Bet you didn’t know that Banff had an airport. Before you go on Expedia and try to book a flight to CYBA, don’t bother, you can’t. And no, it’s not an international airport, or even an airport really, that just made for a cool sounding title. Anyway, what’s the deal with this airstrip at Banff?
Yes, there is an airstrip right outside the town of Banff. At 400 feet wide and 3000 feet long it is perhaps a bit shorter than the runway in Calgary which is 14,000 feet long.
Here we have the international departures terminal at Banff international. Perhaps not as big as Heathrow, but pretty similar in style and ambiance.
The duty free gift shop has…. Tires. Why not treat your loved ones with some of the best rubber Banff has to offer? (Side note: while in Banff, be sure you use a rubber, rumor has it that Banff is the STD capital of North America).
Uh-oh, the weather has turned for the worse. Better check the departures board to ensure my flight hasn’t been delayed.
Okay, okay, poor jokes aside. What’s the story here? The very first airplane to land in Banff was a 5-passenger Stinson Detroiter SB-1 on the frozen bow river in January 1929. In 1933, somebody decided that Banff should get an airport for all the tourists coming out this way. It took some time, with a few false starts, (mainly due to the great depression) but in 1937 the Banff airport opened for business with $15 flights between Calgary and Banff.
The airport was extremely difficult to fly into. The surrounding mountains made for a very steep approach angle to the airstrip. The runway sits at about 1400 meters elevation and the surrounding mountains are as high as 3048m making for an exciting dive toward the airport. This sign reads “This airport is maintained and subsidized by the Banff Flying club. Any donations will be greatly appreciated.” Sorry, I don’t have any change on me.
Combine that steep approach with rapid changes in wind direction and speed along with wind shear and you have a recipe for disaster. In the 1980’s, the government conducted a study on the airport and concluded it should be closed as not only was it dangerous to fly into but also harmed the local natural environment.
The airport was however allowed to remain open for emergencies only. Parks Canada still plows the airstrip in the winter and mows the grass in the summer. Fire Extinguisher here I believe, I didn’t try it, I wasn’t on fire.
If you do happen to find yourself using this airstrip for an emergency landing, you need a permit from the Banff warden to take off again. I assume the park warden has a gun and wouldn’t be happy about the extra paperwork you caused him (or her). This is something I don’t need to worry about however, as my private jet is in the shop right now…. And doesn’t actually exist.
On the plus side, they have a snowbrush to clean off your plane before you leave again. In 1996 they conducted a study to see if they should completely remove the airstrip and return it to a natural state. In that decade the airstrip averaged 10-18 emergency landings each year, with 2-4 of those resulting in accidents. So for now, the airstrip stays but as aircraft technology improves the future of this airstrip looks bleak.
I assume this used to have a pay phone inside it, it is not there anymore.
You can tell this has been here a while, 7 digit phone number!
While snooping around I noted these fluorescent ribbons in the trees. Lucky for you, I like exploring and decide only good could come from following the ribbons into the forest.
After walking a couple minutes I find Banff International’s bathroom.
I’ve seen worse airport bathrooms.
If the steep approach angle, wind shear and bathroom facilities don’t have you convinced to pick Calgary Airport over Banff International, perhaps the fact it is right at the bottom of an avalanche run-out would make you think twice.
I suppose the view from the bathroom at Banff International would be hard to beat but unfortunately I suspect this airports days are numbered. An interesting part of Banff’s history none the less.