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Ottawa’s home-based airline a vital link to the Arctic

A First Air plane
A First Air plane

First Air – founded in Carp as Bradley Air Services – has been headquartered in the Ottawa area since 1946, making it one of the oldest air carriers in Canada. Its head office – now located in Kanata, along with its operations centre located on the grounds of the Ottawa International Airport – make up Ottawa’s very own, and only, home-based airline.

Based on number of destinations served, First Air is Canada’s third largest airline with a legacy of service and innovation. Its long history has seen it help develop important aircraft modifications and assist in mapping and surveying Canada’s Arctic regions.

Serving the Arctic comes with a heavy responsibility. Unlike most populated areas of Canada, the Northern regions do not have roads connecting them – First Air is the “road.” On a yearly basis, First Air ships over 20 million kilograms of goods to the Arctic. Mail, medical supplies, food, furniture, electronics and everything in between is air lifted. First Air is the lifeline of the Arctic for many, and that requires a commitment to its operations and services. The cargo component is in addition to the over 200,000 passengers that First Air supports annually.

First Air recently introduced its new brand at an event at its Ottawa Airport hangar. The new branding and livery offer a better visual connection to the people and area it serves. It features a uniquely modern version of the iconic Inuit symbol; the Inuksuk. First Air and the Inuksuk have meaningful Ottawa Airport history and connection as the airline commissioned artists to build an Inuksuk in the airport to commemorate the opening of its new terminal in 2003.

Along with its commitment to being an essential services airline for the Arctic, First Air also wants to shine a brighter focus on Arctic tourism:

“We want to inspire more tourists to visit this truly exotic destination,” said Brock Friesen, President and CEO of First Air. “The Arctic is a place of wonder that is attracting more visitors from around the world in search of an out-of-the-ordinary travel experience. Along with providing memorable vacations to people from around the globe, First Air hopes that the economies of local Arctic communities will be bolstered by servicing new tourism ventures.”

For First Air, the people of the Arctic, and the Ottawa Airport, the future will continue to shine as bright as the amazing Northern Lights.