CFB Goose Bay

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CFB Goose Bay
CFB Goose Bay 5 Wing crest.png
Goose Bay Airport;
CFB Goose Bay;
CFS Goose Bay;
Goose Air Base
Goose Bay, Labrador in Canada
CFB Goose Bay.jpg
CFB Goose Bay
Location in Newfoundland and Labrador
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
Type Military Air Base / Civilian Airport
Site information
Owner Government of Canada
Operator  Royal Canadian Air Force
1941 (1941) - present
 United States Air Force
1942 (1942) - 1976 (1976)
Civilian Operator Goose Bay Airport Corporation
Goose Bay Airport
Site history
Built 1941 (1941) – 1943 (1943)
Built by  Royal Canadian Air Force
 United States Air Force
In use 1941 (1941) – present
Garrison information
Lieutenant-Colonel Luc Sabourin, Wing Commander
Occupants 444 Combat Support Squadron
1993 (1993) - Present
5 Wing Air Reserve Flight
Airfield information
Identifiers IATA: YYR, ICAO: CYYR, WMO: 71816
Elevation 160 ft (49 m) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
08/26 11,051 ft (3,368 m) Concrete with asphalt overlay
16/34 9,580 ft (2,920 m) Concrete with asphalt overlay

Hosted deployments of units from:
RAF roundel.svg Royal Air Force (United Kingdom) 1942–2005[1]
Bundeswehr Kreuz.svg Luftwaffe (Germany) 1980–2005
Roundel of the USAF.svg United States Air Force 1942–1976
Roundel of the Italian Air Force.svg Aeronautica Militare (Italy) 2001–2005

Netherlands roundel.svg Royal Netherlands Air Force 1985–2005
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

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

The airfield at CFB Goose Bay 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). CBSA officers at this airport can handle general aviation aircraft only, with no more than 15 passengers.

The mission of 5 Wing is to support the defence of North American airspace, as well as to support the RCAF and allied air forces in training.[2] 5 Wing comprises two units: 444 Combat Support Squadron (flying the CH-146 Griffon) and 5 Wing Air Reserve Flight. CFB Goose Bay also serves as a forward operating location for RCAF CF-18 Hornet aircraft and the base and surrounding area is occasionally used to support units of the Canadian Army during training exercises.


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 United States Army Air Force (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.[3]

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.”[4]

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.[5] 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 British Royal Air Force (RAF) each developed sections of the triangular base for their own use, but the airport remained under overall Canadian control despite its location in the Dominion of Newfoundland, not yet a part of Canada. The 99-year lease arrangement with the United Kingdom was not finalized until October 1944.[6]

The northeast side of the facility was built to be a temporary RCAF base, complete with its own hangars and control tower, while the south side of the facility, built for the Americans, was being upgraded with its own aprons, hangars, earth covered magazines, control tower and infrastructure. The Canadian and American bases were built as an RCAF station[7] and later a United States Air Force base known as Goose AB, housing units of the Strategic Air Command[8] and Aerospace Defense Command. It was later home to permanent detachments of the RAF, Luftwaffe, Aeronautica Militare, and Royal Netherlands Air Force, in addition to temporary deployments from several other NATO countries.

Cold War history[edit]

1950 – The Rivière-du-Loup Incident

Goose Air Base 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 in the summer, and flew them out in December.[9] While returning to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base with one of the bombs on board, a USAF B-50 heavy bomber encountered engine trouble, had to drop, and conventionally detonate, the bomb over the St. Lawrence, contaminating the river with uranium-238.

1954 – Construction of the Strategic Air Command Weapons Storage Area

Construction of Strategic Air Command's Weapons Storage Area at Goose Air Base was officially completed in 1954.[10] The area was surrounded by two fences, topped with barbed wire. It was the highest security area in Goose Air Base and comprised

  • One guard house
  • One administration building
  • Three warehouses (base spares #1, base spares #2, supply warehouse)
  • Six guard towers
  • One plant group building
  • Five earth covered magazines for non-nuclear weapon storage
  • Four earth covered magazines for "pit" storage (constructed with vaults and shelving to store pit "birdcages")

Design and layout of the Goose Air Base weapons storage area was identical, with only slight modifications for weather and terrain, to the three Strategic Air Command weapons storage areas in Morocco located at Sidi Slimane Air Base, Ben Guerir Air Base, and Nouasseur Air Base, which were constructed between 1951 and 1952 as overseas operational storage sites. The last nuclear bomb components that were being stored at the Goose Air Base weapons storage area were removed in June 1971.[11]

1958 – Construction of the Air Defence Command ammunition storage area

Construction of the Air Defence Command ammunition storage area at Goose Air Base was completed in 1958.[12] This extension to the Strategic Air Command weapons storage area was built directly beside the previously constructed area, with a separate entrance. The buildings built within the area were:

  • Three storage buildings
  • One guard house
  • One missile assembly building.

