Montréal–Mirabel International Airport

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Montréal–Mirabel International Airport
Aéroport international Montréal–Mirabel
MtlAirports Logo.svg
Mirabel-International.jpg
IATA: YMXICAO: CYMX
Summary
Airport type Public
Owner Transport Canada[1]
Operator Aéroports de Montréal
Serves Montreal, Quebec
Location Mirabel, Quebec
Time zone EST (UTC−05:00)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−04:00)
Elevation AMSL 271 ft / 83 m
Coordinates 45°40′47″N 074°02′19″W / 45.67972°N 74.03861°W / 45.67972; -74.03861Coordinates: 45°40′47″N 074°02′19″W / 45.67972°N 74.03861°W / 45.67972; -74.03861
Website www.admtl.com
Map
CYMX is located in Quebec
CYMX
CYMX
Location in Quebec
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
06/24 12,000 3,658 Concrete
11/29 12,000 3,658 Concrete
Statistics (2012)
Aircraft movements 32,141
Total cargo (metric tonnes) 92,988
Sources: Canada Flight Supplement[2]
Movements from Statistics Canada[3]
Cargo from ACI[4]

Montréal–Mirabel International Airport (or Montréal International (Mirabel) Airport) (IATA: YMXICAO: CYMX), originally called Montréal International Airport and widely known simply as Mirabel, is a cargo airport located in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada, 21 nautical miles (39 km; 24 mi) northwest[2] of Montreal and opened October 4, 1975. It was the largest airport in the world in terms of surface area ever envisioned, with a planned area of 39,660 hectares (396.6 km2). The King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia, which was completed in 1999, surpassed its surface area.

In 1989, 81,000 acres (32,780 ha) of the 98,000 acres (39,660 ha) were deeded back to their owners.[5] The predominant role of the airport is cargo flights but it is also home to MEDEVAC[6] and general aviation[2][7] flights as well as being a manufacturing base for Bombardier Aerospace, where final assembly of regional jet (CRJ700, CRJ900 and CRJ1000) aircraft and the Bombardier CSeries is conducted. The former passenger terminal apron is now a racing course.

It was intended to replace the existing Dorval Airport as the eastern air gateway to Canada; from 1975 to 1997, all international flights to/from Montreal were required to use Mirabel. However, Mirabel's distant location and lack of transport links made it unpopular with airlines and travellers. Moreover, Montréal's economic decline relative to Toronto kept passenger volumes from rising to the levels originally anticipated. And so Dorval Airport not only remained viable but resumed handling overseas flights. Eventually, Mirabel was relegated to the role of a cargo airport. Initially a source of pride, the airport became an embarrassment, widely regarded in Canada as being a boondoggle and a white elephant.[8] Ironically, the Dorval Airport was renamed Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport after the Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, whose government spearheaded the Mirabel project to replace Dorval.

The airport is classified as an airport of entry by NAV CANADA and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency. CBSA claims that its officers at this airport currently can handle general aviation aircraft only with no more than 15 passengers[2] but larger aircraft have been serviced.

It is one of two airports in Canada with sufficient right-of-way that can be expanded to accommodate 50 million passengers per year, the other being Toronto Pearson International Airport, though a lack of traffic meant that Mirabel was never expanded beyond its first phase. It is one of only two non-capital airports with fewer than 200,000 passengers a year to be part of the National Airports System.

The airport is 55 km (34 mi) northwest of Downtown Montreal and 47 km (29 mi) northwest of Trudeau Airport.[9]

Development[edit]

In the 1960s, Montreal experienced a tremendous economic boom. Massive construction projects, including the Montreal Metro coupled with the hosting of Expo 67, brought the city international status. More and more visitors were arriving to the city, especially by airplane, though not always by choice. The federal government required that European airlines make Montréal their only Canadian destination. This resulted in 15–20% annual growth in passenger traffic at the city's Dorval Airport. Optimistic about the city's future and its continuing ability to attract more and more visitors, government officials decided to build a new airport that would be more than able to absorb increased passenger traffic well into the 21st century.

The Canadian Department of Transport studied five possible sites for Montreal's new airport: Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (50 km (31 mi) to the southwest), Vaudreuil-Dorion (40 km (25 mi) to the west), Joliette (70 km (43 mi) to the north), St-Amable (30 km (19 mi) to the southeast), and Ste-Scholastique (60 km (37 mi) to the northwest).

