Pilot’s log: Sunday, May 3, 2020

Origin:Gander International Airport (CYQX), Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Destination:Goose Bay Airport (CYYR), Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Distance:394 miles

Welcome to the second leg of our around-the-world flight adventure! Today we’ve departed from the Canadian city of Gander and we’re heading north/northwest to our next destination: Goose Bay, a remote community in the sparsely populated area of Newfoundland known as Labrador.

Before we say goodbye to Gander, did you know the airport played a big role in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001? A total of 38 passenger planes flying the North Atlantic to the U.S. and Canada were ordered to divert to Gander, bringing more than 6,000 people to the community for several days. In what became known as “Operation Yellow Ribbon,” local residents opened the community to host the unexpected visitors. The experience was later turned into a hit musical stage play, “Come From Away.”

Today’s flight deck video shows us approaching Goose Bay from the southwest, along the Churchill River. Look how different the landscape appears as we make our way north to go “up and over” the North Atlantic on our way to Europe. The winters are long, trees are shorter, and the area is mostly wilderness. We’re about 600 miles from the nearest big community, Quebec City, and only one road (the Trans-Labrador Highway) links Goose Bay to the rest of Canada.

Despite its distant location, Goose Bay became a key air base in World War II when it was necessary for airplanes such as our DC-3 to get from the U.S. to Europe to help in the war effort. For a time during the North Atlantic “ferry” operation, Goose Bay was one of the busiest airfields in the world, with hundreds of aircraft stopping to refuel as they hopped their way over the far north.

The airfield continues in use today, and as “CFB Goose Bay” serves as home to one of the largest bases of the Royal Canadian Air Force. From here, patrols of the “5 Wing Goose Bay” cover a vast area of eastern and Arctic Canada. Did you know that in term of land mass, Canada is the second-largest nation on Earth? Do you know which country is No. 1? Do you know where the United States ranks?

As a military airfield, CFB Goose Bay boasts two of the longest airstrips in the far north. Runway 8/26 is 11,051 feet in length: enough for it to serve as an emergency runway for NASA’s space shuttle program from 1981 to 2011. In 1983, a NASA Boeing 747 transport aircraft carrying the Space Shuttle Enterprise landed at Goose Bay to refuel on its way to a European tour. This was the first time that a Space Shuttle ever “landed” outside the United States.

Although no major airline serves Goose Bay, occasionally westbound trans-Atlantic flights (from Europe to North America) must land and refuel if they get slowed by a particularly strong jetstream headwind during the flight over. Can you find out what the jetstream is, and what causes it? And why would it slow down an airliner?

Who lives up here? Goose Bay (and its sister community, Happy Valley) is home to only about 8,000 people. Before Europeans came to North America, these lands were home to Native American tribes who maintain a strong presence in the area. Today, just under half of the town’s population are descendants of the original tribes.

In fact, 3,380 people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay identify as Métis or Inuit. This gives Happy Valley-Goose Bay the second-highest population of people of Inuit descent of any municipality in Canada. Despite this, English is the common language. Fewer than 300 people in the community can speak an Aboriginal language, meaning the language of their Native American ancestors.

Okay, rest up for our next segment, in which we’ll hop across the frigid waters of the Labrador Sea and chart a course even further north to the icy world of Greenland! See you for our next flight on Tuesday, May 5!

Resources to learn more about today’s flight:

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