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Gander International Airport

Gander International Airport
WMO: 71803
Airport type Public
Owner Transport Canada[1]
Operator Gander International Airport Authority
Serves Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador
Time zone NST (UTC−03:30)
 • Summer (DST) NDT (UTC−02:30)
Elevation AMSL 496 ft / 151 m
Transport Canada airport diagram
Transport Canada airport diagram
CYQX is located in Newfoundland and Labrador
Location in Newfoundland and Labrador
Direction Length Surface
ft m
03/21 10,200 3,109 Asphalt
13/31 8,900 2,713 Asphalt
Statistics (2010)
Aircraft movements 35,905

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


  • History 1
    • Early years and prominence 1.1
    • Transatlantic refueling stop 1.2
    • Operation Yellow Ribbon 1.3
  • Future growth 2
  • Facilities 3
    • Runways 3.1
    • Fire services 3.2
  • Airlines and destinations 4
  • Fixed base operators (FBOs) 5
    • Public 5.1
    • Military 5.2
  • Accidents and incidents 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


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

Following Newfoundland's entry into Confederation, the government renamed the airport Gander Airport and it came under the administration of Canada's federal Department of Transport. Numerous improvements were made to the runways and terminals.

Gander is near the great circle route between cities of the U.S. East Coast and London. Starting in the 1940s it was a refueling stop for transatlantic flights to Scotland, Ireland and beyond, and continued in this role through the early 1960s. Carriers at Gander during this era included:

  • Air France ran several services through Gander connecting Paris and Shannon to Montreal, Boston and New York in the 1950s.[5]
  • American Overseas Airlines used Gander as stop for Lockheed Constellation flights between New York and London from 1947.[6]
  • British Overseas Airways Corporation operated Constellations on London-Shannon-Gander-New York, London-Glasgow-Gander-New York and London-Glasgow-Gander-Montreal routings from 1947.[7] By 1960 the Gander stop was only used as an alternative to a Glasgow or Shannon stop for Bristol Britannia service to Montreal and Toronto.[8]
  • KLM used Gander as a stop on Amsterdam-Glasgow-Gander-New York service from 1946.[9]
  • Pan American World Airways used Gander as a stop for transatlantic Douglas DC-4 service between New York-Idlewild and Shannon (continuing to London and Lisbon) starting in 1946.[10] Gander remained in use in 1960 as a stop for Douglas DC-7 services between New York and Scandinavia, although other transatlantic flights bypassed Gander by that point.[11]
  • Sabena operated Brussels-Shannon-Gander-New York service from 1949 using Douglas DC-6s.[12]
  • Scandinavian Airlines operated Stockholm-Oslo/Copenhagen-Prestwick-Gander-New York service from 1946.[13]
  • Trans-Canada Air Lines used Gander as a stop for transatlantic service to London from 1946 and also operated local service from Gander to St. John's and Sydney.[14]
  • Trans World Airlines operated Boston-Gander-Shannon and Boston-Gander-Azores-Lisbon services from 1947 using Constellations, with onward service to destinations in Europe, the Middle East and India.[15]

Runway 04/22 was extended from 8,400 to 10,500 ft (2,600 to 3,200 m) in 1971.[16]

With the advent of jets with longer range in the 1960s most flights no longer needed to refuel. Gander has decreased in importance, but it remains the home of Gander Control, one of the two air traffic controls (the other being Shanwick Oceanic Control in western Ireland) which direct the high-level airways of the North Atlantic. Most aircraft 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 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[17] and the Vietnamese woman famously photographed fleeing a napalmed village, Phan Thi Kim Phuc). It was one of the few refueling points where airplanes could stop en route from eastern Europe or the Soviet Union to Cuba.

In late 1985, Gander was the site of the Arrow Air Flight 1285 disaster, in which a McDonnell Douglas DC-8 with 256 people on board crashed during takeoff due to atmospheric icing; there were no survivors. The crash was and remains to date the deadliest airplane accident on Canadian soil.[18]

Operation Yellow Ribbon

On September 11, 2001, with United States airspace closed due to the terrorist attacks, Gander International played host to 38 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 6,595 passengers and crew accounted for the third highest total of passengers that landed at a Canadian airport involved in the operation, behind Vancouver and Halifax.