Terminal view

The federal government proposed that the airport should be located at Vaudreuil-Dorion. This location was well connected by existing road and rail routes, as well as being close enough to serve the population of the city; furthermore it could serve as the gateway to Ottawa as well as Montréal. Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa, who had a frosty relationship with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, reportedly did not want such an important project to be placed so close to the Ontario border. The Bourassa government preferred that the new airport be situated in Drummondville (100 km (62 mi) to the east).

Expropriation[edit]

Diagram of planned transport links serving Mirabel Airport

In March 1969, the federal and provincial governments reached a compromise to locate at the St. Scholastique site, and proposals were drawn up to expropriate 97,000 acres (39,250 ha), an area larger than the entire city of Montreal. It is served only by a long road link via Autoroute 15 and Autoroute 50. An additional link via Autoroute 13 was planned but never completed. Also planned was the connection of Autoroute 50 to the Ottawa/Gatineau area, a goal which would not be achieved until decades later, in 2012.

The federal government expropriation resulted in making Mirabel the world's largest airport by property area. (King Fahd International Airport near Dammam in Saudi Arabia later surpassed Mirabel as the world's largest airport by property area, a record it still retains). The airport's operations zone, which encompassed what was eventually built plus expansion room, amounted to only 17,000 acres (6,880 ha), about 19% of the total area of the airport. The federal government planned to use the excess land as a noise buffer and as an industrial development zone (which was never started). This attracted the ire of the people of St. Scholastique who protested vehemently against the expropriation of their land. The architects charged with the design were Papineau, Gérin-Lajoie, LeBlanc, Edwards.[10] Nevertheless, construction started in June 1970 under the auspices of BANAIM, a government organization formed to build the airport.

High-speed rail transit (the system was to be capable of speeds from 100 to 120 kilometres per hour (62 to 75 mph) for the Montréal–Mirabel run), initially to be called TRRAMM (Transport Rapide Régional Aéroportuaire Montréal–Mirabel), was intended to be completed at a later date. However, it never got beyond the drawing board. The TRRAMM system was also intended to eventually be expanded to other parts of the Montreal region. The major stumbling block for the TRRAMM project was funding. The federal, provincial, and municipal governments never managed to find enough cash to fund the highly ambitious and expensive rapid transit project. Thus, Mirabel was forced to cope with an inadequate road system and non-existent rail transit, supplemented only by express buses run by Société de transport de Montréal (Montreal Transit Corporation).

Operational history and decline[edit]

Montréal–Mirabel International Airport opened for business on October 4, 1975, in time for the 1976 Summer Olympics. In the rush to get the airport open in time for the Olympics, it was decided to transfer flights to Mirabel in two stages. International flights would be transferred immediately, while domestic and US flights would continue to be served by Dorval airport until 1982.

The federal government predicted that Dorval would be completely saturated by 1985 as part of its justification for building Mirabel. They also projected that 20 million passengers would be passing through Montreal's airports annually, with 17 million of those through Mirabel. However, by 1991 Mirabel and Dorval were only handling a total of 8 million passengers and 112,000 tons of cargo annually, while Toronto was handling 18.5 million passengers and 312,000 tons of cargo. Mirabel alone never managed to exceed 3 million passengers per year in its existence as a passenger airport.

After 1976, Mirabel and Dorval began to decline in importance due to the increasing use in the 1980s of longer-range jets that did not need to refuel in Montréal before crossing the Atlantic. The use of longer range aircraft was precipitated when the national energy policies that provided Montreal refineries with feed stock substantially below world prices starting in 1975 and ending in the 1980s with the drop of world oil prices. These factors dramatically reduced the amount of projected air traffic into Dorval. The result was that a second airport became unnecessary. Only Air Transat held out until the very end when the last commercial flight using Mirabel departed to London on October 31, 2004.

The control tower, Mirabel Airport

To ensure Mirabel's survival, all international flights for Montréal were banned from Dorval from 1975 to 1997. However, public pressure in support of Dorval prevented its planned closure, yet Dorval's continued existence made Mirabel comparatively expensive and unattractive to airlines and travellers alike. Dorval was only 20 minutes away from the city core while it took 50 minutes to get to Mirabel in ideal traffic conditions. Passengers who used Montreal in transit had to take long bus rides for connections from domestic to international flights, while Montrealers resented Mirabel as they were forced to travel far out of town for international flights. Many international airlines, faced with the stark economic reality of operating two Canadian points of entry, opted to overfly Montreal by landing instead in Toronto with its better domestic and US connections. The simultaneous operating of both Montréal airports resulted in Dorval being overtaken in traffic first by Toronto, then Vancouver International and finally relegated to fourth by Calgary International Airport, as international airlines were slow to return to Dorval after it resumed handling international flights in 1997. Over time the decreasing passenger flights began to take a toll on businesses within Mirabel, particularly notable was the 354 room Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel hotel adjacent to the terminal, which was forced to shut down in 2002 after 25 years of operation.

