Inadequate training, crumbling runways among issues at some smaller Alberta airports: Transport Canada

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Inadequate emergency training, crumbling runways and obstructed safety lights were among the issues inspectors found at some of Alberta’s smaller airports, show recent Transport Canada documents.

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The inspections were conducted throughout 2019 and 2020. Copies of the subsequent reports were acquired by Postmedia through an access to information request.

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When inspectors showed up at Lloydminster Airport they found a runway that had buckled in some places and was crumbling in others, creating a safety risk.

“A Transport Canada inspection of Runway 08/26 revealed runway degradation and surface irregularities that may adversely affect the take-off or landing of an aircraft by causing excessive bouncing, pitching, vibration or other difficulties in the control of the aircraft,” an inspector’s report reads.

A runway at Alberta's Lloydminster airport in May of 2019.
A runway at Alberta’s Lloydminster airport in May of 2019. Photo by Transport Canada

Other issues around the runway became apparent as well as inspectors finding the shoulder of the strip was not flush with the runway as required.

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Runway lights – designed to help guide pilots towards the landing area – were also found to be “not mounted sufficiently low to the ground,” according to the report.

‘Obscured in snow’

Lighting was also an issue at Okotoks Air Ranch Airport when inspectors visited there in February of 2020.

They found some of the airport’s blue taxiway lights were broken. And, some wing bar lights – used to illuminate the start of the runway where it’s safe to land – were misaligned and, “not in the direction of approach to the runway.”

Snow removal was also an issue, with some safety lights “partially or fully obstructed” after being buried in snow.

A runway exit sign was observed to be “completely obscured in snow.”

A runway sign is completely obscured by snow at Okotoks Air Ranch Airport in February of 2020.
A runway sign is completely obscured by snow at Okotoks Air Ranch Airport in February of 2020. Photo by Transport Canada

Inspectors also noted snowbanks and windrows in various locations along the runway strip as well as a large tarp “lying in the snow the runway strip surface, presenting a foreign object damage risk.”

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‘Wouldn’t know what to do’

Okotoks was one of several airports where inspectors identified issues around training, including for emergency situations.

The individual inspectors spoke with at an earlier visit in December of 2019 “was not qualified to teach human and organizational factors.”

“Through interviews and sampling it was discovered that, at the time of inspection, there were no personnel on site that could demonstrate adequate supervision and control to manage any emergency at the airport,” the report reads.

“When asked about energy response procedures … airport manager, or designate, indicated that he had never seen the airport emergency response plan and would not know what to do in the event of an emergency.”

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A November 2019 inspection of the Grande Prairie Airport found that officials there couldn’t say for sure if certain types of training had taken place.

At Rainbow Lake Airport, inspectors were concerned with staff failing to warn passengers to not feed wildlife, potentially encouraging animals to come too close to the facility.

“The Rainbow Lake Airport did not advertise to the users of the Airport the policy that prohibits the feeding of wildlife and the exposure of food wastes.”

The documents also include inspection records for airports in Fort McMurray, Fort Chipewyan and Parkland.

The province’s two largest airports – Edmonton International and Calgary International – were not included.

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