THUNDER BAY — Aircraft are again using the primary runway at Thunder Bay Airport, but the resumption of jet service is still over a month away.
The runway had been inaccessible to pilots since the beginning of May, when a $20 million upgrade began.
The only option in the meantime has been the shorter, secondary runway, which at times has led to flights being cancelled, diverted or delayed due to unfavourable weather conditions such as low clouds.
Airport CEO Ed Schmidtke says travellers will notice that the airport has switched back to using the primary runway, but that the alternate runway is closed.
The rebuilding of the main runway began at the east end and proceeded westerly.
It has reached the intersection with the secondary runway, which necessitates its temporary shutdown.
The primary runway is still shorter than normal because not all the work has been completed, so scheduled jet service won't return in Thunder Bay for another five weeks or so.
"We expect to have the full length back in operation by Oct. 31 and be available for jet service again starting Nov. 1," Schmidtke said Thursday.
He said the complex project, which includes infrastructure improvements besides resurfacing, has proceeded smoothly for the most part.
"It's very complicated work with the need to make sure it proceeds safely while we have an active airfield going. Weather hasn't always been our friend. It's been much wetter this summer, which has caused delays."
Schmidtke believes the inconvenience to airport operations will pay off in the long run.
"The value is going to be in the increased availability...because we've got newer approach lights and runway lights that are easier to see and provide better guidance," he said.
He added that the new pavement should ensure the principal runway operates at full capacity for the next 20 years or so.