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Victoria International's $4.3 million aircraft taxiway extension unusable due to Nav Canada hang-up

An excavator begins work on a $4.3 million taxiway extension at Victoria Internationl Airport's runway 09/27 in 2019. The investment remains unusable by aircraft due to a hang-up related to Nav Canada which oversees civil aviation navigation and movements nationwide.  Victoria International Airport

Victoria International's $4.3 million aircraft taxiway extension unusable due to Nav Canada hang-up
A $4.3 million taxiway extension project alongside Victoria International Airport’s (YYJ) busiest runway remains unusable to aircraft a year after its completion by the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA).
Finished in December of 2019 was the long-planned eastern extension of taxiway Echo – part of the airport’s network of paths connecting aircraft ramps and terminals with runways – which now spans the entire southern length of YYJ’s main landing and take-off strip, the east-west '09/27.'
Taxiway Echo’s extension closed a longstanding gap between the ’27’ (eastern) end of the 7,000 foot runway and its aircraft entry or exit point some 1,250 feet away as part of an effort to expedite aircraft movements during busy periods.
Historically, westbound departing aircraft entered runway 27 at the 1,250 foot mark, travelled that distance east along the runway to its end, then turned around to position for a west-facing take-off. The same process applied to eastbound arrivals overshooting the last exit at 5,750 feet. This less than ideal operational requirement lead to scheduling delays at peak times, and several years ago the taxiway Echo extension became a strategic investment initiative for the VAA.
However, pilots are still required to perform the above manoeuvre despite millions of dollars spent to address it.
The reason? Nav Canada controllers at YYJ’s control tower, which oversee aircraft movements on the ground and handle the initial stage of take-off and the final stage of descent, can’t actually see the taxiway extension from their vantage point
“The delay in opening the taxiway has been a result of [a] CCTV issue,” says Geoff Dickson, VAA President and CEO. “Nav Canada proposed a costly CCTV solution and [we] asked them to consider alternatives. [We] also asked Nav Canada to explore a non-CCTV solution.”
An airside structure currently obscures a direct line of sight from the control tower, requiring the installation of a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system that would provide controllers with a live video feed of aircraft movements, or an alternate solution.
“We will pick up discussions with Nav Canada in the spring as the current wet field conditions would not allow a camera installation until [the ground] dries out in a few months,” Dickson says. “I am personally hopeful that a non-CCTV solution can be worked out.”
That "non-CCTV solution" is related to granting a change to the tower’s procedures, Dickson confirms, which would avoid investment in a CCTV system at a time when both the airport’s and Nav Canada’s finances are under pressure due to significant reductions in air travel.
As for the potential for a taller control tower that would rise above obstructions, such a plan is on the horizon, but is not likely to materialize for some time.
“A new tower is contemplated but likely delayed a few years due to COVID,” Dickson said.
2020 has been a tough year for airports across the country as travel restrictions implemented by the Canadian and international governments eroded demand for air travel and the threat of COVID-19 transmission kept all but the most determined travellers grounded.
Between January and November, YYJ’s passenger volumes plummeted 69% compared to last year and aircraft movements dropped 31%, bringing totals thus far in 2020 to 552,712 passengers and 72,533 take-offs and landings.
In August a $20 million passenger terminal expansion project completed without much fanfare, effectively doubling the departures area to accommodate record-breaking numbers of passenger arrivals and departures prior to COVID-19’s industry disruption. C
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