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Air Labrador: Airport Hopping Along The Coast

Sun Nov 21, 2010 11:27 pm

My first Trip Report…..Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the flight!

Two weeks ago I travelled to Labrador for work at the Innu Community of Natuashish.

First stage was from Halifax YHZ to Goose Bay YYR…….A 75 minute flight Sunday afternoon on an Air Canada Jazz CRJ100. The flight was nearly full but I managed to get a window seat forward of the wing and next to an unoccupied aisle. Service consisted of a complementary soft drink and snack. We overnighted there then were back at YYR at 6am for a 7am flight on Air Labrador.

Once checked-in I turned to walk toward security……”excuse me sir, just board with your pilot from Gate 1”. First time I haven’t had to go through security screening before boarding and that set the pace for one of the most interesting flights I’ve had in a while!

There were four in our group + three Armed Forces personnel for the flight. Everything was ready to go a few minutes early so out we went to board Air Labrador Flight WJ200, a DeHavilland DHC6 Twin Otter. I grabbed a single seat just opposite the left prop. Several seats in the front of the cabin had been folded away to allow for a pallet of freight.

Atlantic “Standard” Time had returned the previous day so this allowed for a daylight departure just before 7am. Within the next 2 1/2 hours we would make four stops along the Labrador coast before a scheduled arrival into Natuashish at 9:35. First stop was Rigolet YRG……40 minutes out of Goose Bay and my first landing on a gravel runway which I found very smooth……those big tires on the Twin Otter! The Government of Newfoundland & Labrador maintains airports along the Labrador coast at several communities that would otherwise be inaccessible except by sea. Each has a 2500’ x 75’ lighted, gravel runway, apron and terminal building……basically a 2-story steel garage with a small waiting area.

We were on the ground only long enough to drop a couple of parcels, pick up a passenger then onto Makkovik YMN……25 minutes in the air with a 10 minute stop. Pilot hopped out, opened the cabin door and announced break-time while the aircraft was fuelled.

The approaches into the small airports are quite scenic……over water and high cliff along the coast. There was morning cloud but definite signs of clearing as we proceed north. Weather in this neck-of-the-woods can be unpredictable in November but we certainly picked a great week to be here: sunny and 0 to +5 (40F) There had only been a dusting of snow on the higher elevations. Living in Halifax, I think of this area as way up north but to put it in perspective, Goose Bay is approximate at the same latitude as Edmonton AB or Manchester UK and Natuashish, about the same as Glasgow, Scotland.

Now onto Postville YSO and our shortest hop…..10 minutes. And again, on the ground only long enough to drop a parcel then back in the air for the 20 minute run up to Hopedale YHO.

There had been a large pallet of freight in the front of the cabin since Goose Bay so we had another short break in Hopedale while it was unloaded. We were standing around outside when another Twin Otter pulled in beside us. This was Innu Mikun Airlines (Provincial Airlines) It had left Goose Bay a half hour after us and had also stopped in Makkovik & Postville……..yes you have a choice……there is airline competition even at these small airports! And most have 3 or 4 flights a day depending on the day of the week.

Mikun was in the air first and we were right behind him for our final leg (for now)……25 minutes up to Natuashish YNP.

We were in Natuashish all week. It’s an Innu Community of about 1000 and newly build over the past 10 years. There’s one main road about 10 km long…….it begins at the airport and ends at the dock where the coastal boat arrives weekly in summer and fall. The only other connection to the outside world is a snowmobile trail in the winter down to Goose Bay.

Friday morning we were back out at the airport for the continuation of Air Labrador Flight WJ200 at 9:40. Check-In was just a Check-Mark next to your name on the manifest. No Security Screening, not even a boarding pass but I did get a luggage tag for my bag which would be stowed in the nose.

A Twin Otter could be seen approaching over the lake. This was Innu Mikun Airlines arriving first and then Air Labrador, right behind him. We started walking out but the agent said to hold on for just a minute……WJ200 was operating in two sections this morning and another Otter, our aircraft, would be in momentarily. A busy little airport!

We boarded for the 25 minute flight up to Nain YDP and the three Otters took-off one right behind the other then were parked side by side in Nain. Again, everyone could get off for a few minutes while the aircraft were fueled.

Air Labrador Flight 200 operates basically as a loop out of Goose Bay with Nain being the furthest point……now it was a straight, non-stop 70 minute ride back to YYR. The Air Lab Otter ahead was full but there were only five of us aboard this one along with some assorted freight. Plenty of room to spread out on the back bench seat with an excellent view out the side window……I haven’t enjoyed a flight this much in a long time!

