Coming on the heels of warnings about possible flight cancellations and delays at Penticton Regional Airport, an inbound flight Saturday night was forced to return to Calgary when it was unable to land here.
According to a WestJet spokesperson, Flight WS3267 left the snowy Alberta airport just after 9 p.m. that night, performed an “air turnback as the ceiling was below our operating limits.”
It’s not known if the decision by Transport Canada to reduce the runway threshold (shorten the landing strip) was a factor in the turn back.
The runway was shortened by 470 feet because of an obstacle at the north end of the runway, a 70-foot high exhaust system at Greenwood Forest Products mill which Transport Canada advised could affect specific navigational aids that could cause problems for some flights at night or in poor weather.
Hayley Bennett of Penticton was one of the passengers on Saturday’s flight, on the last leg of her return trip home from visiting family in Ontario.
“So we flew all the way to Penticton — we were right here — and they said ‘we’re going to try the approach,’ and the plane went down, down and then all of a sudden it went way back up and the pilot said ‘Sorry folks we’re going back to Calgary,” said Bennett, who usually flies once or twice a month for work. “Of course at that point, all of us had the same questions, ‘Can we not circle and try again? Can we not try Kelowna and get a shuttle? Are there not any other options other going all the way back to Calgary?’
“People were like ‘Seriously?’ because we all knew that once we go back, that’s where we’re staying and we’re not getting out of there.”
But there were no other alternatives and Bennett, who was sick, spent Saturday night at Calgary International Airport instead of in her bed at home.
“I mean, for me, it’s not the end of the world, life could be worse, but for elderly people, it’s definitely a challenge,” she said. “Of course, when we get back to Calgary everybody just runs to the customer service desk and people who don’t have the greatest mobility are stuck in the back of the pack, and by the time they get there the options are even more limited. It’s not a super great thing.”
The next WestJet flight to Penticton, which was Sunday was at 2:15 p.m., didn’t work for Bennett so she opted to take an earlier plane to Kelowna, which also meant having to rent a car one-way.
“It was a fiasco, that’s for sure,” she said, adding she got stuck in Vancouver for the same reason last year. “Sometimes in the winter, because I know in the winter there can be issues flying into Penticton, I definitely have chosen to fly into Kelowna more often than not.
“Last year after that winter flight (out of Vancouver that was cancelled) I opted to fly into Kelowna which is a pain in the butt because it costs more money to park there and it’s a longer drive to get home. Penticton is by far more convenient.”
A spokesperson for Air Canada Express – Jazz said there were no cancellations or turnbacks on its weekend flights in and out of Penticton.
Meanwhile, Transport Canada is working with Greenwood Forest Products to try and find a solution to the problem which has resulted in the shortened runway.