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Gander International Airport
Airport type Public
Owner Transport Canada[1]
Operator Gander International Airport Authority
Serves Gander, Newfoundland
Elevation AMSL 496 ft / 151 m
Coordinates 48°56′13″N 054°34′05″W / 48.93694°N 54.56806°W / 48.93694; -54.56806 (Gander International Airport)Coordinates: 48°56′13″N 054°34′05″W / 48.93694°N 54.56806°W / 48.93694; -54.56806 (Gander International Airport)
Direction Length Surface
ft m
03/21 10,200 3,109 Asphalt
13/31 8,900 2,712 Asphalt
09/27* 1,875 571 Asphalt
Statistics (2008)
Aircraft Movements 48,802
Sources: Canada Flight Supplement[2]
Statistics from Transport Canada.[3]
* Runway closed 1 December - 30 April
Gander International Airport Diagram

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




Early years and prominence

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 1941 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

The government named the airport Gander Airport and it came under the administration of Canada's federal Department of Transport following Newfoundland's entry into Confederation. Numerous improvements were made to the runways and terminals, resulting in much of the present-day configuration. The airport grew in importance through the early decades of the jet age in the 1950s-1970s with its importance being amplified by being situated almost precisely on the great circle route between the major cities of the U.S. East Coast and London.

The airfield's location was sufficiently close to Europe to allow the piston-engined planes of the 1940s to make a non-refueled transatlantic flight and the same qualities made it ideal for the fuel-inefficient jet aircraft of the post-war decades.

Consequently, Gander retained its prominence due to the need for a refueling point for early jet aircraft. Airlines such as Trans-Canada Air Lines (later Air Canada), British Overseas Airways Corporation (later British Airways), and Pan American World Airways made Gander their main refueling point.

With the advent of jet aircraft with extended ranges in the late 1960s, the need for a refueling point ceased on most flights. Gander has steadily decreased in importance since then, but it remains the home of Gander Control, one of the two air traffic controls (the other being Shanwick Oceanic Control in western Scotland) which direct the high-level airways of the North Atlantic. Every plane travelling to and from Europe or North America must talk to either or both of these air traffic controls (ATC).

During the Cold War Gander was also notable for the number of persons from the former Warsaw Pact nations who defected there (including Soviet concert pianist Igor Vasilyevich Ivanov, Cuban Olympic swimmer Rafael Polinario[4] and the Vietnamese woman famously photographed fleeing a napalmed village, Phan Thị Kim Phúc). It was one of the few refueling points where airplanes could stop en route from eastern Europe or the Soviet Union to Cuba.

On December 12, 1985 Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashed on take-off from runway 21. 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.

Operation Yellow Ribbon

On September 11, 2001, with United States airspace closed due to the terrorist attacks, Gander International played host to 39 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 airport that received the highest number of passengers was Vancouver, with 8,500.)

A major reason that Gander received so much traffic was partly due to its ability to handle large aircraft, but primarily because Transport Canada and NAV CANADA instructed pilots coming from Europe to avoid the airports in major urban centers of Central Canada, like Lester B. Pearson in Toronto and Montréal-Dorval. The reception these travelers received in the central Newfoundland communities near the airport has been one of the most widely reported happy stories surrounding that day.

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,[5] and is the first and sole 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

Officials at Gander International Airport have stated that the future for the airport is grim unless the federal government provides funding to cover costs. Currently over 50% of all aircraft operating from the air field are military, and do not pay landing fees.[6] However, domestic passenger traffic increased by over seven percent in 2006, while weekly cargo flights from Iceland show some promise of expansion.

In March 2010, Sun Country Airlines announced that it would use Gander as a refueling stop for its new summer 2010 service between Minneapolis and London Stansted Airport[7].



Currently, Gander has two active runways: runway 13/31 of 8,900 x 200 feet (2,712 x 61 m), and runway 03/21 (changed from 04/22 in August 2004) which measures 10,200 x 200 feet (3,109 x 61 m). Runway 09/27 at 1,875 x 50 feet (571 x 15 m) is for daytime, visual flight rules use only and is closed from 1 December until 30 April.[2]

The airport's runway 03/21 is designated as an emergency landing runway for the Space Shuttle.

Competition for transatlantic flights

Gander competes with Bangor International Airport, located in Bangor, Maine, for transatlantic flights. Although Gander has a slight edge over Bangor in the number of daily transatlantic flights, Bangor has become more and more active due to the Iraq War with troops going to and coming home from Iraq. A common visitor to Gander is Evergreen International Airlines.

Airlines and destinations


Airlines Destinations
Air Canada operated by Exploits Valley Air Services St. John's
Air Canada Jazz Halifax


Airlines Destinations
Sunwing Airlines Punta Cana, Toronto-Pearson


  1. ^ Airport Divestiture Status Report
  2. ^ a b Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 7 May 2009 to 0901Z 2 July 2009
  3. ^ Total aircraft movements by class of operation — NAV CANADA towers
  4. ^ Delaware, Andrew. "Real Athlete: Olympic Swimmer & Water Polo Player Rafael Polinario". Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  5. ^ D-AIFC at
  6. ^ Gander airport warns it could close without Ottawa's help
  7. ^ "Sun Country to Offer London Flights This Summer," St. Paul Pioneer Press, 16 March 2010

External links


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