Narrowed Runway Draws Community Protest

Residents of Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories are demanding the territorial government restore the operational width of the local airport runway to 200 feet. According to the CBC, the government reduced the 200-foot runway width to 100 feet to lower operational and maintenance costs in 2019. By doing so, the snow clearing and surface maintenance of the runway, including repaving, was reduced. Local MLA Frieda Martselos brought the issue up in the territorial legislature last week and said that despite strident objection from local government, business and indigenous leaders, the community’s pleas were “falling on deaf ears” in Yellowknife.

Infrastructure Minister Diane Archie told Martselos the narrowing didn’t affect the runway’s Transport Canada certification and said it’s still accessible by all the aircraft that normally use it. But a local business owner noted that major airlines and the military have internal policies that restrict access by larger aircraft and that could be a factor should an emergency evacuation be required. Brian Harrold, owner of Northwestern Air Lease, also said the change has affected his business.