In 2001, Gander International Airport played an integral role in world aviation in the hours immediately following the September 11 attacks when all of North America’s airspace was closed by Transport Canada and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
As part of Operation Yellow Ribbon, 38 civilian and 4 military flights bound for the United States were ordered to land at the airport—more flights than any Canadian airport other than Halifax International. More than 6,600 passengers and airline crew members—equivalent to 66 percent of the local population at the time—were forced to stay in the Gander area for up to six days until airspace was reopened. Gander received the third highest volume of passengers following Operation Yellow Ribbon, behind Vancouver International Airport, which received 8,500, and Halifax International.
Residents of Gander and surrounding communities volunteered to house, feed, and entertain the travellers as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. This was largely because Transport Canada and Nav Canada asked that transatlantic flights avoid diverting to major airports in central Canada, such as Toronto Pearson and Montréal-Dorval.