At approximately 11:00 AM on Tuesday September 11, Halifax International Airport Authority was notified that 2 aircraft had hit the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.
It was very quickly determined that this was an act of terrorism. This realization initiated a host of action in motion.
Fearing additional acts, which in fact did take place, all airports in the United States were immediately closed.
Aircraft in the air were diverted to other airports rather than continuing on to their original destination.
Halifax International Airport received its first aircraft at approximately 11:35 AM, a United Airlines 767.
Halifax International Airport Authority was advised that as many as 40 to 50 aircraft would be diverted to our airport.
Runway 15/33 was closed to accommodate the in-coming aircraft and provide aircraft parking space.
Halifax International Airport’s emergency operations centre (EOC) was activated at approximately 11:45 AM to deal with the situation.
Passengers began deplaning around 03:30 PM, with the last aircraft deplaned at approximately 4:00 AM.
HRM was contacted and agreed to handle logistics for accommodations and the caring and feeding of the 7000+ passengers on the diverted aircraft.
High Schools, arenas and sports facilities in HRM were used as temporary accommodations as well as people were bused to Aldershot.
Passengers hand baggage was searched as they deplaned and prior to entering the air terminal building.
Canadian airspace reopened first for domestic traffic.
Transport Canada decided that airline flight crews of the diverted aircraft should be responsible for searching the cabin of the aircraft prior to leaving the Airport.
The services of RCMP personnel and dogs were made available for cabin searches.
All passengers had to positively identify their baggage, prior to being allowed to enter their aircraft.
The first diverted aircraft left Halifax at approximately 03:40 AM, September 13, 2001 (Canada 3000 domestic flight had already departed at 01:18 AM, September 13, 2001). The departure of the final diverted aircraft occurred at 11:29 AM, Saturday September 15, 2001.
The 7000+ passengers were very cooperative and understanding, considering the unfortunate circumstances they found themselves in.
Several people decided not to go back on their originating flights, primarily because they were returning to their departure location, rather than continuing on to their original destination.
Air Canada graciously made provision for these people to pick up their luggage at the Air Canada Cargo Centre, one hour after their flight departed. These individuals then used other means of transportation to continue their journey.
Some decided to stay in Nova Scotia to tour our region.
Halifax International Airport received the greatest number of aircraft of any individual airport and we were the first major airport to completely have all the diverted flights leave.
The airport maintained domestic operations during this period albeit at a reduced level.
This was a tremendous team effort of all those involved, including the airlines, Air Canada, Customs & Immigration (who were able to process a plane load of passengers in under 10 minutes) HRM and countless others.
On September 14, 2001 HIAA participated in the National Day of Mourning, by holding a ceremony in the air terminal building which included comments from Sally Budge, Airport Chaplain, and the singing of the two National Anthems, by two members of the RCMP in red surge, and observing 3 minutes of silence.
We received many expressions of thanks from around the world.