The storage was being built to accommodate components of the GAR-11/AIM-26 "Nuclear" Falcon, which is normally stored in pieces, requiring assembly before use.

1976 – Departure of the USAF Strategic Air Command and closure of Goose AB

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]. By 1976 all Strategic Air Command assets had been stood down, and only USAF logistical and transport support remained.

1980 – Multinational low level flying training stepped up

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 caused CFB Goose Bay to grow and 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[examples needed] 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.[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. The permanent RNAF detachment left CFB Goose Bay in the 1990s, although temporary training postings have been held since.[citation needed] 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]

1983 – The Space Shuttle Enterprise visits

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 modern 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]

1988 – Long range radar closure

In 1988, the Pinetree Line radar site (Melville Air Station) adjacent to CFB Goose Bay was closed.

Post-Cold War history[edit]

1993 – 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.[13][14]

2001 – 9/11 Operation Yellow Ribbon

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]

2005 – Cessation of Multinational Low Level Flying Training

In 2004 the RAF announced its intent to close the permanent RAF detachment, effective 31 March 2005. The German and Italian air forces had agreements signed to use the base until 2006, however they were not renewed as of 2004. These air forces still operate at Goose Bay, but plan to initiate simulator training instead.[15] 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]

2005 – Ballistic Missile Defence

Labradorian politicians such as former Liberal Senator 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 defence contractor Raytheon have surveyed CFB Goose Bay as a suitable location for deploying such a radar installation.[16]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Civilian flights use a smaller terminal structure located on Zweibrucken Crescent. A new terminal structure was being built in 2012 to accommodate civilian use.[17]

An increasing number of airliners (especially smaller range aircraft like the Boeing 757) have resorted to using Goose Bay for unplanned fuel stops, especially common for trans-Atlantic flights impacted by a seasonally strong jet stream over the North Atlantic.[18] The majority of civilian airliners using the airfield are not regularly scheduled airlines to this location.

Airlines Destinations
Air Borealis Hopedale, Makkovik, Nain, Natuashish, Postville
Air Canada Express Deer Lake, Gander, Halifax, St. John's, Wabush
CHC Helicopter charter
Cougar Helicopters charter
Provincial Airlines Blanc-Sablon, Churchill Falls, Deer Lake, St. John's, Wabush
Purolator Courier
operated by Cargojet Airways
Universal Helicopters charter

Fixed-base operators (FBOs)[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  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.


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

  1. ^ "British take their leave from Goose Bay". CBC News. 31 March 2005. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "5 Wing Goose Bay". Canadian Royal Canadian Air Force. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Hansen, 195-7
  4. ^ Carr, 84–85
  5. ^ Carr, 111
  6. ^ Christie, 129
  7. ^ Military Presence In Labrador
  8. ^ Strategic Air Command Bases
  9. ^ Clearwater, John (1998). Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 18. 
  10. ^ Seaward, DND, Larry D. (January 1999), Preliminary Information Sheets, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office 
  11. ^ Norris, Robert S; Arkin, William M; Burr, William (November–December 1999), "Where they were" (PDF), The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 
  12. ^ Seaward, DND, Larry D. (21 January 1999), Preliminary Information Sheets, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office 
  13. ^ Air Force Public Affairs / Department of National Defence (15 June 2007). "444 Squadron History". Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  14. ^ AEROWARE / (n.d.). "No. 444 Squadron". Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  15. ^ "To Cope with Flying Restrictions, German Pilots Turn to Simulators". Defense Industry Daily. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2011. 
  16. ^ U.S. missile company scouts Labrador
  17. ^ " - Labrador Morning Show - A tour of the New Airport in Happy Valley Goose Bay (Part 1)". 12 April 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  18. ^ "Strong jet stream forcing airliners to make Labrador retrievals". 14 January 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Carr, William G.: Checkmate in the North, 1944

External links[edit]