Showing posts with label airport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label airport. Show all posts

Monday, June 24, 2024

Greenland opens new capital airport terminal, hopes to boost tourism, increase economic autonomy

I was among the first passengers at the new Nuuk terminal today.
Today a new international airport terminal opened at Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, and I was among its first passengers. (All photos by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.)

A couple of days ago I wrote about Greenland's autonomy from Denmark, observing that tourism and fisheries, at present levels, might not be enough to sustain the economy of an independent Greenland, notwithstanding popular support for the proposition. The new terminal and runways at Nuuk, co-located with the older facility, are a calculated measure to amp up tourism and ween off Greenland of dependence on Danish aid.

The old Nuuk GOH terminal, closed today, is adjacent to the new.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Greenland infrastructure is still marked by U.S. defensive developments during World War II. The Kingdom of Denmark was occupied by the Nazis and turned over the protection of Greenland to the United States. Part of that American legacy is the country's international airport at Kangerlussuaq, a village deep in the fjords north of Nuuk and well inland, eastward, of second-city Sisimiut. 

Constructed as a military air base in 1941, Kangerlussuaq airport was a strategic refueling point. It was therefore equipped with a runway that could handle large aircraft. After the war, and for decades since, Kangerlussuaq's capacity made it the international hub for Air Greenland.

A larger-than-most Air Greenland plane prepares to fly from Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen.

Landing at Nuuk is not for the faint of heart.
But Kangerlussuaq makes no sense for civilian use, much less for tourism. Only about 500 people live there, compared with about 17,500 in Nuuk. So intercontinental passengers traveling to or from Nuuk, such as me today, must also make the short hop between Nuuk and Kangerlussuaq. With limited flights in and out of Greenland to begin with, the cost and inconvenience of an added leg is an impediment to the tourism market that Greenland sorely wishes to develop.

As well, the old Nuuk runway was not designed for volume or large aircraft. Because of surrounding mountains and frequent cloud cover, the approach is notoriously challenging for pilots. In fact, when I landed at Nuuk a couple of days ago on a domestic flight, my Air Greenland pilot aborted landing northbound in the dense fog. We circled round and sailed alongside snowy mountain peaks—a bit unnerving—to land in the clearer southbound direction.

New Nuuk's first guests got gift bags.
Today's opening at Nuuk is a soft one, of the terminal only. The bigger, new runways are still under construction, the old runway still in use. Intercontinental passengers such as me still must fly to Kangerlussuaq. That will change when the new Nuuk airport becomes fully operational; plans aim for later this year. In fact, the runway at Kangerlussuaq has become degraded by subsiding permafrost, and the plan is to scuttle that airport for non-military use.

The great hall of the new Nuuk airport is not yet ready for prime time. A plastic sheet covers the escalator, and limited strips of seating equipped with electrical outlets are not yet plugged in to anything. There are not yet any concessions; free coffee and breads were on offer this morning.

For the time being, all roads lead to Kangerlussuaq.
The place looks promising. Warmly enthusiastic representatives this morning awarded the terminal's first 200 passengers "Greenland Airports" "goodie bags" containing travel-size containers and "Greenland airports" luggage tags.

For now, Nuuk airport will retain its IATA code, GOH, which was derived from the Danish name for Nuuk: Godthåb, or "Good Hope."

The Nuuk tarmac at GOH: new runways lie beyond the old, where a plane taxis.

Air Greenland operates a diverse fleet of planes and helicopters to connect the largely roadless country.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Automatic-door failures fuel injuries, tort claims, but road to recovery in litigation can be bumpy

Pixabay by djedj
An Australian woman struck by a malfunctioning airport security door was denied recovery in April after failing to prove that the malfunction caused her injury.  The outcome strikes me as questionable, and the case is instructive of tort principles anyway.

