In 2019, the Penticton Airport runway was shortened to accommodate an exhaust chimney at the neighbouring mill. This had many flights unable to land. Transport Canada has come up with a short term fix. (Western News file photo)

Interim fix for Penticton’s shortened runway

Several flights were unable to land last year

Transport Canada says it has provided an interim solution to the problems created with a shortened runway at Penticton Regional Airport.

Now that Air Canada and Westjet flights have resumed flying out of Penticton Airport, Transport Canada says it has provided the airlines with a GPS instrument that helps with landing on shortened runways.

Last year, frequent flyers expressed their frustrations with flights being turned around or cancelled all together. Some of those flights couldn’t land because of a low ceiling or bad weather. But in 2019, some flights would come into Penticton, fly over the airport, only to turn around back to Vancouver or Calgary, even in good visibility.

READ MORE: Flights not able to land at Penticton Airport

The runway was shortened by 470 feet because of an obstacle at the north end of the runway, a 70-foot high exhaust system at Greenwood Forest Products mill which Transport Canada advised could affect specific navigational aids that could cause problems for some flights at night or in poor weather.

READ MORE: Shortened runway may impact flights, says Transport Canada

Last October, several flights flew in Penticton, only to turn around to Vancouver and Calgary. Some of those were because of the shortened runway strip. In one situation, passengers were left stranded at the Calgary airport overnight.

In September, 2019, Transport Canada warned that night flights may be impacted by the shortened runway.

At the time, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki said he shares residents’ concerns about this and was going to have his staff work with the Greenwood Forest Products mill. When city staff were asked, the Western News was directed to Transport Canada.

“The useable runway length remains reduced while the department reviews several long term options regarding this issue. In the interim, Transport Canada has worked closely with NAV Canada to find solutions to resolve the issue in the short and long term,” Sau Liu, senior communication advisor for Transport Canada told the Western News this week.

“We provided information for a new GPS instrument approach that was designed for the reduced useable runway length. This approach was put into operation on Dec. 5, 2019. Since implementing this new approach and publishing departure procedures last year, there have been no further operational impacts to flights,” said Liu.

Penticton Airport is currently wrapping up an extensive renovation to the airport terminal building. In recent years, the airport saw annual passenger traffic increases of four to five per cent, attracting more than 160,000 travellers last year. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Air Canada and WestJet flights have resumed their direct flights to Vancouver and Calgary.

“So many within Penticton and the region depend on these flights to connect for business or to visit friends and family,” said Vassilaki. “We know this has been a tough year for air travel and this is a great opportunity to remind residents about the many ways the airport benefits them.”

The Penticton Airport has had a loss of revenue due to the reduced number of scheduled commercial flights since mid-March 2020, confirmed Transport Canada.

The city of Penticton is looking to attract more travellers through the airport by improving the airport’s website. As part of this process, the city is asking for feedback on how the current website can be improved.

“The goal of this revised website is not only to ensure travellers have access to up-to-date information, but to help place Penticton Airport on the radar for anyone seeking to fly in or out of the Okanagan,” said Blake Laven, Penticton’s director of development services Blake Laven.

The airport is also looking for a food services provider within its newly renovated terminal. Any business that is interested should contact YYF directly.