CYQX...no this isn't some secret Enigma code devised by the Germans. For those of you familiar with transatlantic flight you'll get this right away and probably with a smile on your face. For those who haven't traversed the Atlantic in a military or commercial aircraft, this is the airport identifier for Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada. Not only is this one of my favorite hats but this place will always be very special to me. So let me tell you how they captured my heart.
Gander was a fairly routine stop that I'd make flying C-17s to and from Europe and the Middle East. I've been through there probably a dozen times. The funny thing is my stops were always in the middle of the night and more often than not, in very bad winter weather. Nearly slid off the runway during one landing which is why landing in Gander during winter is some of the most challenging flying one can do. Despite all this, the men and women who serviced our aircraft and filed our flight plans were some of the best people on the planet. Humble, giving, welcoming--they made you feel at home the instant you arrived. Even at 0300 in the morning, they would go out of their way to open up the grill so we could get a hot breakfast before heading on our way. If we were lucky they'd even open up the duty free shop. It's not LAX, Heathrow or JFK International. It's a small airport with an incredible charm who's staff will do anything to support you.
There's a very famous photo inside the terminal that still sticks with me today. It shows an enormous number of commercial and military aircraft parked on the taxiways. If you didn't know better you'd think it was an airshow. But if you look at the date on the photo it says September, 11, 2001. For Gander, this is The Day The World Came to Town which is also the title of the story behind Gander Airport on 9/11. The photo below will give you a visual of what the airport looked like with aircraft grounded from transatlantic flight. Gander instantly became a parking lot.
Now these planes were not empty of course. So where did all the people go? Well, the community of Gander took them all in and provided them food, shelter and most of all, comfort. Every time I flew into Gander it was post-9/11 but it's clear that this small community will do anything for anyone despite the hour, day or week. So I wear my CYQX hat proudly for all that they did for humanity on 9/11 and for always taking such great care of my crews, cargo and aircraft. Thank you Gander for your continued support and I hope to see you again soon!