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CFB Goose Bay
Goose Bay Airport
File:CFB Goose Bay 5 Wing crest.png
– WMO: 71816
Airport type Military/Public
Owner Government of Canada
Operator DND
Goose Bay Airport Corporation
Location Goose Bay, Labrador
Elevation AMSL 160 ft / 49 m
Coordinates 53°19′09″N 060°25′33″W / 53.31917°N 60.42583°W / 53.31917; -60.42583Coordinates: 53°19′09″N 060°25′33″W / 53.31917°N 60.42583°W / 53.31917; -60.42583
Website 5 Wing Goose Bay

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Direction Length Surface
ft m
08/26 11,051 3,368 Concrete with asphalt overlay
16/34 9,580 2,920 Concrete with asphalt overlay
Statistics (2010)
Aircraft movements 28,871
Source: Canada Flight Supplement[1]
Environment Canada[2]
Movements from Statistics Canada.[3]

CFB Goose Bay Diagram

Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay (IATA: YYR, ICAO: CYYR) (also CFB Goose Bay), is a Canadian Forces Base located in the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. CFB Goose Bay is operated as an air force base by the Royal Canadian Air Force and is the site of NATO tactical flight training in Canada. Its primary RCAF lodger unit is 5 Wing, commonly referred to as 5 Wing Goose Bay.

The base was initially a Royal Canadian Air Force station[4] and later a United States Air Force base known as Goose AFB, housing units of the Strategic Air Command[5] and Aerospace Defense Command. It was later home to permanent detachments of the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, Aeronautica Militare, and Royal Netherlands Air Force, in addition to temporary deployments from several other NATO countries. The base is the home of 444 Combat Support Squadron and also serves as a forward operating base for NORAD CF-18 Hornet interceptors.

CFB Goose Bay's airfield is also used by civilian aircraft, with civilian operations at the base referring to the facility as Goose Bay Airport. The airport is classified as an airport of entry by NAV CANADA and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency. CBSA officers at this airport currently can handle general aviation aircraft only, with no more than 15 passengers.[1]

Goose Bay was the site of the first US nuclear weapons in Canada, when in 1950 the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command stationed 11 model 1561 Fat Man atomic bombs at the base.[6]

Founding and construction

While the flat and relatively weather-favored area around North West River had for years been under consideration for an airport for the anticipated North Atlantic air routes, it was not until Eric Fry of the Dominion Geodetic Survey investigated the area on 1 July 1941 that the Goose Bay location was selected. Fry beat by three days a similar USAAF survey team under Captain Elliott Roosevelt; the American team had first investigated nearby Epinette Point before joining Fry at the sandy plains that would become Goose Bay. These surveys used amphibian aircraft that landed at the Grenfell mission; from there the teams explored by boat.[7] Eric Fry recalled: “The airport is actually located on the plateau at the west end of Terrington Basin but it is only five miles inland from the narrows between Goose Bay and Terrington Basin. Having a Gander air base in Newfoundland I suggested we call the Labrador site Goose Bay airport and the suggestion was accepted.”[8] Under pressure from Britain and the United States the Canadian Air Ministry worked at a record pace, and by November three 7,000-foot gravel runways were ready.[9] The first land aircraft movement was recorded on 9 December 1941. By spring of 1942 the base, now carrying the wartime code-name Alkali, was bursting with air traffic destined for the United Kingdom. In time, the USAAF and the RAF each developed sections of the triangular base for their own use, but the airport remained under overall Canadian control despite its location in Newfoundland and Labrador. The 99-year lease arrangement with the United Kingdom was not finalized until October 1944.[10]

The story of the base's founding was evocatively told in a wartime Canadian book by William G. Carr: Checkmate in the North (1944).

Royal Canadian Air Force

5 Wing Goose Bay

Luftwaffe Tornados at CFB Goose Bay

Royal Air Force Panavia Tornados at CFB Goose Bay

US Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle at CFB Goose Bay

CH-135 Twin Huey from Base Rescue Goose Bay (later 444 Squadron)

Avro Vulcan XL361 on display at CFB Goose Bay

The former U.S. facilities were re-designated CFB Goose Bay (the second time this facility name has been used). The value of the airfield and facilities built and improved by the USAF since 1953 and transferred to Canada were estimated in excess of $250 million (USD).[citation needed]

The Canadian Forces continued to use Goose Bay for staging interceptor aircraft, however Canadian Forces Air Command concentrated on purchasing the new CF-18 interceptor in the late 1970s and early 1980s. CF-18s for eastern Canada were to be based at CFB Bagotville in Quebec, thus the future was looking bleak for both CFB Goose Bay and CFB Chatham.[citation needed]

In 1983, a NASA Boeing 747 transport aircraft carrying the Space Shuttle Enterprise landed at CFB Goose Bay to refuel on its way to a European tour where the shuttle was then displayed in France and the United Kingdom. This was the first time that a U.S. space shuttle ever "landed" outside the United States.[citation needed]

In response to lessons learned from the Vietnam War and the growing sophistication of Soviet anti-aircraft radar and surface-to-air missile technology being deployed in Europe, NATO allies began looking at new doctrines in the 1970s–1980s which mandated low-level flight to evade detection. CFB Goose Bay's location in Labrador, with a population of around 30,000 and area measuring 294,000 km², made it an ideal location for low-level flight training. Labrador's sparse settlement and a local topography similar to parts of the Soviet Union, in addition to proximity to European NATO nations, "sealed the deal" which saw CFB Goose Bay grow to become the primary low-level tactical training area for several NATO air forces during the 1980s.[citation needed]

