Banff National Park


Does Banff Have an Airport?

Banff does not have an airport. The closest airport To Banff National Park with commercial flights is the CALGARY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (YYC) 128 kilometres (80 miles) to the east. See Getting to the Canadian Rockies.

SPRINGBANK AIRPORT (YBW) is closer to Banff, but does not have commercial flights, nor does it have customs services for anyone arriving on a private plane from outside Canada.

Banff Airstrip

Although Banff does not have an airport, the Banff Airstrip (YBA; N51°12.00′ / W115°32.00′) on the north side of town was built in 1937.

In 1929, World War I fighter ace Freddie McCall touched down on the frozen Bow River to become the first pilot to land a plane in what is now Banff National Park. It wasn’t until 1937 that an official landing strip was cleared at the base of Cascade Mountain.

Using the same airstrip in 1946, Foothills Aviation began offering non-scheduled flights between Banff and Calgary. When the company ceased flying to Banff, one of its employees, Alvin Gaetz, started Inter-Mountain Airways. Gaetz, a former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, flew passengers between Banff and Calgary, but his main business was shuttling skiers to Mount Assiniboine and Lake Louise in winter, and to Bonnet Glacier in summer. Tragedy struck on March 13, 1953, when Gaetz, aged just 32, was killed in a vehicle accident on the road to Lake Louise. The Crag & Canyon reported the following in their March 20, 1953, edition: “We shared the sorrow of the town this week, sorrow for a young man who challenged the Rocky Mountains and conquered them from the clouds—and lost out to fate in a cruel highway accident.” Following Gaetz’s death, Inter-Mountain Airways ceased operation and its hangers were demolished.

Although a handful of Banff residents with their own planes were grandfathered in and allowed continued use of the facility, the Banff Airstrip was decommissioned in 1997 to create a wildlife corridor. The facility is now maintained year-round by Parks Canada for emergency landings.