But now back to the real-world in Goose Bay……line-ups for check-in and then security amidst an airport expansion project. Checked baggage is even examined in your presence before it is accepted. We could have returned non-stop to YHZ that evening but the flight was full. Our routing home would now be over to YYT Torbay (St. John’s, Newfoundland) then onto Halifax.

We had an hour and a half to wait for the Jazz CRJ200 coming up from YHZ which would then continue over to YYT. We walked around a bit outside to see if there was anything of interest on the ramp but nothing “big” was in for fuel before heading out over the pond. Goose is a large former Canadian and US Air Force Base and there’s several aircraft on display in a park across from the terminal.

I had a window seat again on a sunny, cloudless afternoon for the 75 minute flight over to YYT…..with great views of the bays and inlets along the north coast of the island of Newfoundland.

St. John’s has a most attractive airport with excellent service for a city of about 190,000. Numerous flights over to YHZ on Air Canada, WestJet and Porter + non-stops to YYZ YUL & YOW Also seasonal service to Alberta and AC’s A319s to Heathrow (hope it back next summer) There’s regional flights and Continental has an ERJ to EWR.

We had a three hour stopover here and time to enjoy a meal and a local brew in the pub with some friendly Newfoundlanders. Then the last leg home… Air Canada E190……65 minutes over to Halifax. Again, I had a window seat on a cloudless night. We passed momentarily through “French” airspace with a view directly over the islands of St. Pierre-Miquelon then the lights of the Nova Scotia coast and on into YHZ for an arrival only a couple of minutes late.

[Edited 2010-11-21 15:32:17]

[Edited 2010-11-21 15:52:43]

[Edited 2010-11-21 15:55:37]

[Edited 2010-11-21 15:57:03]
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RE: Air Labrador: Airport Hopping Along The Coast

Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:17 am

Hi GH, thanks for this report, those are a bunch of interesting flights! Would love to venture up North myself on the twotter. I liked the pictures!

Regards, Martijn
Always comparing your flown types list with mine
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RE: Air Labrador: Airport Hopping Along The Coast

Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:58 am

What an incredible trip..Otter Heaven eh!.Brilliant scenery and air travel at its bare best.A great little report with beaut pics
All the best Dave
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Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2001 2:35 pm

RE: Air Labrador: Airport Hopping Along The Coast

Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:03 am

Brilliant - thanks for your report and some great pics too. Could this be the only Air Labrador report so far? I really enjoy reading about the operations of smaller airlines to lesser known airports and your report was spot on. Thanks for taking the time to post it. I also love the Twin Otter - such a rugged little aircraft. I was lucky to fly on a Twotter twice - between Glasgow and Barra on British Airways and Air Moorea between Moorea and Papeete in French Polynesia.

Thanks again P/jet
Eastern - Number One To The Sun
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RE: Air Labrador: Airport Hopping Along The Coast

Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:22 pm

Great report with many stunning pictures. What a beautiful scenery! I hope to read more from you here.

Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
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RE: Air Labrador: Airport Hopping Along The Coast

Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:37 pm

Hi ghYHZ,

Wonderful report, thanks for sharing. This was a unique, pleasant breath of fresh air compared to the usual reports about big airlines flying to big airports. The scenery up there really looks stunning. Interesting that you noted the smooth landing on the gravel runway...I've never landed on gravel before, and always wondered how it would feel. Those Twin Otters sure have nice, big windows.

Enjoyed reading this a lot!

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RE: Air Labrador: Airport Hopping Along The Coast

Tue Nov 23, 2010 7:50 am

Hello there GH,

great report, I adored the in-flight photos of your Air Labrador's legs. The scenery out there is absolutely stunning, it must have been an unique experience. I'm surprised to know that Goose Bay is no longer an Air Force base, I remember that a person I know went, when he was on duty with the Italian air force as a ground crew member, on a tour up there with some Air Force fighters, it wasn't so long ago.
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RE: Air Labrador: Airport Hopping Along The Coast

Wed Nov 24, 2010 12:13 pm

Thanks to all for your replies.

Quoting JL418 (Reply 6):
I'm surprised to know that Goose Bay is no longer an Air Force base, I remember that a person I know went, when he was on duty with the Italian air force as a ground crew member, on a tour up there with some Air Force fighters, it wasn't so long ago.

There is still a small Canadian Forces presence at Goose Bay but all Low Level Flight training has ceased which included units from the Italian, Dutch and German Air Forces. The Low level training was quite controversial with the native Innu in particular.

Search “Goose Bay Low Level” on YouTube for good video of the Low Level exercises.

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