Airport Hopping Along the Coast – 2
(.....and Palmjet......this one’s for you with hopes you do get to come back someday for the Twotter ride after your misadventure last year!)
Work once again had me travelling to the Innu Aboriginal Community of Natuashish located along the Labrador coast in eastern Canada and was basically a repeat of a trip of three years ago.
The trip began Sunday afternoon on an Air Canada Express CRJ200 from Halifax to Goose Bay. At the adjacent gate in Halifax was the daily Air Canada ‘767 just in from Heathrow and a United ERJ145 heading for EWR
I snagged a window seat (with an empty aisle next to me) for the quick 70 minute flight up to YYR
. Cabin service consisted of complementary juice and a Buy on Board snack. Arrival into Goose Bay was a few minutes early then it was onto the Hotel North for an overnight stay.
High winds and heavy rain woke me during the night and I thought this doesn’t look good......but the taxi was waiting to get us to the airport for 6:30 am. Check-in at Air Labrador was quick and I received a boarding pass that included an itinerary showing the schedule for our Airport Hopping along the coast.
Instead of proceeding through security to wait, everyone just gathered on the benches in the arrivals area next to Gate 1 to await the boarding call.......no security or ID
check on these flights! It continued to rain and just before our 7:25 departure.......the dreaded “we’re in a Weather-Hold” announcement with an update to be provided at 8:30. And again, the ceiling was still too low at the coastal airports. Same at 9:30 but at 10:15......”we’ll be boarding in 10 minutes” as the Twin Otter rolled up!
We boarded Air Labrador flight WJ200, a DeHavilland DHC6 Twin Otter in the pouring rain. I grabbed a single seat on the left just opposite the prop and we headed into clouds and pouring rain. Just off the end of 08-26 I noted the “Northern Ranger” coastal boat ready to leave on its weekly run, also heading for Natuashish. But it would take it 2 days.....we’ll do it in a little over 2 hours.
Our first stop along the coast should have been Rigolet, but the low ceiling there kept us out. We flew direct to Postville YSO then had a 10 minute hop over to Makkovik YMN (a reverse of the usual route). The Government of Newfoundland & Labrador maintains airports along the Labrador coast at several communities that would otherwise be inaccessible except by coastal boat. Each has a 2500’ x 100’ lighted, gravel runway, apron and terminal building……basically a 2-story steel services building with a small waiting area. Makkovik was a 15minute stop where everyone got off and just casually walked around while the aircraft was refueled.
Hopedale YHO was next but only long enough to exchange a couple of passenger before continuing to Natuashish YNP.
As we proceeded north the weather improved revealing some scenic approaches into the small airports with broken cloud now for our 3 hour late arrival at Natuashish. And the weather just kept getting better the rest of the week.....sunny and mild. Living in Halifax, I think of this area as being “way up north” but Natuashish is at about the same latitude as Glasgow, Scotland........and Goose Bay.......about as far north as Edmonton AB
or Manchester UK.
The airport in Natuashish was busy with several scheduled flights each day on two airlines: besides Air Labrador, there’s Innu-Mikun (Provincial Airlines) and also cargo flights.
Natuashish is a fairly new community built over the past 10 to 12 years. It’s rather isolated and besides the airport, the one main road about 8km long also links to the coastal boat wharf where the “Northern Ranger” arrives weekly. There is no road access to the outside.
We were back at the Airport on Friday morning for the continuation of Air Labrador flight WJ200. Heavy fog in Goose Bay earlier that morning was delaying flights and ours was operating about an hour late. First in was Innu-Mikun Airlines....... followed shortly by Air Labrador.
It was a quick 20 minute flight further north to Nain
YDP, and again everyone got off and just walked around the ramp while the aircraft was refueled for the non-stop 370 mile flight back to Goose Bay on a clear, sunny day. I grabbed a seat at the back next to a window.....and look at that leg-room........nearly 6’ and probably as close as you’ll get to “First Class” comfort on a Twin Otter!
Back in Goose Bay we had another overnight as the non-stop to YHZ
goes earlier in the day. We could have gone over to YYT
(Torbay (St. John’s) with a connection onto YHZ
but settled for another night at the Hotel North and the Friday evening Seafood Buffet! (well worth the stopover)
It was a sunny and warm fall afternoon (20C/70F) so we grabbed a rental and did some touring along the Trans Labrador Highway. Goose Bay is the service centre for the surrounding areas and has a population of around 12,000......but it’s a long drive to any other community so make sure your tank is filled........
Goose was once a large US Air Force Base during the cold war and the large expanses of ramp areas and hangers that once dispatched B-52s are now largely empty except for flights in to refuel before or after they cross the pond.
On Saturday morning we were back at YYR
for Air Canada Express 8898......a CRJ200 to Halifax on another clear, sunny morning. But unlike the casual atmosphere of Air Labrador......it was a full security screening prior to boarding.
About halfway through the one hour flight, we were over the Gulf of St. Lawrence with an excellent view of the Iles-de-la-Madeleine and Cape Breton off to the east......then it was on into YHZ
for an early arrival at 0950.
[Edited 2013-10-05 20:54:41]