Canada’s First Air Looks for Cargo Funding

Canadian regional carrier, First Air which has its main operating base at Ottawa International Airport is said to be looking for Canadian government financial support to fund expansion at their Ottawa and Arctic regional cargo hubs. The airline which operates passenger and cargo regional routes within Canada has a fleet of 17 aircraft.

Brock Friesen heads First Air since 2013  -  company courtesy
Brock Friesen heads First Air since 2013 - company courtesy

Mixed fleet with expansion potential
First Air operates services, many of which are passenger only,  to more than 30 cities within Canada, ranging from Arctic Bay to Yellowknife. It owns a fleet of 17 aircraft of which three are Boeing 737-400 Combis capable of carrying 70 passengers and 4 pallets of cargo. Air freight is also carried in the bellies of the carrier’s 13 strong fleet of ATR-42 aircraft and single B737-400 passenger aircraft. The company was originally founded in 1973 and was wholly acquired by the Canadian Makivik Group in 1990. A Boeing 767 freighter was acquired in 2010 but it is said that this aircraft was phased out in 2015 and transferred to Cargojet (Canada) with whom First Air has an operating agreement on various Canadian domestic routes.

More emphasis on air cargo through funding
In a recent statement, First Air’s President & CEO, Brock Friesen, said that the company wishes to ensure that they can meet the growing cargo demand of the Canadian Arctic region and that First Air wants to further optimise services and modernize their facilities.

First Air Boeing 737-400 in icy Canadian environment
First Air Boeing 737-400 in icy Canadian environment

In order to accomplish the above, it seems that First Air is looking for Canadian government funding. It is said that Ottawa Airport is fully supporting First Air’s move as the carrier indicated that their first investment priority should be updating their present cargo handling facilities at the airport. They have partnered with Ottawa Airport and have presented two applications to the Canadian government’s National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF) in the hope that the NTCF will agree to funding for expansion of facilities. also those in the northern Canadian regions.

Funding approval is still unendorsed
A sum of around almost nine million Canadian Dollars has been mentioned which is earmarked for the funding of new cargo facilities at Ottawa. In the second proposal, the request is for a further CA$ 17 million in order to expand First Air’s Eastern Arctic cargo hub in Iqaluit. It is from here that the carrier also distributes cargo by air to outlying Arctic regions.
The approval for funding is still outstanding, but it is hoped that it will soon be granted and that the project can be put into motion already this year. First Air’s management sees the need for speedy expansion as they predict that air cargo movement in the area will increase by around 30% during the coming years.

John Mc Donagh

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