An ATR 72 filled with groceries is unloaded in Kugaaruk, N.U.
The pilots of Calm Air take great pride in the work they do. The airline, which started out in the 1960s with one small floatplane purchased to ferry passengers and supplies to the then-owners’ isolated fishing camp and surrounding areas in northern Saskatchewan, has grown into a thriving business with a fleet of 13 aircraft moving passengers and cargo around Manitoba and Nunavut.
From its operational bases in Thompson and Winnipeg in Manitoba, along with a hub in Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, Calm Air provides scheduled passenger service to 17 communities in northern Manitoba and Nunavut. It’s the only carrier that provides direct service from Manitoba’s northern cities to Winnipeg and also provides daily service to communities in Nunavut as far north as the Arctic Circle. Most of Calm Air’s flights also carry groceries and supplies—including all types of off-road vehicles, building supplies, and bulk gas—to isolated communities that can’t receive shipments via the traditional method of semitrailer trucks.
“Calm Air has quite an interesting history serving remote areas of northern Canada, and it continues to serve hard-to-reach communities that have no road access,” observed Capt. Dan Cowan, the pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman. “Calm Air pilots take a great deal of pride in operating safely and efficiently in some of the harshest and most inhospitable environments on Earth.
“In addition to our scheduled passenger service, we also have freight contracts with the major supermarket chains to provide service to 11 communities in northern Manitoba, which we serve with our freighters, and 11 communities in Nunavut, which we serve with our combi aircraft as well as our freighters.
“Several times a week, pallets of fruits, vegetables, and other groceries and supplies necessary to sustain life are delivered to one of Calm Air’s warehouses located in Winnipeg, Thompson, and Churchill,” said Cowan. “The pallets are loaded onto Calm Air aircraft that have been retrofitted to accommodate the loads, and the supplies are shuttled to their destinations. It’s a lot of out-and-back flying.”
When they aren’t moving passengers and essential goods into inaccessible regions of central Canada, the pilots transport workers to hydro plants, ferry tourists to one of the many fly-in fishing lodges located in northern Manitoba or to Churchill to view polar bears and beluga whales, or convey the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose on one of the team’s many road trips.
Cowan acknowledged that the pilots successfully navigated the transition to a revised flying schedule crafted in late 2015 that created a hub-and-spoke network centered in Rankin Inlet, a move designed to strengthen Calm Air’s presence in the Arctic and to provide much-needed passenger service for the smaller Nunavut communities that line the Hudson Bay.
The end of the year saw the election of Winnipeg status reps Capt. Corey Strachan and F/O Joel Lautenschlager, whose terms will begin March 1. MEC officer elections, for the term beginning May 5, will be conducted this spring.
The pilots’ collective agreement will open for negotiations in 2018, so “the MEC and ALPA staff are starting the preliminary process of strategic planning designed to assist the Negotiating Committee as it prepares for collective bargaining,” Cowan said. He also noted that the MEC continues to monitor any possible changes to Canadian flight- and duty-time regulations and rest requirements that Transport Canada’s Aviation Regulation Advisory Council Flight Crew Management Working Group might bring about in order to move quickly with the report’s recommendations.