North of 60

Few places in the world offer as many challenges as Canada’s frozen north, where airlines must battle Arctic weather and rudimentary infrastructure to maintain crucial lifelines to remote settlements. James Careless examines the hazards these carriers face.

Airlines serving Northern Canada face a multitude of hazards, from prolonged darkness, freezing weather and blinding blizzards to rudimentary infrastructure, short gravel runways and few navigational aids.

Canada is often described as a picturesque winter wonderland. Cold weather months bring peculiar beauty to boreal bush and barren Arctic grounds. But the story is decidedly different for airlines and bush plane operators. Perennial darkness, temperatures dropping below −50 °C (−58 °F), blinding blizzards and disorientating ‘whiteout’ conditions – the loss of visual reference when the snowy landscape blends into cloud – all present major challenges. And then there’s the rudimentary infrastructure – short gravel runways, basic or in some cases non-existent terminal facilities, few navigational aids and no way of getting help quickly if things go ‘sideways’.

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