Kanata-based First Air proposes $17.5M expansion of Ottawa airport cargo area

First Air
Editor's Note

An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect figure provided by First Air. This story has been updated to note the airline shipped 19.4 million kilograms of cargo freight to the Canadian Arctic out of the Ottawa airport last year.

In order to meet growing cargo demands for shipments to Canada’s north, a locally based Inuit-owned airline is looking to increase its warehouse capacities at the Ottawa International Airport.

Ottawa-based First Air says it’s asking the federal government to fund half of the $17.5-million expansion project, which would include increasing warehouse and refrigeration space at the airport, as well as investing in technologies to reduce spoilage and shipping delays.

Part of the project would involve the Ottawa airport realigning Alert Road to facilitate the expansion. Aeroterm, an Ottawa-based FedEx managing partner, would expand its local footprint by taking over First Air’s current space.

First Air says its proposed expansion is necessary to support the rising demand for shipments to Canada’s north. Last year, First Air shipped 19.4 million kilograms of cargo freight to the Canadian Arctic out of the Ottawa airport. That number is expected to increase by 28 per cent over the next five years.

"The Arctic communities depend on us on a daily basis, every day of the year,” said First Air president and CEO Brock Friesen in a statement.

“We take this role very seriously and are committed to modernizing our facilities to optimize service to the North."

If the application is approved, construction could begin later this year with the realignment of Alert Road. The warehouse space expansion would likely continue through to 2021.

First Air – which was founded in Carp as Bradley Air Services and is now headquartered in Kanata – has made a second, separate funding proposal to expand the airline’s Iqaluit cargo facilities.

The financial applications were made to the federal government’s National Trade Corridors Fund, which was first announced in 2016. As part of $10 billion in spending over 11 years, the federal government has earmarked $2 billion for supporting existing corridors and improving the flow of goods to Canada’s territories.