A Newly Built Taxiway In Canada Is Now Unusable – Here’s Why

Victoria International (YYJ) in the province of British Columbia is Canada’s 11th-busiest airport. While it largely holds a domestic focus, limited international flights to and from Mexico and the US also serve it. Last year, it opened a new taxiway, in a move that it hoped would make airport operations more efficient, but this has remained unusable due to being in a blind spot for ATC.

WestJet Boeing 737 Victoria
WestJet has a significant leisure-focused presence at Victoria. Photo: Johnnyw3 via Wikimedia Commons

The new taxiway

Victoria’s new taxiway was constructed as part of a CAD$4.3 million (USD$3.4 million) terminal expansion project at the airport. It measures 366 meters long and is situated at the eastern end of runway 09/27. This asphalt-paved runway is the longest landing strip at Victoria, measuring 2,133 meters long. The extension reached completion last year.

The airport had originally decided to make the extension in 2019. According to CTV News, one of its primary purposes is to improve aircraft safety at the airport. This is because it eliminates access points in the vicinity of the runway. The airport had also hoped that, with more space to play with, it would increase efficiency by easing taxiway congestion. However, a critical design flaw has rendered the new taxiway unusable since its completion last year.

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Victoria International Airport
Victoria International Airport, as seen from above in 2013, prior to when the new taxiway was constructed. Photo: Thomas Woodtli via Flickr

What’s wrong with it?

Despite the good intentions behind the taxiway expansion, it has one fatal flaw – it is not in sight of Victoria’s air traffic control tower. There are several potential solutions to this problem. However, in the current challenging climate, it is hard to justify investing in these.

One idea was to cover the area with a series of cameras that controllers could monitor. However, different specifications between the companies involved in planning have led to the issue remaining unresolved.

Geoff Dixon, Victoria Airport Authority’s President and CEO, states the following, as per CTV News’ report:

We had estimated the cost to be about $100,000 and at the time Nav Canada were looking at a more robust system solution that would be I think closer to $300,000 or $400,000.”

RCAF C130 Hercules Victoria
Victoria has also hosted military aircraft in the past, such as this RCAF Lockheed Martin CC-130J ‘Hercules.’ Photo: Brian Burger via Flickr

The revenue losses caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have also forced the airport to put plans to move its control tower on ice. Therefore, at least in the short term, it looks as if a camera-based solution will be the way forward if the parties can agree on costs. Dixon adds:

The relocation of the control tower to the other side of the airfield is probably delayed for a couple of years, and so therefore it makes more sense to look at a more robust camera solution.”

When will it be usable?

Despite the difficulties in the solution process, Dixon and the airport are confident that the new taxiway will soon be in action. He claims that an agreement with Nav Canada may be reached in the coming weeks.

If this proves to be the case, then the new taxiway may be in use by late spring. However, this is somewhat weather-dependent, as the ground will need to have dried sufficiently before the camera installation can begin. In any case, the end seems in sight.

What do you make of this situation? Have you ever flown to or from Victoria International Airport, British Columbia? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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