Hamilton International Airport's remediation runway work provides bumpy ride to passengers

News provided by The Hamilton Spectator – link to full story, with a hint from P.N.

Nov 28, 2019 by Kevin Werner, Hamilton Mountain News

Hamilton International Airport
Hamilton International Airport is undergoing a four-year rehabilitation project on both its runways along with improving lighting. The airport received $18 million in June from the federal government for the work. – Kevin Werner/Torstar/file

Hamilton resident Robert Cooper, an experienced passenger on many airplane trips, had been flying in and out of Hamilton International Airport for a few months.

So, as his Swoop airplane — Flight 2010, on Oct. 3, in the late afternoon — was making an approach to land at Hamilton International Airport, an announcement was made informing the estimated 100 passengers that it would be an “abrupt” landing. He said the plane landed, and the pilot “slammed the brakes on, and everyone was thrown forward in their seats.

“I have never landed so abruptly in all my years of flying,” said Cooper. “I felt very unsafe.”

The announcement by the pilot on the plane, passengers bracing themselves for a bone-rattling landing and the subsequent sudden stop were an experience he doesn’t want to repeat again.

He said the reason for the shortened landing, he was told, was because the runway the airplane was using was too short.

“This is absolutely ridiculous that the airport runways are not being adequately maintained,” he said.

Cathie Puckering, president and chief executive officer of the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, said in an email that the facility started its airfield rehabilitation and modernization project in August to “fully restore” its two main runways. The airport has one runway that is 10,000-feet long while the other is 6,000-feet long.

The four-year project also includes improving the taxiways and lighting systems.

In June, the airport received $18.5 million from the federal government for its airfield rehabilitation and a modernization project to “support continued cargo and passenger traffic growth.”

The money was for “strengthening” the airport’s primary runway, which is one of southern Ontario’s longest, and improving the airport’s secondary and shorter runway.

Puckering said the airport has discussed the rehabilitation project with all its airlines and government agencies.

“Construction planning determined specific dates and times where the runway landing distance is reduced from its maximum length and continued consultation with the airlines and their chief pilots,” she said.

Alexandre Desjardins, senior communications adviser for Transport Canada said the department has not received any complaints regarding the runways at Hamilton Airport.

“The department does not have any immediate concerns regarding its runways,” he said.

A request for comment from Swoop Airlines was not returned.

Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins, who has been a frequent critic of the airport agreement with the city over the years, said the “biggest” outstanding issue with the airport has been its failure to extend the shorter of the two runways. He said extending the runway was supposed to have happened in the first 20 years of TradePort’s 40-year lease, which it signed with the city in 1996 to operate the facility.

“They won’t do that,” said Collins in a recent interview.

The city spent more than $17 million buying about 308 acres of land around the airport from 2004 to 2014, about half devoted to a long-promised runway extension.

About $10 million was invested in land at the southwest end of the airport for a 914-metre runway expansion that was supposed to have been finished by 2016. But the airport’s operator has yet to make the necessary investment, said Collins.

Franck Scremin, the former CEO for Hamilton International Airport, who moved on to LaGuardia Airport in New Jersey, operated by Vantage Airports, told councillors in 2016 that the north/south runway isn’t in the company’s plans.

“We don’t have the demand to justify the investment,” he told councillors. “It’s not on for the near term.”

Since the incident, Cooper has been flying into Toronto’s Pearson Airport and then battling the traffic to get to his Hamilton home. He refuses to fly into Hamilton International Airport after the incident.

“Let’s hope the political leadership addresses this before an unnecessary tragedy unfolds,” he said.

Kevin Werner is a Regional Reporter for Hamilton Community News (Ancaster News, Dundas Star News, Mountain News and Stoney Creek News).