Update: Runway cleared for use at Penticton airport

Some flights arriving or departing from Penticton airport have been grounded due to a safety issue with the runway.

An aerial view of the Penticton airport.

UPDATE:

Transport Canada has confirmed full use of the runways at Penticton airport is now in effect.

“Penticton Airport has retained a certified arborist and has been working in co-operation with the landowners to address the trees. The trees on the approach to runways 16 and 34 have been cleared. The NOTAM limiting use of the runways will be removed,” said a Transport Canada spokesperson.

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UPDATE:

According to Transport Canada the issue with trees at the Penticton airport that has stopped flights in the dark is soon to be resolved.

“Penticton Airport has retained a certified arborist and has been working in co-operation with the land owners to address the trees. Work is ongoing on runway 16. The trees on the approach to runway 34 has been cleared. The NOTAM will be updated accordingly,” said Roxane Marchand, manager, media relations at Transport Canada.

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Some flights arriving or departing from the Penticton airport have been grounded due to a safety issue with the runway.

Both Air Canada Jazz and WestJet Encore confirmed they cancelled a number of flights over the weekend that arrive or depart in the dark.

“Out of an abundance of caution, WestJet is currently not flying into Penticton at night because of a safety issue we are having with the runway lights being blocked by trees,” said Lauren Stewart, media spokesperson with WestJet, who added they cancelled Monday’s early morning flight as well.

Transport Canada, who owns and operates the Penticton airport, said a recent safety management system compliance audit identified height issues with some trees at both ends of the runway that exceeded acceptable limits.

“In response to this survey, the Penticton airport displaced the runway thresholds, which increased the approach angle an airplane must take to maintain safe obstacle clearance,” said Natasha Gauthier, senior media relations advisor with Transport Canada. “However, doing so also reduced the useable length of the runway. These changes will remain in place until all the affected trees are addressed.”

As a result both Air Canada and WestJet have redirected their evening flights until the issue has been rectified. Gauthier said they are working with the land owners and air operators to have the issue resolved as quickly as possible, but offered not timeline.

It left at least one Penticton couple looking for reimbursement from the airline they were flying with.

Dwayne Hutchinson was on the bus to the Victoria airport when he received an email informing him the AirCanada Jazz connecting flight from Vancouver to Penticton was cancelled.

“I was pretty perturbed because we were not getting straight answers,” he said on Monday. “They said the flight was rescheduled for the next morning but they wouldn’t reimburse us for the stay in Vancouver, which was more expensive than the flight. We were told it was not the airline’s fault that they couldn’t fly into Penticton airport. At first we were told the lights weren’t working on the runway then someone explained the trees at the end were blocking the runway lights.”

Hutchinson and his wife caught a flight to Kelowna and had to make their own arrangements to get back to Penticton. He asked for reimbursement for the transportation he had to find to Penticton and was again told it was not the airline’s fault.

“It was a big inconvenience to us. We were basically left on our own to figure out our way home,” said Hutchinson, adding it now leaves him with second thoughts about flying out of the Penticton airport. “Yes for sure. Guaranteed I won’t be booking flights that arrive or depart in the dark. We are still going to go after reimbursement as well.”

AirCanada Jazz said their flight operations department is reviewing night operations at the Penticton airport.

“We are in close contact with the Penticton airport as they work on a temporary solution to the runway approach,” said Manon Stuart, manger of corporate communications with AirCanada Jazz. “In the interim, we are working on solutions for continuing to operate the Penticton-Vancouver schedule, such as utilizing Kelowna airport and providing ground transportation.”

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