There will be no change to operations at airports in Inuvik and Norman Wells by NAVCanada, as it has suspended its service review for all airports.
NAVCanada made the announcement on their website April 15.
“NAVCanada is committing that there will be no site closures at air traffic control towers or flight service stations across the country,” it reads. “In addition, the Company will suspend aeronautical studies currently underway related to remote or northern locations until further notice.”
Announced last November, NavCanada included Inuvik and Norman Wells among 29 airports under service review. The nonprofit was determining whether to continue the full range of staffing. They were looking at the overnight shift in particular for possible removal.
Terms of reference for Inuvik from NavCanada state they currently operate a Flight Service station providing 24-hour Aerodrome Advisory Services (AAS.) It also provides Vehicle Control Services and a Surface Weather Observation program. Human observers on the ground handle these and enable a 24-hour weather forecast service.
According to the terms, air traffic at the airport has dropped 13 per cent from 2016 to 2019. That’s roughly 11,300 less flights per year, which puts the airport below the guidelines for a 24-hour AAS.
Fierce opposition from the Towns of Inuvik and Norman Wells, Gwich’in Tribal Council, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the GNWT was immediate. NWT MP Michael McLeod is also vocally against the project.
Among the concerns, the airport is the main hub for any medical evacuations in the Beaufort Delta. GTC Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik previously told Inuvik Drum having no one on staff at late hours could spell disaster.
The decision, initially expected in January, comes as major improvements are underway at Mike Zubko Airport. A completely new terminal for passengers is in planning. The Canadian Forces are extending a runway by 3,000 feet to accommodate larger military aircraft as a NORAD forward-operating base. Work on the drainage and structure of the landing pad are also going forward.
“Glad to see that our Northern voices were heard,” commented Mayor Natasha Kulikowski as she shared the announcement.