Banff, AB, Canada - July, 2015

Dating back into the 1930s, when Trans Canada Airlines needed an emergency airstrip on the route from Calgary to Vancouver, it was once a popular weekend destination for local pilots. Sadly, in the 1980s it became a target for environmentalists and politicians. After more than a decade in the courts the CYBA airstrip received a reprieve if only to keep it open for emergencies.

Even into the 1980s, Banff had an active local aviation community, including several light airplanes and an Air Cadet squadron. Today, with the exception of some orange traffic cones and two windsocks, those rushing by on the Trans Canada Highway would be hard pressed to spot the runway.

(Trevor McTavish)

During their existence, the Banff Flying Club performed all the maintenance to the runway, which measures 3,900 by 190 feet on a magnetic heading of 18/36. (Trevor McTavish)

When I walked the runway in July 2015 I was disappointed to see dozens of gopher holes. Each one of them was wide enough and deep enough to rip the landing gear out of a light airplane. Only a narrow strip right down the centre of the runway appeared reasonably clear. (Trevor McTavish)

Sadly this sign seems to sum up Parks Canada's position about airplanes in the National Parks. Despite their minimal impact on the environment, and possessed almost no risk to the wildlife that grazed on the runway's grasses, airplanes made an easy target when placed against the trains and automobiles that share the same valley. (Trevor McTavish)

Should an aviator be desperate enough to land on the airstrip, they are greeted by other signs that warn of bureaucratic procedure and fines should they not jump through all the hoops. (Trevor McTavish)

Banff's disuse is a terrible loss for aviators, and their passengers. Where else could one step out of the cockpit and immediately climb a mountain, or enjoy the sight of a cascading waterfall? (Trevor McTavish)

I began my investigation by following this auto trail alongside the runway. Its only traffic today is the occasional hiker or bicyclist heading up the mountain path. (Trevor McTavish)

On a beautiful July afternoon, I continuously thought what a waste it was to abandon this airstrip. Imagine the wonderful picnics this table once held. (Trevor McTavish)

Nearby are two of the most scenic t-hangars I have ever visited; tucked in amongst the trees. (Trevor McTavish)

Now, the hangars appear ready to collapse in upon themselves. (Trevor McTavish)

At one time this hangar's occupant tried to keep out winter's winds and snows with chunks of heavy carpeting. (Trevor McTavish)

It was unclear if Parks Canada nailed this sign inside the first hangar, but I suspect it was left by the hangar's previous occupant not wanting to lose his hangar to a visitor. (Trevor McTavish)

The second hangar is equally dilapidated. (Trevor McTavish)

To the side of the hangar was a cabinet that continues to hold tires. Interestingly these are only the tires - there are no tubes and no rims. This leaves me to wonder if these were being kept as bumpers, or were they once serviceable and placed here by a licensed mechanic? (Trevor McTavish)

Continuing my exploration, I was surprised to stumble upon a fuel tank, complete with a hose and nozzle. I did not see a generator, but it appears the pilots who once used this airstrip were well taken care of.(Trevor McTavish)

Not surprisingly, I discovered numerous other airplane related items scattered around the site. One such artefact was this wooden chock lying out in the field. Was it dropped here before the last airplane departed or did a hiker, exploring the area as I was, toss it aside thinking it was nothing but a piece of firewood? (Trevor McTavish)

Another item was this auto tire. Maybe someone placed it beneath their airplane to serve as a bumper should a heavy snowfall drop the airplane on its tail. (Trevor McTavish)

Although not a hangar, this gravel pad was clearly home to an airplane. (Trevor McTavish)

So were these concrete pads. (Trevor McTavish)

Despite its beautiful surroundings and the fact that no animal was ever harmed by an airplane, the Banff airstrip will sadly remain closed for the foreseeable future. I doubt we will ever see a large and determined enough group of aviators to challenge Parks Canada to having CYBA reopened. Motorists rushing by may ignore its existence, but at least I know it's still there. (Trevor McTavish)