Debate[edit]

In the late 1990s, Maclean's magazine interviewed one resident, whose farm was expropriated, who said that his land was sacrificed to save the city. He was particularly critical of the Trudeau government for not closing Dorval as well as failing to recognize Mirabel's potential, as no legislation similar to the Wright Amendment in the U.S. was enacted that would force airlines to use Mirabel instead of Dorval. Supporters of making Mirabel the sole international airport of Montreal pointed out that it had the capacity to be expanded significantly to meeting growing future demand, unlike Dorval. They also noted that Dorval could be closed and its land be developed for prime real estate, and some of the profits could go towards improving access routes to Mirabel and/or the airport itself.

The initial location of Mirabel was supposed to be a major justification for the project, not only because of its expansion room, but also the afforded buffer which would significantly reduce noise pollution in urban areas.

Present day[when?][edit]

The C$716 million expansion of Dorval from 2000–2005 gave it the ability to serve 20 million passengers a year, ironically accomplishing one of the goals that was to be met with the construction of Mirabel. (In the 1970s, the federal government projected that 20 million passengers would be passing through Montreal's airports annually by 1985, with 17 million through Mirabel). Aéroports de Montréal financed all of these improvements itself, with no government grants.[11]

Today, Montréal–Mirabel International Airport is used almost exclusively for cargo flights, with passenger operations having ceased on October 31, 2004, twenty-nine years after the airport's opening and many years of limited, primarily charter service. Bombardier Aerospace launches newly constructed units from its factory at Mirabel.

With very little or, later, no airline service, and with many empty spaces inside its terminal, Mirabel has been the setting of several movies, TV series, and commercials for many years. The movie The Terminal features the mezzanine overlooking the immigration desks and the baggage carousels directly behind them, the tarmac and the main terminal entrance (with a digitally added New York skyline reflection). All other terminal scenes were shot on a soundstage.

In 2006, I-Parks Creative Industries, a French firm that specializes in the creation of urban tourist attractions, and Oger International SA, the global engineering company owned by the family of slain former Lebanese prime minister and entrepreneur Rafik Hariri, entered into an agreement to turn Mirabel into a theme park. The proposed concept of the park is based on the theme of water and outer space.[12][13] By August 2008, negotiations, market research, and technical assessments were continuously delayed, and construction not started.[14]

In December 2006, in a move he called "correcting a historical injustice," Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the return of 4,450 hectares of farmland expropriated to build Mirabel airport. About 125 farmers, who rent their land from the federal government, were permitted to buy it back. Harper said he was pleased to finish the work started by former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, who unlocked a major parcel of expropriated land during his first term in office in 1985.[citation needed]

In May 2007, it was reported that the International Center of Advanced Racing had signed a 25 year lease with Aéroports de Montréal to use part of the airport as a race track.[7][15] At the same time fixed base operator, Hélibellule, opened a facility at the site to cater for the private jets that were expected. The company also provides a passenger service from Mirabel to destinations in Canada and the United States.[16][17] They operate three different types of helicopters; Bell 222, Robinson R22 and Aérospatiale Gazelle.[16]

In August 2007, AirMédic moved from its base at Montréal/Saint-Hubert Airport to Mirabel. AirMédic is a non-profit humane foundation serving the population of Quebec and its visitors with the service of air ambulances. It offers MEDEVAC flights using a Eurocopter Dauphin.[6][18]

In August 2008, the Agence métropolitaine de transport said it was willing to extend its commuter rail service to the airport if passenger traffic were to return.[citation needed] The Deux Montagnes Station is only some 12 km (7.5 mi) from the airport.

In July 2010, the ADM confirmed that I-Parks Creative Industries's long-delayed AeroDream project was dead, officially canceling it.[19] At present there are no plans for any alternative development at the site.

