Gander International Airport

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Gander International Airport
Gander International Airport Logo.svg
Gander International Airport (satellite view).jpg
Airport type Public
Owner Transport Canada[1]
Operator Gander International Airport Authority
Serves Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador
Time zone NST (UTC−03:30)
 • Summer (DST) NDT (UTC−02:30)
Elevation AMSL 496 ft / 151 m
Coordinates 48°56′13″N 054°34′05″W / 48.93694°N 54.56806°W / 48.93694; -54.56806Coordinates: 48°56′13″N 054°34′05″W / 48.93694°N 54.56806°W / 48.93694; -54.56806
Transport Canada airport diagram
Transport Canada airport diagram
CYQX is located in Newfoundland and Labrador
Location in Newfoundland and Labrador
Direction Length Surface
ft m
03/21 10,200 3,109 Asphalt
13/31 8,900 2,713 Asphalt
Statistics (2010)
Aircraft movements 35,905

Gander International Airport (IATA: YQXICAO: CYQX) is located in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and is operated by the Gander International Airport Authority. Canadian Forces Base Gander shares the airfield but is a separate entity from the airport.


Early years and prominence[edit]

Construction of the airport began in 1936 and it was opened in 1938, with its first landing on January 11 of that year, by Captain Douglas Fraser flying a Fox Moth of Imperial Airways. Within a few years it had four runways and was the largest airport in the world. Its official name until 1949 was Newfoundland Airport.

In 1940, the operation of the Newfoundland Airport was assigned by the Dominion of Newfoundland to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and it was renamed RCAF Station Gander in 1941. The airfield was heavily used by Ferry Command for transporting newly built aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean to the European Theatre, as well as for staging operational anti-submarine patrols dedicated to hunting U-boats in the northwest Atlantic. Thousands of aircraft flown by the United States Army Air Corps/United States Army Air Forces and the RCAF destined for the European Theatre travelled through Gander.

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) also established Naval Radio Station Gander at the airfield, using the station as a listening post to detect the transmissions and location of enemy submarines and warships.

Following the war, the RCAF handed operation of the airfield back to the dominion government in March 1946, although the RCN's radio station remained and the military role for the entire facility was upgraded through the Cold War.

Transatlantic refueling stop[edit]

Following Newfoundland's entry into Confederation, the government renamed the airport Gander International Airport and it came under the administration of Canada's federal Department of Transport. Numerous improvements were made to the runways and terminals.

Gander is near the great circle route between cities of the U.S. East Coast and London. Starting in the 1940s it was a refueling stop for transatlantic flights to Scotland, Ireland and beyond, and continued in this role through the early 1960s. Carriers at Gander during this era included:

Runway 04/22 was extended from 8,400 to 10,500 ft (2,600 to 3,200 m) in 1971.[16]

With the advent of jets with longer range in the 1960s most flights no longer needed to refuel. Gander has decreased in importance, but it remains the home of Gander Control, one of the two air traffic controls (the other being Shanwick Oceanic Control in western Ireland) which direct the high-level airways of the North Atlantic. Most aircraft travelling to and from Europe or North America must talk to either or both of these air traffic controls (ATC).

  • Aeroflot operated IL-86 widebody flights during the 1980s and early 1990s between Moscow (SVO) and such long-range destinations as New York (JFK) and Havana (HAV). Due to the IL-86's limited range of approximately 2,000 miles, the flights would make refueling stops at both Shannon, Ireland (SNN) and Gander en route to the final destination. [17] The Boeing 747-200s of the same era had typical ranges from 5,000-6,000 miles and were much more sought after by international airlines. [18] The IL-86 was used almost exclusively by Aeroflot and successor post-Soviet airlines. [19]

Some commercial transatlantic flights still use Gander as a refuelling stop - most notably some American legacy carriers (United Airlines and Delta Air Lines in particular) who use the Boeing 757 to connect smaller European cities with their major US hubs.[20] The 757 is particularly affected in this respect as it was not an aircraft intended or designed for transatlantic flights.[21] This practice has been controversial, since strong headwinds over the Atlantic Ocean during the winter months can result in the flights being declared "minimum fuel", forcing a refuelling stop at Gander in order to safely complete their journey.[22]

During the Cold War, Gander was notable for the number of persons from the former Warsaw Pact nations who defected there (including Soviet chess player and pianist Igor Vasilyevich Ivanov, Cuban Olympic swimmer Rafael Polinario[23] and the Vietnamese woman famously photographed as a girl fleeing a napalmed village, Phan Thi Kim Phuc). It was one of the few refueling points where airplanes could stop en route from eastern Europe or the Soviet Union to Cuba.

