Kulusuk Airport in Greenland during Winter

In my work as a pilot for Air Iceland I often get to visit exotic places in the Arctic. One of those places is Kulusuk, located in the Sermersooq municipality in southeastern coast of Greenland. Situated on the Kulusuk island the airport serves the small settlements in the area such as Kulusuk (formerly Kap Dan) village that derives it name from the island and Tasiilaq (formerly Angmagssalik and Ammassalik). Kulusuk population is only around 250 people and around 2000 people live in Tasiilaq, The other settlements in the region, Kuummiit, Sermiligaaq, Tiniteqilaaq and Isortoq with a total population of around 800 people are connected by helicopter via Tasiilaq.

Air Iceland Dash-8 200 in front of the terminal in Kulusuk on a foggy and snowy winter day in May 2012.

This is a remote area and the next airports and settlements are more than 600 km away. The closest, Kangerlussuaq or Sondrestrom is located on the other side of the Greenland glacier, 630 km to the west.  Nerlerit Inaat, or Constable Point on the Greenland east coast is located 800 km northeast of Kulusuk. Reykjavik and Keflavik in Iceland are 740 km to the east. There are only two civil airports on the entire east coast of Greenland, Kulusuk and Nerlerit Inaat but there are several short landing strips for special operations.

The weather in the area can cause challenges for flights arriving or departing Kulusuk. During winter time snowstorms are frequent and the airport can be closed for days due to weather. During summer, fog is frequent, especially during night and early morning. Weather can change rapidly and it is extremely difficult to prepare weather forecasts for this area. Forecasts can therefore be a bit hard to rely on. Due to the high surrounding terrain good visibility is necessary for both take-off and landing.

Air Iceland De Havilland Dash 8-200 unloaded at Kulusuk on January 28th 2015.

While I was preparing this article my company called and asked me to do a flight from Reykjavik to Nuuk. Due to the strong westerly winds that often prevail in the arctic during winter time we needed to make a short fuel stop in Kulusuk on our way to Nuuk. The weather forecast was good for Kulusuk and during approach the weather was nice.  Just around 5 minutes after landing the weather changed quickly, it started to snow and the visibility decreased to only 1000 meters. This meant we were stuck there and unable to take-off until weather conditions improved. After a three hour wait it finally cleared up and we just barely managed to leave before dark. 

During winter time there is a lot of snow in the area, especially in the period from January to May. Critical snowbanks along the runway are common during winter time but the runway is usually well maintained and clear with good breaking action.

Air Iceland operates two flights per week to Kulusuk during winter time and often two flights per day during summer. In the summer time many tourists do a one day trip to Kulusuk from Iceland. They take the morning flight from Reykjavik to Kulusuk around 10 am and travel back from Kulusuk in the afternoon arriving in Reykjavik around 6 pm.

Air Greenland operates two to three flights per week the whole year. During summer there is a lot of small aircraft ferry traffic. The airport has relatively short operating hours and is closed on Sundays during winter time. If you are willing to pay the fees they will usually open the airport outside normal opening hours.

Airport information:
Airport coordinates are 65°34′25″N 037°07′25″W. The ICAO code is BGKK and the IATA code is KUS. There is no tower but good AFIS and the staff is very friendly and helpful. There is one NDB approach to runway 11 with a MDA of 890. Normally, jet fuel and AVGAS are available.

Runway Information:
Runway identifier: 11/29.
Runway length:  1199 meters or 3,934 feet.
Elevation AMSL: 117 feet / 36 meters
Runway is paved gravel.

 

Disclaimer:
The information on this page is general in nature and may not be up to date and should not be used for flight planning purposes.