Starting in 2011 the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Drag racing and other forms of Motorsport began running on the airport's runways and surrounding areas, on what is known as Circuit ICAR.

On September 16, 2013, the Bombardier CS100 took its maiden flight for the first time, making the inaugural flight of the CSeries, from Mirabel Airport, accompanied by a Global 5000 chase plane.[20]

Planned demolition of terminal[edit]

On May 1st, 2014, Aéroports de Montréal has confirmed that the current terminal building will be demolished, citing its maintenance cost, its facilities being unfit for current commercial aviation needs, and lack of economic viability as a reason. Several reports suggest that it would simply be cheaper to rebuild a new terminal should passengers service ever return to Mirabel. [21][22][23][24]

Architecture and layout[edit]

Plan of Mirabel Airport showing built and unbuilt facilities

Mirabel was designed to be eventually expanded to six runways and six terminal buildings, with a separate STOLport also planned. The expansion was supposed to occur in a number of phases and be completed by 2025. However, the airport never got beyond the first phase of construction, and by October 2005 runway 11/29 was closed leaving only runway 06/24 operational.[2] In December 2009 runway 11/29 reopened with a length of 8,800 ft (2,682 m) and in April 2012 was restored to its 12,000 ft (3,658 m) length.[2]

From the furthest reach of the parking lot to the airplane seat, one can walk as little as 200 m (656 ft). A train station was also built in the basement for the planned TRRAMM service, right below the main passenger concourse. Today, it is used as an employee parking lot.[citation needed]

Designed by architects Papineau-Gérin-Lajoie, Mirabel's terminal carried over their creator's award-winning Expo 67 Quebec pavilion design. A simple minimalist dark glass box sitting on top of a concrete bunker housing maintenance services, the terminal was hailed as an architectural triumph when it first opened. The only terminal was designed to handle six million passengers per year.[citation needed]

Passengers walked as little as 100 m (328 ft) going from the curb to the gate. Once there, passengers would be transported to their aircraft by Passenger Transfer Vehicles (PTVs), rather than walking through jetways. The PTVs, similar to those at Washington Dulles International Airport, ran from the terminal to the aircraft parking spot on the ramp. It was reported by Radio-Canada/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that each of these vehicles had cost up to C$ 400,000 at the time.[25] To eventually make connections between flights easier, the terminal also included a few jetways, in a smaller concourse called the Aeroquay, accessible via an underground tunnel and later connected directly to the main concourse.

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Former services[edit]

Air India Boeing 747-200 at Montréal–Mirabel International Airport in 1983

Mirabel initially opened with service from local airlines Air Canada, Canadian Pacific Airlines and Nordair (Quebecair), as well as airlines from more than fifteen countries, including Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, Czech Airlines, El Al, Iberia Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Olympic Airways, Sabena, Scandinavian Airlines System, Swissair and TAP Portugal. These airlines had their national country flags posted in front of the terminal on the inauguration of Mirabel.

Other airlines that served Mirabel at some point included Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeroméxico, Air India, Air Liberté, Business Express Airlines (operating as Northwest Airlink), Corsairfly, Cubana de Aviación, Finnair, Jaro International, Jat Airways, LAN Chile, LOT Polish Airlines, People Express Airlines, Presidential Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, TAROM, and Varig. Most gradually lost faith in Mirabel and either transferred to Dorval in 1997 or pulled out of Montreal altogether.

Several charter airlines also served Mirabel, such as Wardair, Nolisair, Canada 3000 and Royal Aviation. All four have either merged or gone out of business. Air Transat is the only charter airline that started operations at Mirabel and stayed until the end of passenger service in 2004.

Current services[edit]

Today, all major users of Montréal–Mirabel International Airport are cargo airlines.

Airlines Destinations
Cargojet Airways Cincinnati, Hamilton (ON), Winnipeg, Moncton
DHL Aviation Cincinnati
FedEx Express Indianapolis, Memphis, Newark, Ottawa
FedEx Feeder
operated by Morningstar Air Express
Moncton, Quebec City, Toronto-Pearson
Kelowna Flightcraft Air Charter Moncton, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Hamilton (ON)
Nolinor Aviation
Pascan Aviation Happy Valley-Goose Bay
SkyLink Express Quebec City, Moncton
UPS Airlines Louisville

Other facilities[edit]

Bombardier Aerospace houses its CRJ and new CSeries assembly lines on the property of Mirabel Airport.[26] Bell Helicopter manufactures all its commercial helicopters at a plant located on the airport. Nolisair (Nationair), during its existence, had its head office in the Nationair Building on the airport property.[27]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

