Edmonton City Centre (Blatchford Field) Airport

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Edmonton City Centre Airport
Blatchford Field
Edmonton City Centre (Blatchford Field) Airport (logo).svg
City Centre Airport Control Tower Edmonton Alberta Canada 01A.jpg
City Centre Airport control tower in 2010
IATA: YXDICAO: CYXD
Summary
Airport type Public
Owner City of Edmonton
Operator Edmonton Airports
Serves Edmonton, Alberta
Opened 1927
Closed November 30, 2013 (2013-11-30)
Time zone MST (UTC−07:00)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC−06:00)
Elevation AMSL 2,202 ft / 671 m
Coordinates 53°34′19″N 113°31′10″W / 53.57194°N 113.51944°W / 53.57194; -113.51944Coordinates: 53°34′19″N 113°31′10″W / 53.57194°N 113.51944°W / 53.57194; -113.51944
Map
YXD is located in Edmonton
YXD
YXD
Location within Edmonton
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
12/30 5,870 1,789 Asphalt
16/34 5,700 1,737 Asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Aircraft Movements 55,863
Sources: Canada Flight Supplement[1]
Edmonton Airports[2]
Movements from Statistics Canada[3]

Edmonton City Centre (Blatchford Field) Airport (ECCA), (IATA: YXDICAO: CYXD), was located within the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It was bordered by Yellowhead Trail to the north, Kingsway to the south, 121 Street to the west, and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and Jefferson armouries to the east. It encompassed approximately 144 acres (58 ha) of land just north of the Edmonton city centre. The airport was originally named for former mayor Kenneth Alexander Blatchford, then was known as the Edmonton Municipal Airport, then the Edmonton City Centre Airport, ending as Blatchford Field at Edmonton City Centre Airport.

History[edit]

The airport has a rich aviation history, being the first licensed airfield in Canada (1929).[4] Characters such as Wop May helped pioneer aviation in Alberta and Northern Canada, further solidifying Blatchford Field as the "Gateway to the North". Wiley Post landed there during both of his circumnavigations. The airport was also a major stop-over on the Northwest Staging Route during World War II and hosted a wartime British Commonwealth Air Training Plan flying school and an air observer school. A full history can be gathered at the Alberta Aviation Museum.

A weather station was established in 1937.[5] Over the years since then, its site has witnessed increasing influence by the urban heat island effect. By the mid-1970s, "Edmonton Municipal A." (as listed in the Monthly Record of Meteorological Observations in Canada) was regularly recording some of the longest frost-free periods in the Prairie Provinces with the first fall frost often not coming before October.

The ECCA has been embroiled in a fierce debate for several decades. In the 1950s, the need for a longer set of runways to accommodate the larger aircraft on the horizon was clear. With no ability to expand CYXD, the search was on for a new site. Because of the existing military base at Namao (now CFB Edmonton), just north of the city, built by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in World War II and expanded to handle SAC (Strategic Air Command) in the 1950s with the longest runway in Canada, the current site for the Edmonton International Airport (CYEG) was chosen at Leduc, 14 NM (26 km; 16 mi) south southwest[1] of downtown Edmonton. Upon completion of CYEG in 1963, CYXD was to close. After being examined by consultants,[6] and with the unforeseen development of regional airliner service, especially to Calgary, it was decided by the City of Edmonton to keep CYXD open, and entered Edmonton into a 50-year airport debate that shaped logistics, transportation, and regional disparity issues.

Several types of jet passenger aircraft did use CYXD, notably the Boeing 737-200. These were initially operated by Pacific Western Airlines and its later incarnation Canadian Airlines from their initial purchase in the late 1960s up until consolidation. The runway lengths are based on the absolute maximum performance characteristics and weight of this airliner; however, the extreme wear caused by utilising this field and pushing these limits was a concern. Other jet service came in the form of the BAe 146 as an Air Canada connector flight operated by Air BC. DC-9s in Air Canada livery operated briefly out of YXD in the early 1980s but left due to field/weight limitations. Time Air and its later brand of Canadian Regional operated Fokker F28s, while Echo Bay Mines Limited operated a private passenger/cargo 727-100 from the field for several years. However, the demands for ever increasing range and the increased weight and runway length requirements for the next generation aircraft in these series made their use at CYXD economically and in the many cases physically impossible.

