Victoria International Airport’s $4.3 million taxiway extension is still unusable a year after it was completed, due to an issue with visibility. Controllers at the airport are unable to see the new taxiway from their vantage point, with authorities yet to figure out a solution.
Taxiway Echo extension was supposed to reduce delays
At the eastern end of taxiway Echo at Victoria International Airport (YYJ), a gap between the taxiway and its aircraft entry and exit point had been causing unnecessary delays. The gap forced planes heading west to first travel eastward along the length of the runway before turning around, as well as delaying any eastbound arrivals overshooting the last exit.
This arrangement would lead to scheduling delays during busy periods, with planes spending a lot more time on the runway than necessary. As a result, the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) had spent years looking to complete an extension. Despite the completion of the multi-million dollar project in December 2019, its disuse means aircraft must still conduct the lengthy maneuvers.
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Why can’t the new extension be used?
Taxiway Echo’s extension can’t be used for the simple reason that airport controllers aren’t able to see it clearly. An airside structure obscures the line of sight between the new extension and YYJ’s control tower. Nav Canada, the country’s air navigation system operator, is working with VAA on a solution. According to Geoff Dickson, VAA President and CEO,
“The delay in opening the taxiway has been a result of [a] CCTV issue. Nav Canada proposed a costly CCTV solution and [we] asked them to consider alternatives. [We] also asked Nav Canada to explore a non-CCTV solution.”
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) would enable airport controllers to keep track of aircraft movements without requiring a direct line of sight. However, Dickson claims that current weather conditions make a CCTV installation unfeasible for at least a few months. CCTV systems are also expensive outlays at a time when finances are tight. He goes on to claim that he is “personally hopeful that a non-CCTV solution can be worked out.”
YYJ may invest in a taller tower instead
One of the ‘non-CCTV’ solutions on the table is to heighten the control tower, which would allow controllers to see over the obstruction. However, such a project would take a long time to complete. Instead, the VAA is hoping that a change to tower procedures may enable the new extension to be used without a costly CCTV system or new tower. As Dickson explains,
“A new tower is contemplated but likely delayed a few years due to COVID.”
The aviation industry in Canada is in turmoil, much like the rest of the world. Passenger numbers at YYJ were down almost 70% from January to November compared to the same period last year. Nav Canada is also going through difficult times, proposing air traffic control job cuts across the nation which many believe may compromise air safety.
Have you experienced delays at Victoria International Airport because of its taxiway? Let us know in the comments.