A major reason that Gander received so much traffic was its ability to handle large aircraft, and because Transport Canada and Nav Canada instructed pilots coming from Europe to avoid the airports in major urban centres of Central Canada, like Toronto Pearson International Airport and Montréal-Dorval.[19] The reception these travellers 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,[20] and was the first 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. Over 50% of all aircraft operating from the air field are military, and do not pay landing fees.[21] However, domestic passenger traffic increased by over seven percent in 2006, while weekly cargo flights from Iceland show some promise of expansion.

In April 2014, Gander Airport Authority decided on plans to abandon the existing terminal building due to high operating costs and replace it with a new terminal a quarter of the size. The fate of the old building is uncertain. The terminal, which was built in the 1950s and has drawn continuing worldwide interest for its modernist design, has been recognized by other Canadian institutions as a valuable piece of heritage architecture and has many of its original furnishings and fixtures still intact.[22]



Gander has two active runways: runway 13/31 which is 8,900 ft × 200 ft (2,713 m × 61 m), and runway 03/21 (changed from 04/22 in August 2004) which measures 10,500 ft × 200 ft (3,200 m × 61 m) and undergone a $10 million comprehensive rehabilitation project completed in September 2012.

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

Fire services

Gander Airport Safety and Airside Operations is responsible for fire and rescue operations using three vehicles at their station within the airport. It also has a mutual aid agreement with the Town of Gander Fire Department to provide additional fire fighting services.[23] The airport fire crew is a mix of full-time and volunteers with total crew of 14.[23]

Airlines and destinations

Airlines Destinations
Air Canada Seasonal: Toronto-Pearson [24]
Air Canada Express Goose Bay, Halifax, St. John's, Wabush
Exploits Valley Air Services Seasonal: Goose Bay, Iqaluit
Sunwing Airlines Seasonal: Orlando
Seasonal charter: Punta Cana, Toronto-Pearson
WestJet Toronto-Pearson
WestJet Encore Halifax

Fixed base operators (FBOs)

The following fixed-base operators are based at Gander International Airport:[2]



  • Woodward's Oil Limited

Accidents and incidents

Since the airport's founding in 1938 and through the course of World War II and subsequent beginnings of transoceanic air travel, there have been dozens of crashes around Gander of fighters, bombers, freighters, sea planes, radar aircraft, civilian airliners and private craft.

The crash site of the DC-4 in Newfoundland.
  • On 18 September 1946, 27 people lost their lives when a SABENA Douglas DC-4 (OO-CBG) crashed 35 km short of Gander Airport, where the aircraft planned to land for a refueling stop on the flight from Brussels to New York. At the time of the accident (07:42 UTC), there was dense fog near the airport, and the pilot executed a flawed approach at too low an altitude. There were 17 survivors (16 passengers and one crew).[25]
  • On 5 September 1967 an Ilyushin Il-18 (registration OK-WAI) of Ceskoslovenske Aerolinie (ČSA) Flight 523 crashed on climbout heading east on runway 13 while on a Prague-Shannon-Gander-Havana passenger service, killing 37 of 69 on board; the cause was never determined.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ Airport Divestiture Status Report
  2. ^ a b Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 24 July 2014 to 0901Z 18 September 2014
  3. ^ Synoptic/Metstat Station Information
  4. ^ Total aircraft movements by class of operation — NAV CANADA towers
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Aviation Daily 21 May 1971 p117, 8 Nov 1971 p47
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  19. ^
  20. ^ D-AIFC at
  21. ^ Gander airport warns it could close without Ottawa's help
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^
  25. ^

External links

  • Gander International Airport
  • Tales of Gander hospitality on September 11 (
  • Past three hours METARs, SPECI and current TAFs for Gander International Airport from Nav Canada as available.
  • Accident history for Gander International Airport at Aviation Safety Network
  • NBC News feature featuring Tom Brokaw: "A Tribute to Gander, Newfoundland ", February 27, 2010
  • New York Times travel article. Gollner, Adam. "Gander Airport: When the Going Was Good", 20 March 2005
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