Welcome To Halifax, Nova Scotia. Uh, That Really Big Plane Next To Us Looks Familiar

I have some family that live in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area that we try to visit each year.  Recently, we made our way up there via United and landed without incident, arriving at the international terminal.  Halifax airport isn’t small or big, though a lot closer to small.  It’s a very clean, well-organized airport that I truly do enjoy flying into and out of.

Because of the relative size of the surrounding community there’s not a ton of air traffic at the airport.  Just about 3.5 million in passenger traffic last year would barely put it in the top 50 of US airports.  Heck, the 3rd largest city in Canada, Vancouver, doesn’t even have direct flights there.  So, big aircraft aren’t something you see often.

Everything is narrow body (think 737, A320) or regional jet, with the exception of a single 767 frequency to/from London that continues on to Toronto.  I’ve got to think they don’t fill that plane very often but it’s likely a case of the type of equipment Air Canada currently has available to fly over the water.  Their A320s may be ETOPS certified but I don’t know if they have spare planes lying around.

As my daughter has grown older I’ve started to point out different types of planes to her.  We haven’t gotten to the point where she can recognize them on her own but she has fun guessing when I give her hints.  Yes, I know this makes me a geek of a dad.  I’m okay with it.

As we deplaned in Halifax and walked through the hallway to get to customs I gestured towards the plane a few gates down from us so I could help my daughter figure out what it was.

Uh, boy, that’s a *really* big plane.  We’re walking on the ground, so perspective is a bit skewed compared to looking down on lots of planes from a terminal.  At this point I didn’t know that Air Canada flew a 767 in to Halifax, so I was having trouble figuring out what route this plane might be serving.

I started to point out features of the plane to my daughter, like the number of engines.  Okay, only 2 engines.  I’m still trying to figure out in my head what the plane is when I see the back of the engine casing, a very unique style.  And, then the curved wing.

Yup, there’s a 787 a few hundred feet away at the domestic terminal.

Really Big Plane

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to the 787.  I’ve read about it extensively, flew up to Seattle a few times to tour it at Boeing on the ground, helped plan a MegaDO around flying on it, and flew the inaugural flight between Boston and Tokyo on Japan Airlines.  So, a Dreamliner sighting probably means a bit more to me than the average person.

I knew Air Canada had the plane, but couldn’t figure out why it was here.  Maybe there was a mechanical issue?  I asked the security guard positioned at the end of the international hallway as we got set to exit.  She told me the Dreamliner was there regularly now and emphasized, “this is an international airport!”.

Well, yes, since I’m talking to you before I exit the international arrivals hallway, I had figured that part out.  But, the 787 was parked at a domestic gate.

It didn’t take long to Google the answer.  And, it makes sense.  Air Canada is flying it back and forth between Toronto and Halifax before taking on Toronto-Tokyo and eventually replacing those 787s on Halifax-London.

Seems like a reasonable enough short test flight for the pilots to get used to the new plane.  I had found mention on Milepoint that it would be flying Toronto-Montreal and recalled reading that a few months ago, but this my first bit of news about Halifax.

Anyway, just a small bit of airline meekness on a Tuesday.



  1. It’s nice to have these random surprise sightings, just like how I spotted the Air India 787 in HKG.

    1. Ptahcha, I’m curious what the insides of the various 787s look like. Looking forward to a BA 787 ride later this summer.

  2. Thinking of visiting Nova Scotia, would love more thoughts on how long you advise, and hotel situation outside of Halifax.

    1. Kate, happy to share as much as you like. I’ll do some write-ups of this trip soon. Feel free to e-mail me at -ed- at Milepoint dot com and I can help you sooner.

  3. Maybe plane spotting with a youngster will pay off somehow later on. I guess I started too late with my wife, who recently along with me, became a grandparent. For years I’ve played name-that-plane all over the U.S. and abroad. My favorite spots include LAX, ORD, JFK, CDG, LHR and HKG. So far the only aircraft she can reliably recognize is a C-130-not something you see regularly unless you’re at an airport with an Air Force Reserve or Air Guard unit. Our now adult children never even humored me by playing along. As a former military pilot I think the differences among airliners, while often subtle, are easily distinguishable; but apparently I’m the only one in the family with the geek gene.

    1. Shindig, I can’t say I’m an expert at identifying planes. I can tell most of the obvious narrow bodies, still get the occasional 767 and 777 confused. But, the curvature of that 787 wing is unmistakable.

  4. To be fair, Vancouver-Halifax is about 200 miles longer than San Deigo-Boston, so I doubt the economics of a non-stop flight of would work, especially with Calgary/Winnipeg/Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal all en route anyways.

    Apparently, the 767 flight is quite popular since it leaves at the end of the work day and has the international business class (as opposed to the recliners on the domestic fleet). It’ll be interesting to see what people make of the 787 since Economy is actually much tighter and less comfortable than the domestic planes!

    1. Arcanum, no doubt it’s a long flight. And, there’s probably not a ton of industry that would drive business travelers on a YVR-YHZ route. Still seems a bit of an oddity. I’d love to know the load factor on that 767.

  5. They cut the revenue YYZ-YUL turns because they were too short. Didn’t give the cabin crew enough time to learn the cabin, galley, etc…

    They serve a full meal service on YYZ-YHZ, so it’s a much better fit for crew training.

    1. Ryan, good point on the flight lengths. I guess I’m a bit surprised there’s a full meal on YYZ-YHZ. Can’t be more than 2 hours of flight time.

      1. Everything above 2 gets a full meal, all day, every day. Under 2 on mainline AC (i.e. YYZ-YUL or YYC-YVR) gets either a hot breakfast (omelet, sausage, yogurt, etc..) or hot snack (chicken pot pie & salad) depending on time of day. It’s pretty much only AC Express flights that don’t get a real meal and even many of them offer a decent cold tray.

        Contrary to belief, there is in fact an airline still offering decent J service in NA 🙂

Leave a Reply