Edmonton City Centre (Blatchford Field) Airport
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|Edmonton City Centre Airport
City Centre Airport control tower in 2010
|Owner||City of Edmonton|
|Closed||November 30, 2013|
|Time zone||MST (UTC−07:00)|
|• Summer (DST)||MDT (UTC−06:00)|
|Elevation AMSL||2,202 ft / 671 m|
Edmonton City Centre (Blatchford Field) Airport (ECCA), (IATA: YXD, ICAO: 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 as Edmonton Industrial Airport  and then as Edmonton City Centre Airport, finally ending as Blatchford Field at Edmonton City Centre Airport. In all cases, the three letter "YXD" code continued to be used for the airport by all of the airlines serving the airfield over the years.
The airport was closed in November 2013 and has been redeveloped for housing.
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The airport has a rich aviation history, being the first licensed airfield in Canada (1929). 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 former military airbase serving as a major stop-over on the Northwest Staging Route during World War II and hosted a wartime British Commonwealth Air Training Plan flying school as well as an air observer school. A full history can be gathered at the Alberta Aviation Museum.
A weather station was established in 1937. Over the years since then, its site had 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 fate of the Edmonton City Centre Airport (ECCA) was embroiled in a fierce debate for several decades. In the 1950s, the need for a longer set of runways in order to accommodate the larger aircraft on the air travel horizon was clear. With no ability to expand CYXD, the search was on for a new airport 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) military bomber aircraft 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 of downtown Edmonton. Upon completion of a new passenger terminal at CYEG in 1963, CYXD was to be closed. However, after being examined by consultants, and with the unforeseen development of possible regional airliner service, especially to Calgary, it was decided by the City of Edmonton to keep CYXD open and operate it in tandem with CYEG. Edmonton then entered into a 50-year airport debate concerning CYXD that shaped logistics, transportation, and regional disparity issues.
By the late 1950s, three airlines were providing primary scheduled passenger air service at the airport: major air carriers Canadian Pacific Air Lines (which would become CP Air) and Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA, which would become Air Canada) as well as regional air carrier Pacific Western Airlines (PWA). In 1959, Canadian Pacific was operating international service to Europe with four nonstop flights a week flown with Douglas DC-6B "Empress" propliners between Edmonton and Amsterdam with these flights originating and terminating in Vancouver and was also operating local domestic service with Convair 240 prop aircraft to Grande Prairie, Alberta and Fort St. John, British Columbia. A year earlier in 1958, Trans-Canada was flying Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation and Canadair North Star (a Canadian produced version of the Douglas DC-4) propliners in addition to Vickers Viscount turboprops on nonstop services to Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg and Saskatoon as well as direct, no change of plane flights to Montreal. According to the June 1, 1958 Trans-Canada Air Lines system timetable, the air carrier was also operating five nonstop departures a day to Calgary with Viscount propjets. Pacific Western was operating regional services from the airport in 1959 with Curtiss C-46 and Douglas DC-4 prop aircraft to a number of Canadian destinations located north of Edmonton including Fort McMurray, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Fort Vermilion, Hay River, Inuvik, Norman Wells, Peace River, Uranium City and Yellowknife.
By 1964, Pacific Western had expanded its domestic service from the airport with the addition of regional flights to Cambridge Bay, Coppermine, Dawson Creek, Fort Simpson and Wrigley as well as to the Resolute Bay Airport in the Arctic which is the northernmost destination in Canada served by scheduled airline flights. By 1968, Pacific Western had introduced Convair 640 turboprop aircraft (which the airline called the "Javelin Jet-Prop") on many of its flights from the airport and had also introduced its "Chieftain Airbus" shuttle service linking Edmonton and Calgary operated with Douglas DC-6 propliners with six round trip nonstop flights a day between the two cities. According to the June 24, 1968 Pacific Western system timetable, Douglas DC-6 and DC-6B passenger aircraft as well as all-cargo DC-4 aircraft were also being operated by the airline to destinations located north of Edmonton. The jet age arrived at the airport in 1969 when Pacific Western introduced Boeing 737-200 jetliners with nonstop flights to Calgary, Fort Smith and Hay River with direct, no change of plane 737 jet service to Vancouver, Yellowknife, Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Penticton, Inuvik and Norman Wells.
Several types of jet passenger aircraft were operated into CYXD, notably the Boeing 737-200. As noted above, these 737 flights were initially operated by Pacific Western Airlines followed by its successor Canadian Airlines (formerly CP Air) from the initial purchase of these aircraft in the late 1960s up until the merger of Pacific Western with Canadian with the latter continuing to operate 737 flights into the airport. Pacific Western flew its "Chieftain Airbus" shuttle service between the airport and Calgary (YYC) for many years with the 737 and in 1976 was operating up to fourteen Boeing 737-200 departures a day nonstop from YXD to YYC in addition to operating direct 737 jet flights into the airport from Castlegar, BC, Cranbrook, BC, Dawson Creek, BC, Fort Chipewyan, AB, High Level, AB, Kamloops, BC, Kelowna, BC, Peace River, AB, Penticton, BC, Prince George, BC, Uranium City, SK and Vancouver, BC. The runway lengths at YXD mandated the absolute maximum performance characteristics of the Boeing 737-200 jetliner due to its weight; however, the extreme wear caused by utilising this airfield and pushing these limits was a concern. Other jet service came in the form of the British Aerospace BAe 146-200 as Air Canada Connector flights operated by Air BC on behalf of Air Canada. McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s 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 F28 Fellowship twin jets, while Echo Bay Mines Limited operated a private passenger/cargo Boeing 727-100 combi aircraft trijet from the field for several years. Time Air previously operated Fokker F27 Friendship and de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprop aircraft from the airfield during the mid 1970s  and de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 turboprops during the early 1980s. Both the Twin Otter and Dash 7 have short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities so runway length was not an issue for these aircraft types. Besides operating flights with 737 jets, Pacific Western also operated Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprop service from the airport during the mid 1970s with nonstop flights to Fort Chipewyan, Fort McMurray and Peace River in Alberta province as well as direct to Fort Smith, NWT and Yellowknife, NWT.
