights from Calgary unable to land at YYF in October. Passengers reported that the plane flew to Penticton, only to turn-around and head back to Calgary when the pilot couldn’t land, stranding passengers.

Navigation system improvements not included in multi-million Penticton airport expansion
Navigation system improvements not included in multi-million Penticton airport expansion

Air travellers said they were forced to spend out-of-pocket money for overnight accommodation and that connections were missed, causing headaches.

Boudreau said the team responsible for designing landing procedures worked tirelessly to come up with a solution before the busy Christmas rush.

“They were able to design it, to validate the new procedure and to do a flight check on it,” he said.

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READ MORE: Air Canada flight cancellations could impact business at Penticton airport

Boudreau added that the navigational aid will improve accessibility at the airport.

“The flight service reliability will increase,” he said.

The new procedures come into effect on Dec. 5. YYF is owned and operated by Transport Canada.

It is unclear when the full runway will be reinstated to 6,000 feet.

In an email to Global News, Transport Canada said “recent flight delays and cancellations were due to a combination of the reduced usable length of the runway, the Global Positioning System (GPS) instrument approach not being authorized at this time (due to the available runway length), inclement weather and airline operational factors.

“Transport Canada worked closely with Nav Canada to look for solutions to resolve the issue in the short and long terms. We provided the necessary information for the new GPS instrument approach to be designed for the reduced usable length.

“We appreciate Nav Canada’s hard work on getting this information out to pilots, and look forward to the new approach being put into operation on December 5.”