In spite of a major airport upgrade underway for Iqaluit, Nunavut’s airports lag behind other northern jurisdictions.
For starters many of Nunavut’s airstips were designed in the late 1950’s when the DC-3 was the main cargo aircraft in service. The runways were not designed for jets, that are heavier and require more runway. Secondly, the federal government is planning new regulations to bring Canada into line with international standards, and this may mean some have to be lengthened. The clincher is that Nunavut airports, in many cases, cannot easily lengthen their runways.
The federal Airport Capital Assistance Program has a budget of only $38 M for all of Canada.
Nunavut has only two paved runways, those of Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet. Both communities have regular Boeing 727 and 737 jet service and act as hubs for the eastern and western regions of Nunavut respectively. The rest of Nunavut’s airports have gravel runways. In comparison Greenland has only 4 gravel runways for its largest 11 communities.
All tolled 19/21 government owned community airports in Nunavut are characterized by gravel airstrips from as short as 595m (1950 feet) in Grise Fiord to 1980m (6500 feet) in Resolute. Typical aircraft serving these airports range from DHC-6 Twin Otters for the shortest to specially equipped Boeing 727 or 737 aircraft for the airstrips over 1525m (5000 feet). The most common aircraft used for design purposes is the ATR-42 and the S340. Both are twin-engine turbo prop aircraft carrying approximately 36-38 passengers or a combination of passengers and freight.
Current statistical information points to an estimated 225,000 persons per year traveling by air in Nunavut. This corresponds to about 4,000 passengers per average week.
Nunavut’s infrastructure needs are great: new power plants, new ports and new airports. The federal government has the capability to address the needs in conjunction with the Nunavut government. A long-term plan to address the airport infrastructure needs would be helpful.