Feds investing $12.1M in Fond du Lac airport 14 months after crash

News provided by Saskatoon StarPhoenix, with a hint from K.W. – Thsnks

The new money will be used to rehabilitate the remote airport’s runway and install new lighting systems.

Alex MacPherson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix Updated: February 14, 2019

The remains of a West Wind Aviation ATR-42 that crashed after taking off from Fond du Lac on Dec. 13, 2017.(SUPPLIED/TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD OF CANADA) / SASKATOON

The federal government says it is spending $12.1 million on major upgrades at the Fond du Lac airport in northern Saskatchewan.

The announcement comes just over a year after a West Wind Aviation airliner crashed shortly after taking off from Fond du Lac, and three months after Canada’s aviation safety watchdog recommended major changes to remote airports.

“The community of Fond du Lac was profoundly touched by tragic events in 2017,” said Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan, who made the announcement on behalf of Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

The new money will pay for rehabilitation of the runway and taxiway, a new approach path indicator and better runway and taxiway lighting systems, which “will help ensure the continued safety and reliability of operations at the Fond du Lac airport,” O’Regan said in a statement. 

All 25 people on board the West Wind ATR-42 were injured when it crashed moments after taking off on Dec. 13, 2017. One person, 19-year-old Arson Fern Jr., died two weeks later in a Saskatoon hospital.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, but the independent agency has made it clear that the airliner took off “contaminated” with ice.

People living in the community have previously raised concerns about the quality of the airport, speculating that the comparatively short 3,800-foot runway and poor lighting could have contributed to the crash.

The funding comes from the federal Airports Capital Assistance Program. Last year, the provincial government indicated it was eyeing money from that program to lengthen the Fond du Lac airport’s runway.

Fond du Lac is not accessible by traditional road. The only ways in and out are by air, ice road or barge. The airport is one of 17 remote airfields owned by the province, which cost a total of $2 million each year to maintain.

O’Regan also announced $392,548 under the same program that will be used to replace the airfield lighting control system and build a sand storage shed at La Ronge (Barber Field) Airport.