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How To Build An Airstrip On The Tundra

How To Build An Airstrip On The Tundra

With your bare hands
By Samia Madwar
Feb 12
2016
From the February 2016 Issue

In 1977, then-RCMP officer Ted Grant flew to Alexandra Fiord, on the east coast of Ellesmere Island, to build an airstrip. “We were in a Twin Otter with big tundra tires,” recalls Grant. “We circled, circled and circled, and came in and landed. When we stopped, the nose and wheels were about four feet away from a 20-foot gully.” Grant had one week to clear a 200-metre airstrip for future incoming flights. “It’s all tundra in there, but there are big rocks,” he says—about the size of shopping carts. “Using a smaller rock and a pry bar, you roll them off easy enough.” Within a week, “I made an airstrip good enough to land on.” Today, kayakers get dropped off there as a starting point for Arctic Ocean trips. It’s a basic runway, but it’s kept Twin Otters out of that gully for 40 years.