In early September I had meetings at our office in Corner Brook, Newfoundland…and also wanting a little vacation time touring the Island….. I headed out for the two hour drive to North Sydney, Nova Scotia and an overnight ferry crossing on Marine Atlantic’s MV ‘Highlanders:
Arrival into Port-aux-Basques (Port oh Bask) Newfoundland was at 7am the next morning:
Heading up the west coast of the Island……..
……….. my first stop was Stephenville Airport YJT. https://goo.gl/maps/56TEmdRymrJq9Wjw7http://www.cyjt.com
This is the former United States Air Force Base ‘Earnest Harmon Field’……left over from the Cold War era. A lot of the old base infrastructure is still there and now repurposed to civilian uses. Drive around town and you’ll see streets named for US States! The airport still gets TATL diversions and has a limited scheduled service. Here’s the small Terminal Building on Tennessee Dr:
After a stop in Corner Brook…I continued onto Deer Lake Regional Airport YDF.
In the mid 2000’s…..Deer Lake (pop 5,000) had to be one of the smallest airports with scheduled TATL flights. Both Monarch and Astraeus had flights from Gatwick serving the Humber Valley Golf Resort that had been developed by British interests and also the Marble Mountain Ski Resort. Today….. there’s regional flights on Air Canada and PAL Provincial and to the Caribbean in winter.
Now onto Gander International Airport about midway across the island and 300km east of Deer Lake. http://www.ganderairport.com/https://goo.gl/maps/7beybSRxtPfvoT9p8
Today it’s still a major refueling and diversion point for Transatlantic flights:
But go back to the late ‘40s, ’50s and ‘60s when a lot of the world’s major airlines with their Constellations, DC-4s, DC-6s etc .....Pan Am, TWA, BOAC, El Al Israel, Lufthansa, Air France, Alitalia, Sabena, Scandinavian, Swissair etc were all in Gander with crew bases and dispatch….and pretty impressive for small town (population today: 10,000) in the wilds of central Newfoundland.
In the ‘60s the new ‘707s and DC-8s were now capable of overflying Gander on transatlantic flights. Today it has regional flights on Dash-8s, Q-400s and ‘737s……but all that infrastructure is still there and the airport can come alive when required like it did on 9-11 when 7,000 passengers on TATL flights were diverted after the US closed it airspace. All those passengers had to be housed and fed for 4 days until flights resumed.
The Broadway play ‘Come From Away’…tells that story.https://comefromaway.com/story.php
During the Cold War Era and right up to 1989……. Gander was a well know place for defections to the West from the Soviet Bloc countries.
Aeroflot, Interflug (East Germany) Czechoslovak Airlines and Cubana…..all stopped there and many passengers got their first taste of freedom when allowed into the Gander Terminal Building while refueling…..then would defect during the stopover. http://articles.latimes.com/1985-07-22/ ... 6_1_gander
Canada would have an iconic Mountie ‘conveniently’ stationed in the waiting room whom passengers could approach and ask for refugee status in Canada.
This sign at the Airport recalls that era of flights to Cuba but now they’re for Snowbirds looking for the warm beaches in winter:
I also did a bit of Airport Archaeology at Botwood about 40 miles west of Gander……and found the original Terminal Building used by Pan Am in the late 1930’s through the mid ‘40s during the Flying Boat Era. (see my other post here for more photos and timetables)viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1431847
Now back to Deer Lake on the Trans Canada Highway across central Newfoundland and to the start of the Viking Trail. The trail runs 430 km up the west coast to St. Anthony and the 1000-year-old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site……almost at the very tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. I think of this a being way up north…..but to put it into perspective…..it’s at 51.6 N…..about the same latitude as London UK!
Heading west from Deer Lake you first pass through Gros Morne National Park with Fiords and the distinct cropper/brown coloured Mantle Rock of the ‘Tablelands’
Continuing up the coast…..there’s long straight stretches of highway with little traffic and a pleasure to drive.
L’Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only authenticated Norse Settlement in North America……. established 500 years before Columbus.
The remains (footprint) of the sod buildings is quite evident around the site and Parks Canada has replicated how one of those buildings might have looked.
You can reach L’Anse aux Meadows by PAL Provincial Airlines at the small St. Anthony Airport:
An interesting item at the Viking Interpretive Centre is this old advertisement. “If the Viking had only been able…..they’d have flown BOAC”
…… Don’t think BOAC was ever flew into St. Anthony!!.....but they (and Scandinavian Airlines) did serve Gander for a number of years.
It had been sunny and warm and quite a contrast the wet drive the next day back down the coast to Dear Lake……then onto Port-aux-Basques and the Marine Atlantic Ferry back home to Nova Scotia!