In the 1992 municipal election, the City of Edmonton held a plebiscite with the question of "Are you in favour of bylaw No. 10,205, The Edmonton Municipal Airport Referendum bylaw?". This bylaw kept CYXD open to all traffic that the field could legally handle; 54% approved. In the 1995 election, a second plebiscite was put forth to the citizens of Edmonton asking if the bylaw should be repealed on the basis of consolidating all scheduled traffic at CYEG. A determination of whether to close the airport was not an option. 77% of voters approved this version, and in June 1996, the consolidation process was finalized.

Overlay of the pre-2011 Edmonton IndyCar track on an airport map.

In its final years, the airport was mainly used for air charter, general aviation, flight training and medivac (air ambulance).[7]

Edmonton City Centre Airport

Racing[edit]

Beginning in 2005, the airport was annually converted into a speedway for the Edmonton Grand Prix Champ Car race. Due to Champ Car merging with the Indy Racing League, the IZOD INDYCAR Series and NASCAR Canadian Tire Series used to race there. Beginning with the July 2011 event, the track layout was reconfigured to use a more northeasterly section of the airport, including the then permanently closed runway 16/34.[8]

Amenities[edit]

For private and corporate aviation, there were two Fixed base operators (FBO) on site, located on the west side of the airfield off Taxiway A. Additional on-site amenities included the Alberta Aviation Museum, two hotels, and a cafeteria in the Edmonton Flying Club's building.

Close to the field was shopping at Kingsway Mall, Canadian Tire, the Chateau Louis (hotel), the Alberta and Edmonton office for St. John Ambulance, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), and the Via Rail train station to the north (off Bush Pilot Road).

Private air ambulances used the Esso Avitat hangar to store their ground support units. A STARS air ambulance was also based at the airport. Proximity to the Royal Alexandra Hospital provided a link for emergency medical access by air to many of Alberta's rural communities.

Airfield[edit]

On approach, runway 30

Due to its location in the central portion of the city, there were both curfew restrictions and noise abatement procedures. The field maintained 24 X 7 operations, with the strictest noise regulations in effect from 22:00h to 07:00h local time.

Field elevation was 2,202 ft (671 m), runway 12/30 is 5,870 by 200 ft (1,789 by 61 m). As of October, 2010 runway 16/34 was permanently closed. Runway 12 had an RNAV (GNSS) instrument approach to LPV minimums and runway 30 had an RNAV (GNSS) approach to LNAV minimums. The former NDB approaches to runways 16 and 34 were available to circling minimums.

Closure and redevelopment[edit]

On July 8, 2009, the city council decided on a phased closure of the airport. In September, the city council postponed the closure of the north-south runway until after the Indy and Airfest events of 2010.[9] On August 3, 2010, runway 16/34 was closed to air traffic with a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) being issued at 3 am that morning.[10] Current licenses for scheduled air service were not renewed. Closure of the remaining runway was announced at an Edmonton City Council meeting on September 26, 2013. The last airplane to leave the airfield was a Cessna 172, owned and piloted by a local, on the afternoon of November 30, 2013. Weather prevented a pair of CF-18 fighter jets from performing a touch-and-go landing as the ceremonial last takeoff.[11] Shortly afterwards, ERAA placed barricades on the remaining runway 12/30 to prevent access and it was clearly marked to signal to pilots that it is closed.[12] The museum and some non-aviation institutions will remain. Some land will be transferred to NAIT, and the rest will be converted to a primarily residential development.[13]

Flight schools[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]