Officials inaugurate Puvirnituq’s spiffy new airport terminal April 22

Terminal inspired by qamutik theme


An Air Inuit jet is parked in front of the new air terminal in Puvirnituq. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE KRG)

An Air Inuit jet is parked in front of the new air terminal in Puvirnituq. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE KRG)

Quebec and Nunavik officials have inaugurated Puvirnituq’s new $6.5 million air terminal.

Sylvain Gaudreault, Quebec’s minister of transport, municipal affairs, regions and land occupancy, Maggie Emudluk, chairperson of the Kativik Regional Government, and Andy Moorhouse, Makivik Corp.’s corporate secretary, were on hand for the official opening of the new terminal — part of a $45-million, multi-year makeover of the airport.

“The recent upgrades to the Puvirnituq airport and the development of regional air transportation services in the past 30 years are the result of a positive relationship between Nunavik, Quebec and Canada,” Emudluk said in a news release. “These airports play an essential role in our communities, and it is now up to us to preserve them and to keep them in good condition.”

The governments of Canada and Quebec spent more than $45 million between 2009 and 2012 at the airport, to extend the runway to 6,300 feet, enlarge the aircraft apron, construct a new garage and a new air terminal building, and relocate the airport access road and navigation aid equipment.

For the terminal, the community suggested a qamutik theme to Alain Fournier, an architect with Fournier, Gersovitz, Moss and Associates, who is also working on the design for the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay.

If you look at the outside of the copper-clad terminal, you’ll see qamutik-inspired decorations — which are intended to look almost as if someone leaned a giant-sized qamutik against the wall and left it there.

Inside, the qamutik theme is carried on, with the terminal’s undulating wooden roof recalling a moving qamutik.

A blown-up image of a print by the great, late artist Davidaluk Amittu was moved from the old terminal to the new one.

Overall, travellers will find there’s much more room in the new terminal. At 10,000 square feet, it’s four times larger than the previous terminal.

The terminal also includes airline counters, baggage rooms, a security section and a space for a retail operation.

The terminal’s exterior is wrapped in metal cladding, with airtight walls and double vestibules at the entrances to hold heat during the winter.

While there’s no security now in place at the Puvirnituq airport, a space has been left for the equipment, which many want to see in operation. This would mean aircraft leaving Puvirnituq would no longer have to make a scheduled stop in La Grande before heading on to Montreal.

Unlike the new air terminal in Kuujjuaq, Puvirnituq’s terminal features a built-in radio tower.

As a result of longer runway, the Puvirnituq airport can now accommodate large-capacity jets, such as Air Inuit’s Boeing 737-200C aircraft.

The landing strip extension also provides better access in poor weather conditions for the Challenger medical evacuation aircraft of the Quebec Government Air Service when patients need to be flown out of Puvirnituq’s Inuulitsivik Health Centre to Montreal.

“Since 1978, the Makivik Corp. has invested substantial amounts through its subsidiaries Air Inuit and First Air to ensure daily air connections, for both passengers and cargo, between Nunavik communities, making Nunavik one of the best served remote regions in terms of air transportation,” Moorhouse said. “Infrastructure upgrades like these in Puvirnituq answer essential needs for the community and the whole region and will serve greatly in terms of future development.”

The evolution of the air terminal in Puvirnituq shows the progress of air transportation along Nunavik’s Hudson Bay coast, which has changed from makeshift airstrips to jet service in the past 20 years.

Before the early 1990s, when an air terminal was finally built in Puvirnituq, then known as Povungnituk — check-ins took place at the informal Air Inuit counter in town and baggage pick-up meant the passenger picked up his or her own bag after it was tossed on to the ground, and often into the snow.

Frequent flyers back in the 1980s can recall how landings on the community’s shorter-than-average runway were heart-stopping at the best of times.

As for the take-offs, pilots would back the Twin Otters up as far as they could to the end of the 900-foot strip, clamp the brakes down hard and push the engines to full power until every single rivet and tooth in the plane shook, and only then would they suddenly let the brakes go and head into the air.

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