If you travel much, as I do, you probably have passed through those one-way transparent security doors that whip open and closed to allow only a person at a time to pass.  They frighten me a bit, and I never linger on the threshold.  The plaintiff in the instant case likewise denied having paused upon egress from Wagga Wagga City Airport arrivals in New South Wales, yet was struck by one of the doors.  She complained of shoulder and back injury, requiring surgery, and the court confirmed that the impact of the door at least worsened a preexisting condition.

Arrivals at Wagga Wagga Airport
(2012 photo by Bidgee CC BY-SA 3.0 AU)
The doors were in fact malfunctioning.  There are two batteries, at different heights, of photoelectric cells that sense a person in the way and prevent the doors from closing.  The lower set were out of commission.  However, tests and maintenance on the doors showed that the non-functioning cells were not essential for safety; the higher set still kept the doors open when so much as a person's leg was in the way.  The plaintiff therefore failed to show a causal connection between her injury and the malfunction, nor any alleged misfeasance by the airport defendant, such as a failure to warn.

The outcome strikes me as questionable, because there seems to be no dispute that the 44-year-old plaintiff was struck by the door, and that that's never supposed to happen.  Even if the photoelectric cell failure cannot be blamed, the case seems well suited to res ipsa loquitur, which, to the best of my knowledge, is recognized in New South Wales common law, and is not mentioned by the court.  Maybe the plaintiff failed to plead the theory.  Or maybe this is a Palsgraf-esque scenario in which the court concealed skepticism of the plaintiff's injury.  Of 100,000 arriving passengers annually, there were no other reported incidents, the court troubled to say.

Anyway, the case reminds me of one that I use sometimes in torts class to teach punitive damages with a dash of professional responsibility.  In 2015, 61-year-old James Hausman won a $21.5m verdict against the Holland America Line (HAL) after being hit by an automatic sliding door on a cruise ship, in an incident captured on camera.

There's plenty to inform a class discussion just there.  Hausman's injury did not look too bad in the video, but traumatic brain injury is tricky.  And the court awarded $16.5m in punitive damages after hearing about 16 other sliding-door injuries on HAL ships.  The plaintiff's lawyer accused HAL of trying to save on air conditioning, which HAL denied, the ABA Journal reported.

Then the case took a turn.  In 2016, the district court threw out the verdict after revelations of spoliation.  The ugly dissolution of an employment relationship between Hausman and a personal assistant led to an undiscovered personal email account and deleted messages that cast doubt on Hausman's veracity (ABA Journal, Seattle Times).  The court ordered a new trial and clarified that there was no evidence the plaintiff's attorney was complicit in wrongdoing.  The docket suggests that the case ended in settlement later that year.

The Australian case is Gray v. Wagga Wagga City Council, [2021] NSWDC 108, 07 April 2021 (Wolters Kluwer).  Simon Liddy at HWLEbsworth published commentary.  The American case is Hausman v. Holland America Line-USA, No. 2:13-cv-00937 (W.D. Wash. 2016) (Court Listener).

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Mass. Superior Court dismisses nuisance claim over airport skydiving concession on Cape Cod

Chatham Municipal Airport approach (CC BY 2.0 woodleywonderworks)
The Superior Court in Barnstable, Massachusetts, ruled in favor of the Town of Chatham against a citizen group earlier this month over the town's award of a skydiving concession at the Chatham Municipal Airport, the Cape Cod Times reported.  Arguing for summary judgment, the town relied on preemption by FAA regulations in asserting that it had no choice but to award the concession for a lawful activity.  The court agreed, according to the newspaper.  The trial court arguments were detailed by Tim Wood in a story for The Cape Cod Chronicle in May.  According to Wood's reporting, the citizens argued "that skydiving is not safe and is a nuisance, with multiple flights and screaming and yelling by tandem jumpers interfering with the 'quiet enjoyment' of their property. They point to a 2012 crash of a skydiving plane into Lovers Lake after it ran out of fuel and the severe injuries suffered by a tandem jumper as evidence of the safety concerns."

Chatham Municipal Airport on Cape Cod