'Sticky runway' closes Canadian airport

Don't laugh: Goose Bay strip is where an A380 landed after its engine blew up in September

Canadian airport Goose Bay has closed due to a “sticky runway”.

Don't laugh: this is serious, for two reasons.

Airport staff noticed the stickiness on the wheels of their vehicles and quickly surmised it was sealant applied during recent runway maintenance. Sealant is used to fill gaps between slabs of concrete, to fix cracks, or to fill gaps around fixtures like lights embedded in a runaway. If noticeable quantities appear, it calls into question the state of the runway. There's also the prospect of a big glob or strand hitting a plane or finding its way into an engine or wrapping itself around a propeller. Neither scenario is pleasant.

Secondly, Goose Bay is a semi-regular haven for trans-Atlantic airliners that need to stop to handle emergencies or make unexpected refueling stops. Due to the strip's Newfoundland location, it isn't a major diversion for planes using great circle routes between Europe and North America.

In September 2017, for example, Air France flight AF66, an Airbus A380, experienced an uncontained engine failure – that's an explosion for the non-aerosexuals among you – and set down at Goose Bay. Plenty of other commercial airliners have done likewise over the year, taking advantage of runway 08/26's 3,368m of tarmac, or 16/34's 2,920m of asphalt-covered concrete.

16/34 is still open in a shortened configuration, so some domestic flights in smaller craft are able to operate. Helicopters are fine, too. Canadian authorities are doing their best to sort things out, ASAP.

For now, however, trans-Atlantic flights have just a little less of a safety net. And we can all ponder the nastiness of a plane meeting a sticky ending. ®

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