As a part of my position with the Company, I am required to gather Weather reports from various Outposts, Camps and Installations around Labrador. Some of these reports come in the form of “Well, I can see across the Bay and the Towers are clear.” so a bit of geographic familiarization is immensely useful.
Leaving Goose we had to take an IFR clearance as the weather in the local area was marginal at best. We even took a de-ice just for extra safety as while loading we had accumulated some sloppy snow.
After getting a few miles north of Goose Bay the Weather improved and we had a smooth ride to Nain at 9,500′. As it was a weekday and only about 10am by the time we were in the Nain area, there was the Innu Mikun and Air Labrador scheduled coastal flights all converging on the field.
The community of Nain is the most northerly settlement in the Province. It is also one of the larger Coastal Communities and the jumping-off point for tourists headed north into the Torngat National Park. One of the other notable features of Nain is its infamously short and gusty airstrip (CYDP). At almost 2,000′ long, gravel and perched on the edge of the shore with a bit of a bump in the middle of it… it can be a challenging spot for those not familiar with it.
It is worth noting for those that are planning on flying in this area of the Province that other than Nain, your only other places to refuel are in Makkovik (CYFT) and back in Goose Bay. Because of this, Nain can have a large amount of fixed wing and rotary traffic.
After arrival we took some fuel, gathered our additional passenger and blasted off of Runway 05. Even with a fair chunk of fuel onboard and a good 2000 pounds in the back the Twin Otter managed to pull us off with plenty of room to spare. The entire landscape from there on becomes increasingly barren and mountainous.
Our destination of Saglek Bay is a remote Radar Site which is a part of the North Warning System. Initially built in 1953 by the US Air Force, it was absorbed into NORAD’s NWS and designated LAB-2 in 1988.
Currently the site is unmanned so frequently my Company is chartered to bring maintenance crews up to Saglek or on occasion, tourists destined for the Park will also use the Airfield at LAB-2.
Thankfully the ceilings were high enough that we could make the leg from Nain to Saglek underneath the clouds the entire way. While I didn’t spot any wildlife other than some Seagulls, the Crew spotted a couple Black Bears startled by us flying past. Well, I spotted the iceberg but that hardly counts and I’ve already seen them before during my time in Nunavut. Still no Polar Bear yet!
As we approached Saglek, you can spot the Radar Site perched high atop the hill overlooking the Ocean. The Mountains here become sharp and very steep. Having grown up on Coastal British Columbia, it feels almost like home… But colder and less green! The runway is unlit and but still in fairly decent condition. Dash 8s and even a Boeing 737-200 would have no problems making use of it. There is a are the remnants of a PAPI system and I believe there used to be an NDB approach but these are long disused or removed.
After we arrived I got the Five Cent Tour (and really, I probably could have got change… haha) of the Site. Unfortunately the “Welcome to Saglek Bay – Population You” sign was missing but the vista from the Radar Site is absolutely fantastic! One can see why this region is a National Park.
Back down by the Airfield is a few pieces of wreckage from a USAF B-26 Marauder that crashed there in December of 1942. It is quite the interesting story and standing at the location where it all happened is a pretty neat feeling.
A darker side of the military presence there is that due to the lack of Environmental Regulations back in the 1940s, there is a large amount of contamination at many of the former installations across Canada. Currently there is a large clean-up program at many of the NWS Sites across the Arctic but at some spots it still remains. Saglek is no exception. While it is a beautiful location and I hear the fishing is excellent, when you go down to the beach on the site there is a large warning not to eat anything alive within five miles.
Other than the Beach, Radar Site and Bomber crash… that essentially concluded anything to see at the Site and our passengers had completed their work at the same time. After spending a little more than an hour on the ground, we loaded up and blasted off again. Rather than stop into Nain on our return to Goose Bay the Crew decided to opt for direct home. Thankfully our Twin Otter has tip tanks that gives us that flexibility when needed.
After departure we climbed up to 10,500′ for optimum groundspeed (which we got up to about 167 knots) and made the dash home. With some concerns about the weather in Goose Bay forecast it was nice to make it back before things dropped out on us.
It’s times like this that I really enjoy my job. Little excursions to little known and wild places makes up for all the daily headaches! There are still a number of communities on the Coast that I have to visit so there will be more features here in the future.