What does the magnetic north pole have to do with runways at YVR?
Well, runways at YVR and other airports are numbered according to their magnetic heading to the closest 10 degrees. For example, Runway 26 at YVR is numbered 26 because it lines up with 260 degrees magnetic. But because the magnetic north pole is slowly moving (this movement is part of the earth's natural process, no Michael Bay action movies to be made here!), every 60 or 70 years runways have to be given new designations to meet regulations.
Which brings us to our newly named crosswind runway. The crosswind runway is used when gusts from north to south or vice versa make it safer to land when flying east/west. The crosswind runway had been numbered 12/30 since it was first built and as recently as 2011 it was located at 124°25’/304°25’.
The magnetic heading today is 125°01’/305°01’, which means the runway is now closer to 130º/310º than 120º /300º and had to be changed to 13/31. This required no small amount of effort from Vancouver Airport Authority employees. Maps, signs, publications and paint all have to be changed to reflect this new numbering and make sure everybody is on the same page. But as you can see in the picture above and below, we are on it!
So don't worry, the runway itself isn't moving, we are just renumbering/renaming it to be more accurate and meet Transport Canada and industry requirements. Magnetic fields, the north pole, safety – all part of what makes airports one of the most interesting places!