In 1985, Gander was the site of the Arrow Air Flight 1285 disaster, in which a McDonnell Douglas DC-8 with 256 people on board crashed during takeoff due to atmospheric icing; there were no survivors. The crash was and remains to date the deadliest airplane accident on Canadian soil.[24]

Operation Yellow Ribbon[edit]

Lockheed Hudson Mark IIIs are prepared for their trans-Atlantic ferry flights at Gander in 1942

On September 11, 2001, with United States airspace closed due to the terrorist attacks, Gander International played host to 38 airliners, totaling 6,122 passengers and 473 crew, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. Gander International received more flights than any other Canadian airport involved in the operation apart from Halifax. The 6,595 passengers and crew accounted for the third highest total of passengers that landed at a Canadian airport involved in the operation, behind Vancouver and Halifax.

A major reason that Gander received so much traffic was its ability to handle large aircraft, and because Transport Canada and Nav Canada instructed pilots coming from Europe to avoid the airports in major urban centres of Central Canada, like Toronto Pearson International Airport and Montréal-Dorval.[25] The reception these travellers received in the central Newfoundland communities near the airport has been one of the most widely reported happy stories surrounding that day, and was dramatized in the musical Come from Away.

To honour the people of Gander and Halifax for their support during the operation, Lufthansa named a new Airbus A340-300 "Gander/Halifax" on May 16, 2002. That airplane is listed with the registration D-AIFC,[26] and was the first aircraft in the whole fleet with a city name outside of Germany.

The airport was the site for Canada's memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the attack, over which Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Transport Minister David Collenette, US Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci, and provincial and local officials presided. 2,500 of the 6,600 people that were diverted there the year before also attended the ceremony.

Future growth[edit]

Officials at Gander International Airport have stated that the future for the airport is grim unless the federal government provides funding to cover costs. Over 50% of all aircraft operating from the air field are military, and do not pay landing fees.[27] However, domestic passenger traffic increased by over seven percent in 2006, while weekly cargo flights from Iceland show some promise of expansion.

In April 2014, Gander Airport Authority decided on plans to abandon the existing terminal building due to high operating costs and replace it with a new terminal a quarter of the size. The fate of the old building is uncertain. The terminal, which was built in the 1950s and has drawn continuing worldwide interest for its modernist design, has been recognized by other Canadian institutions as a valuable piece of heritage architecture and has many of its original furnishings and fixtures still intact.[28]

Early in 2016 it was revealed that Gander Airport will be losing WestJet Encore flights with service to Halifax International Airport, to Deer Lake Regional Airport due to low passenger numbers for the Q-400 operated flights, but however, reinstating its flight in May 2017 and as well dropping Toronto flights.


Runway at Gander International Airport


Gander has two active runways: runway 13/31 which is 8,900 ft × 200 ft (2,713 m × 61 m), and runway 03/21 (changed from 04/22 in August 2004) which measures 10,500 ft × 200 ft (3,200 m × 61 m) and undergone a $10 million comprehensive rehabilitation project completed in September 2012.

The airport's runway 03/21 was designated as an emergency landing runway for NASA's Space Shuttle orbiter. The airport is also an important emergency landing runway for large aircraft in transatlantic operation in the ETOPS system, which requires aircraft to always have less than a certain distance from a suitable landing site.[29] For many two-engine aircraft this is two or three hours with malfunction in one engine.

Fire services[edit]

Gander Airport Safety and Airside Operations is responsible for fire and rescue operations using three vehicles at their station within the airport. It also has a mutual aid agreement with the Town of Gander Fire Department to provide additional fire fighting services.[30] The airport fire crew is a mix of full-time and volunteers with total crew of 14.[30]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Airlines Destinations
Air Canada Express Goose Bay, Halifax, St. John's, Wabush
Seasonal: Toronto-Pearson
Provincial Airlines Churchill Falls, Goose Bay, St. John's, Wabush
Sunwing Airlines Seasonal: Toronto-Pearson, Varadero
WestJet Encore Halifax

Fixed-base operators (FBOs)[edit]

The following fixed-base operators are based at Gander International Airport:[2]



  • Woodward's Oil Limited

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Since the airport's founding in 1938 and through the course of World War II and subsequent beginnings of transoceanic air travel, there have been dozens of crashes around Gander of fighters, bombers, freighters, sea planes, radar aircraft, civilian airliners and private craft.