By 1985, Pacific Western was operating up to sixteen nonstop Boeing 737-200 departures a day from the airport to Calgary on its "Chieftain Airbus" shuttle schedule linking the two cities. According to the April 28, 1985 Pacific Western system timetable, the airline was also operating direct, no change of plane 737 jet service from the airport to the Canadian destinations of Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Cranbrook, BC, Fort McMurray, Kamloops, Kelowna and Penticton. The airline had become an all-jet air carrier with a fleet of 737 aircraft at this time.
The airport also had service to the U.S. during the mid 1980s. In 1985, Pacific Western was operating direct, no change of plane Boeing 737-200 jet service to Seattle via intermediate stops at Calgary and Vancouver. In 1987, Continental Airlines in conjunction with Pacific Western was operating two flights a day to Texas with direct service to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Houston (IAH). Pacific Western operated the Edmonton-Calgary portion of the service with Boeing 737-200s and passengers then transferred to Continental operated Boeing 727-100 jetliners in Calgary for the flights to Texas. According to the February 1, 1987 Continental timetable, the respective routings of these flights were YXD-YYC-DFW-IAH and YXD-YYC-IAH, and both services were operated with Continental flight numbers.
However, the demands for ever increasing range and the increased weight and runway length requirements for the next generation of jet aircraft 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.
Also by 1995, three different airlines were operating a combined total of up to thirty-two (32) nonstop flights a day from the airport to Calgary according to the Official Airline Guide (OAG). Canadian Airlines International was operating flights between YXD and YYC with Boeing 737-200 jetliners while Time Air flying as Canadian Partner on behalf of Canadian via a code sharing agreement was operating Fokker F28 jets and de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprops. Air BC operating as Air Canada Connector on behalf of Air Canada via a code sharing agreement was flying British Aerospace BAe 146-200 jets and de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprops on the route.
Beginning in 2005, the airport was annually converted into a speedway for the Edmonton Indy Champ Car race. In 2008 Champ Car merged with the Indy Racing League, and became the IndyCar Series. The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series also raced at the speedway in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012. 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. The last Indycar series was held in 2012.
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.
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
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
As of 2016, the Blatchford area is undergoing redevelopment into a medium and high density neighbourhood. The Blatchford area will be broken into five boroughs: Blatchford West, Blatchford East, Blatchford Park, Civic Plaza, and Towne Centre. Blatchford West will have more than 6,000 townhouses and apartments, while Blatchford East will have more than 4,000 townhouses and apartments. Blatchford Park will be around 120 acres in size and will include a large lake. The Towne Centre and Civic Plaza will accommodate various businesses, markets, shoppes and an LRT Station.
- Centennial Flight Centre
- Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 27 April 2017 to 0901Z 22 June 2017
- 2008 Annual Report and Financials
- Total aircraft movements by class of operation — NAV CANADA towers
- Feb. 1, 1976 Official Airline Guide (OAG), North American Edition, Edmonton Industrial Airport (YXD) flight schedules
- City of Edmonton. "Population, Historical" (PDF). City of Edmonton. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
- Metmen in Wartime: Meteorology in Canada 1939-1945 by Morley K. Thomas page 137
- Fisher Report 1962, Edmonton City Archives
- http://www.timetableimages.com, July 31, 1959 Canadian Pacific Air Lines system timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, June 1, 1958 Trans-Canada Air Lines system timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Sept. 24, 1959 Pacific Western Airlines system timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, April 26, 1964 Pacific Western Airlines system timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, June 24, 1968 Pacific Western Airlines system timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Sept. 28, 1969 Pacific Western Airlines system timetable
- Feb. 1, 1976 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Edmonton (YXD) flight schedules
- Feb. 1, 1976 Official Airline Guide (OAG), North American Edition, Edmonton (YXD) - Calgary (YYC) flight schedules
- http://www.departedflights.com, April 1, 1981 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Edmonton (YXD) schedules.
- http://www.departedflights.com, April 15, 1975 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Edmonton Industrial Airport flight schedules
- http://www.departedflights.com, April 28, 1985 Pacific Western Airlines system timetable, Edmonton Municipal Airport flight schedules
- http://www.departedflights.com, Feb. 1, 1987 Continental Airlines system timetable, Edmonton (YXD) flight schedules
- http://www.departedflights.com, April 2, 1995 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Edmonton Municipal-Calgary flight schedules
- ECCA - Edmonton City Centre Airport
- Airport closure prolonged
- Brian Gavriloff (August 4, 2010). "Edmonton City Centre Airport down to one runway". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved August 4, 2010.
- Theobald, Claire (December 3, 2013). "Local pilot becomes the last person to take off from Edmonton City Centre Airport After weather grounds special fly-by of CF-18s". Edmonton Examiner. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
- Ramsay, Caley (November 30, 2013). "Day of mixed emotions as Edmonton's City Centre Airport closes for good". Global Edmonton. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
- City Centre Redevelopment
- |‘I’m just happy to be in one piece’: pilot of small airplane forced to make emergency landing in Edmonton|url=
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