The increased low-level flights by fighter aircraft was not without serious controversy as the Innu Nation protested these operations vociferously, claiming that the noise of aircraft travelling at supersonic speeds in close proximity to the ground ("nap of the earth flying") was adversely affecting wildlife, namely caribou, and was a nuisance to their way of life on their traditional lands. Many protests evolved into dangerous activities, including trespassing into the low-level flying ranges (at detriment of the safety of protesters), and even to shooting hunting rifles at the fighter aircraft. The protests, while having died down with changes in operating areas and raising of flight altitudes, have never really disappeared.[citation needed]

During the 1980s–1990s, CFB Goose Bay hosted permanent detachments from the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, Royal Netherlands Air Force, and the Aeronautica Militare, in addition to temporary deployments from several other NATO countries. Goose Bay was a very attractive training facility for these air forces in light of the high population concentration in their countries, as well as numerous laws preventing low-level flying. The thirteen million hectare (130,000 square km) bombing range is larger than several European countries.[Note 1] In 1988, the Pinetree Line radar site at CFB Goose Bay was closed. The permanent RNAF detachment left CFB Goose Bay in the 1990s, although temporary training postings have been held since.[citation needed]

On 11 September 2001, CFB Goose Bay hosted seven trans-Atlantic commercial airliners which were diverted to land as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon, following the closure of North American airspace as a result of terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. It was also the first Canadian airport to receive diverted aircraft.[citation needed]

In 2004 the RAF announced its intent to close the permanent RAF detachment, effective 31 March 2005. The German and Italian air forces have agreements signed to use the base until 2006, however these have not been renewed. These air forces still operate at Goose Bay, but plan to initiate simulator training instead.[11] The base continues in its role as a low-level tactical training facility and as a forward deployment location for Canadian Forces Air Command, although the total complement of Canadian Forces personnel numbers less than 100.[citation needed]

Base Rescue Flight and 444 Combat Support Squadron

To provide rescue and range support to the jet aircraft operating from Goose Bay the Canadian Forces provided a Base Rescue Flight consisting of three CH-135 Twin Huey helicopters. In 1993 the Base Rescue Flight was re-badged 444 Combat Support Squadron and continued to operate the same fleet of three helicopters. In 1996 the CH-135s were replaced with three CH-146 Griffon helicopters.[12][13]

Ballistic Missile Defence

Labradorian politicians such as former Liberal Bill Rompkey have advocated using CFB Goose Bay as a site for a missile defense radar system being developed by the United States Department of Defense. Executives from defense contractor Raytheon have surveyed CFB Goose Bay as a suitable location for deploying such a radar installation.[14]

Airlines and destinations

Airlines Destinations 
Air Canada Express operated by EVAS Air Gander, Wabush
Air Canada Express operated by Jazz Air Halifax, St. John's
Exploits Valley Air Services Seasonal: Iqaluit, Gander
Air Labrador Hopedale, Makkovik, Nain, Natuashish, Postville, Rigolet
CHC Helicopter charter
Cougar Helicopters charter
Provincial Airlines Blanc-Sablon, Churchill Falls, Deer Lake, Hopedale, Makkovik, Nain, Natuashish, Postville, Rigolet, Sept-Îles, St. Anthony, St. John's, Voisey's Bay, Wabush
Pascan Aviation Montreal (Saint-Hubert)
Universal Helicopters charter

Fixed base operators (FBOs)

The following fixed base operators are based at CFB Goose Bay:

  • Air Labrador
  • Universal Helicopters
  • Woodward Aviation

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  1. 1.0 1.1 Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 24 July 2014 to 0901Z 18 September 2014
  2. Synoptic/Metstat Station Information
  3. Total aircraft movements by class of operation
  4. Military Presence In Labrador
  5. Strategic Air Command Bases
  6. Clearwater, John (1998). Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story. Dundurn Press Ltd.. pp. 18. 
  7. Hansen, 195-7
  8. Carr, 84–85
  9. Carr, 111
  10. Christie, 129
  11. "To Cope with Flying Restrictions, German Pilots Turn to Simulators". Defense Industry Daily. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2011. 
  12. Air Force Public Affairs / Department of National Defence (15 June 2007). "444 Squadron History". Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  13. AEROWARE / (undated). "No. 444 Squadron". Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  14. U.S. missile company scouts Labrador
  15. "British take their leave from Goose Bay". 31 March 2005. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 – 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  • Winkler, David F. (1997), Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program. Prepared for United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command.
  • Information for Melville AS, Goose Bay, NL


  1. The thirteen million hectare (130,000 square km) bombing range is larger than Iceland; Portugal; Serbia; Austria; Czech Republic; Ireland; Slovakia; Netherlands; Denmark; Switzerland; Belgium. see List of countries and dependencies by area.


  • Carr, William G.: Checkmate in the North. MacMillan, Toronto, 1944.
  • Christie, Carl A.: Ocean Bridge. University of Toronto Press, 1995.
  • Hansen, Chris: Enfant Terrible: The Times and Schemes of General Elliott Roosevelt. Able Baker, Tucson, 2012.

External links

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