The crash site of the DC-4 on Newfoundland.
  • On 21 February 1941, three people were killed when a Lockheed L-14 Super Electra/Hudson departing from Gander crashed near Musgrave Harbour after both of the plane's engines failed. The fatalities include Sir Frederick Grant Banting who died of wounds and exposure. The navigator and co-pilot died instantly, but Banting and the pilot, Captain Joseph Mackey, survived the initial impact. According to Mackey, the sole survivor, Banting died from his injuries the next day.[31]
  • On 18 September 1946, 27 people lost their lives when a SABENA Douglas DC-4 (OO-CBG) crashed 35 km short of Gander Airport, where the aircraft planned to land for a refueling stop on the flight from Brussels to New York. At the time of the accident (07:42 UTC), there was dense fog near the airport, and the pilot executed a flawed approach at too low an altitude. There were 17 survivors (16 passengers and one crew).[32]
  • On 5 September 1967 an Ilyushin Il-18 (registration OK-WAI) of Ceskoslovenske Aerolinie (ČSA) Flight 523 crashed on climbout heading east on runway 13 while on a Prague-Shannon-Gander-Havana passenger service, killing 37 of 69 on board; the cause was never determined.
  • On 12 December 1985 Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashed on take-off from the then runway 22. The disaster claimed the lives of 8 crew and 248 soldiers from the United States Army's 101st Airborne Division who were returning home for Christmas from a peacekeeping deployment in the Middle East. The impact on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway on the shore of Gander Lake left a charred clearing in the forest where a memorial now stands to those who lost their lives in Canada's most deadly air crash.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Airport Divestiture Status Report
  2. ^ a b Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 27 April 2017 to 0901Z 22 June 2017
  3. ^ Synoptic/Metstat Station Information Archived December 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Total aircraft movements by class of operation — NAV CANADA towers
  5. ^ "Air France timetable, 1953". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "AOA timetable, 1947". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "BOAC timetable, 1947". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "BOAC timetable, 1960". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  9. ^ "KLM timetable, 1946". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "Pan Am timetable, 1946". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Pan Am timetable, 1960". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  12. ^ "Sabena timetable, 1949". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  13. ^ "SAS timetable, 1946". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Trans-Canada Air Lines timetable, 1946". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  15. ^ "TWA timetable, 1947". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Aviation Daily 21 May 1971 p117, 8 November 1971 p47
  17. ^, Stoff, Joshua, "John F. Kennedy International Airport," p.100
  18. ^ Jenkins 2000, p.43
  19. ^, John Pike, "Il-86 Camber," Retrieved July 28, 2017
  20. ^ Higgins, Michelle. "The Flights Are Long. The Planes Are Cramped". New York Times. Retrieved 29 July 2007. 
  21. ^ Clark, Andrew. "Continental transatlantic flights run low on fuel". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2008. 
  22. ^ Paur, Jason. "High Winds Forcing Pitstops On Transatlantic Flights". Wired. Retrieved 23 February 2016. 
  23. ^ Delaware, Andrew. "Real Athlete: Olympic Swimmer & Water Polo Player Rafael Polinario". Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  24. ^ a b Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  25. ^ "NAV CANADA and the 9/11 Crisis". Nav Canada. 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  26. ^ D-AIFC at
  27. ^ Gander airport warns it could close without Ottawa's help
  28. ^ "Gander airport to be traded-in for new terminal". CBC News. April 29, 2014. 
  29. ^ Annex 6 - Operation of Aircraft
  30. ^ a b
  31. ^ Stevens, James (July 6, 2006). The Maw: Searching for the Hudson Bombers. Trafford. pp. 41–43. ISBN 978-1412063845. 
  32. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas DC-4-1009 OO-CBG Gander, NF". 1946-09-18. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 

External links[edit]