The following accidents or notable incidents occurred either at the airport, or involved aircraft using the airport:

  • January 21, 1995: Royal Air Maroc Flight 205, a Boeing 747-400 preparing to depart for New York City and Casablanca, was being de-iced by Canadian Airlines groundcrew, while its engines were running. Due to a communications error, the pilot believed de-icing was complete and started taxiing forward. Two deicing vehicles that were still in place in front of both horizontal stabilizers were knocked down, causing fatal injuries for three de-icing crew members and serious injuries to the two drivers.[28]

See also[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Airport Divestiture Status Report". Tc.gc.ca. 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 29 May 2014 to 0901Z 24 July 2014
  3. ^ Total aircraft movements by class of operation — NAV CANADA flight service stations
  4. ^ 2012 North American Airport Traffic Summary
  5. ^ History section of the Aéroports de Montréal site
  6. ^ a b Gazette, The (2007-08-30). "It's liftoff for AirMédic ambulance". Canada.com. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  7. ^ a b La Presse (2007-05-14). "Mirabel redécolle". Lapresseaffaires.cyberpresse.ca. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  8. ^ End of Era Near in Montreal For White-Elephant Airport, CLIFFORD KRAUSS, New York Times, October 3, 2004
  9. ^ "Montréal–Mirabel map." Aéroports de Montréal. Retrieved on December 4, 2010. French version.
  10. ^ http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/airport-architecture
  11. ^ Aéroports de Montréal Provides a Progress Report on Work at Montréal–Trudeau[dead link]
  12. ^ Airport to be turned into amusement park (21 February 2006). CTV News. Accessed March 25, 2006.
  13. ^ Delean, Paul (22 February 2006). Mirabel may take off as theme park. The Montreal Gazette.
  14. ^ Mirabel AeroDream Aéroports de Montréal. Accessed February 22, 2008.
  15. ^ "ICAR – a new motorsport facility in Quebec". Racing.auto123.com. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  16. ^ a b "Hélibellule fleet". Helibellule.ca. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  17. ^ Hélibellule fait revivre le transport des passagers à Mirabel[dead link]
  18. ^ "AirMédic". Airmedic.net. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ "Bombardier CSeries jet completes maiden flight". CBC. 2013-09-16. 
  21. ^ Quoi de neuf? 01 May 2014 Aéroports de Montréal.
  22. ^ Démantèlement de l'aérogare de Mirabel TVA Nouvelles 01 May 2014
  23. ^ Vers la démolition de l'aérogare de Mirabel Ici Radio-Canada 01 May 2014
  24. ^ Mirabel airport terminal, Trudeau's white elephant, to be torn down CBC News 01 May 2014
  25. ^ Mirabel looks for new role–again (28 April 2004). CBC News. Accessed September 22, 2005.
  26. ^ "Aerospace Directory." Bombardier Inc. Retrieved on December 4, 2010. "10000 Helen-Bristol Street Montréal Airport, Mirabel Mirabel, Québec." Address in French: "10000, rue Helen-Bristol Aéroport de Montréal, Mirabel Mirabel (Québec) J7N 1H3 Canada."
  27. ^ The Europa World Year Book, 1989. Europa Publications, August 1, 1991. 667. Retrieved from Google Books on June 11, 2012. "Nationair Canada: Nationair Bldg, Cargo Rd Al, Montreal International Airport (Mirabel), Mirabel, Que J7N 1A5"
  28. ^ "Collision with Vehicle Royal Air Maroc". Tsb.gc.ca. 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  29. ^ "Swearingen SA.226TC Metro II". Aviation-safety.net. 1998-06-18. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  30. ^ "NAV CANADA and the 9/11 Crisis". Navcanada.ca. 2001-09-11. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  31. ^ "See What Happened When We Played a Zombie in 'Warm Bodies'". imdb.com. 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 

References[edit]

  • Financial Times of Canada. (1975). Mirabel. Special ed. Don Mills, ON: Financial Times of Canada.
  • Aeroports de Montréal ADM History
  • Durivage, Simon."Mirabel, airport of the year 2000." Montreal, Montreal. 8 Sep 1992. Video Archive.
  • Radio-Canada, "De Mirabel à Dorval", 14 May 1999, Web archive (French)

External links[edit]