Italian aeronautics team bunks in Iqaluit for the night

Iqaluit Airport had some unexpected visitors on June 13 as the Italian aeronautics team made an unexpected landing at Iqaluit Airport at around 2:30 p.m.

The 11 Aermacchi jets and two support aircraft stopped overnight to refuel on its way to Greenland. The size of the jet engines are such that the ability to fly long distances is not the goal of this specific machine, but rather the increased manoeuvrability in small spaces.

“I was flying ahead of them, and it came over the [air traffic control] waves," recounted a pilot who wished to remain anonymous in speaking with Nunavut News. “We came in from the North, they came in from the south, about 10 miles south [of us]. About 11 planes in formation to the west, flew overhead [of us] to the runway, and split off into two sections before splitting again into landing parties.”

“It’s the type of aircraft that is used for air shows and can only fly short distances,” explained Pierre Payette, service director at Iqaluit Airport. “They’re also used for training. So they take off from Italy, land in Greenland [to refuel], and after taking off in Greenland, there’s about a 60-minute window to make a decision about whether to land back in Greenland or fly over [to Nunavut].

"En route, they have to consider not only the weather on the ground, but the weather at high altitude. This decision was made to land [in Iqaluit] because there was freezing rain over Pang[nirtung], and the jets can’t just land anywhere, they need the asphalt runways that Pang[nirtung] Airport doesn’t have. This was just supposed to be a fuel stop, but the pilots decided to stay the night."

The Italians are in North America for a series of air shows across the continent over the summer. Their first Canadian stop is in Bagoteville, Que., then Trenton, Ont., followed by some shows in the U.S. and and another in Cold Lake, Alta. They'll be back in Iqaluit in September for a date that has yet to be determined.

“There’s a lot of preparation involved," elaborated Payette. "We met with them a week and a half ago and made the calculations. Weather plays a big factor.”

Kira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunavut News