Update: Terrace-Kitimat airport landing system failure halts flights

Flights were cancelled and delayed after the navigation system used to land planes in bad weather failed this morning

The instrument landing system is used to guide planes approaching the runway in low-visibilty conditions. The system failed this morning at the Terrace-Kitimat Northwest Regional Airport.

Only two flights have taken off and no flights have landed at the Terrace-Kitimat Northwest Regional Airport since an error was discovered in the navigation system used to land planes in bad weather this morning but business is expected to be back to normal by tomorrow.

A notice from airport manager Carman Hendry said that as of 4 p.m. the instrument landing system has been repaired and released for service.

“Business is expected to be back to normal by tomorrow April 16, 2015,” read the notice. “Please contact your airline for more information regarding your flight.”

The situation made for a hectic day at the airport.

“We have a fair amount of people in the terminal building,” said Hendry earlier this afternoon.

A flight arriving this morning had to be diverted to Smithers when an error in the instrument landing system was discovered around 8:30 a.m. on the plane’s approach. The instrument landing system uses lights and radio signals to guide planes approaching the runway when visibility is low.

This is the second time in two months an error in the navigation system has impacted flights. Hendry explained that the system is near the end of its life cycle and is scheduled to be replaced by Nav Canada – the non-profit corporation that is in charge of Canada’s air navigation system, including the landing system – this June.

But Hendry said there is no public safety issue and that Terrace has Nav Canada technicians on staff at the airport to monitor and fix the equipment. Two of those technicians worked throughout the day to fix the equipment failure.

“I don’t think there is any kind of public safety issue there at all, no,” said Hendry. “It usually never happens.”

Hendry said travellers should check with their airlines for more details on flight delays of cancellations.

“All of the airlines are doing their best to reschedule and accommodate,” he said.

Nav Canada is a non-profit corporation that is in charge of Canada’s air navigation system. It provides 24-hour pilot services from the Terrace-Kitimat airport.

Installed in 2002, the Terrace-Kitimat airport was the first mountain airport in Canada to implement the internationally standardized instrument landing system, according to the airport’s website. Hendry said there aren’t any better alternatives to the system.

This story has been updated throughout.