|Founded||July 17, 1963|
|Focus cities||Sudbury Airport|
|Company slogan||Let the Bear take you there!|
|Parent company||Exchange Income Corporation|
|Headquarters||Sioux Lookout, Ontario|
|Key people||John Hegland, Founder|
Bearskin Lake Air Service LP, operating as Bearskin Airlines, is a regional airline based in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada. It operates services in northern Ontario and Manitoba. Its main bases are Sioux Lookout Airport (YXL) and Thunder Bay International Airport (YQT), with a hub at Greater Sudbury Airport (YSB).
The airline was established in 1963 by bush pilot Otto John Hegland and started operations in July 1963 from its base at Big Trout Lake, Ontario (but was named after Bearskin Lake where Hegland had a general store). It started out by providing only charter services to the remote First Nations reserves in northern Ontario, using bush planes equipped with floats in the summer and skis in the winter. In 1977, it began its first regular scheduled flights between Big Trout Lake and Sioux Lookout.
From then on, other scheduled flights were progressively added, first to Thunder Bay, followed by Kenora and Winnipeg. This was also the period when the Government of Ontario began constructing new airfields that would make the northern communities accessible year-round. Therefore in the late 1970s to the early 1980s, Bearskin made the transition of bush planes to wheeled commuter planes.
Following the collapse of NorOntair in 1996, Bearskin picked up over two thirds of that carrier's routes, thereby adding scheduled service to all the major northern Ontario cities. Three years later, it expanded operations to destinations in northern Manitoba. In 2003, it sold its routes and assets servicing northern First Nations communities to Wasaya Airways. This marked as a break with its bush flying background to focus on becoming a regional carrier.
It was owned by Harvey Friesen (President), Cliff Friesen (Executive Vice-President), Karl Friesen (Vice President of Operations), Rick Baratta (Vice President of Finance) and Brad Martin (Director of Operations), but in 2010 it was sold to Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) for $32 million. EIC also owns Calm Air, Perimeter Aviation, and Keewatin Air. Bearskin has 240 employees.
As of April 1, 2014, all service at Region of Waterloo Airport (YKF) and Ottawa Airport (YOW) was cancelled, affecting seven routes and significantly decreased the flight operations. The company indicated that a softening mining sector and high tech sectors (such as BlackBerry) were to blame for cutting the routes. Additional factors included the introduction of new competitors (such as Porter Airlines). The company indicated it's refocusing on northwestern and northeastern routes in Northern Ontario.
Bearskin Airlines operates services to the following Canadian domestic scheduled destinations:
- Dryden (Dryden Regional Airport)
- Fort Frances (Fort Frances Municipal Airport)
- Kapuskasing (Kapuskasing Airport)
- Kenora (Kenora Airport)
- North Bay (North Bay/Jack Garland Airport)
- Red Lake (Red Lake Airport)
- Sault Ste. Marie (Sault Ste. Marie Airport)
- Sioux Lookout (Sioux Lookout Airport)
- Sudbury (Sudbury Airport)
- Thunder Bay (Thunder Bay International Airport)
- Timmins (Timmins/Victor M. Power Airport)
|Leaving From:||Going To:|
|Dryden||Kenora, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Fort Frances, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg|
|Fort Frances||Kenora, Dryden, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg|
|Kapuskasing||North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins|
|Kenora||Dryden, Fort Frances, Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg|
|North Bay||Kapuskasing, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins|
|Red Lake||Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg|
|Sault Ste. Marie||Kapuskasing, North Bay, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins|
|Sioux Lookout||Dryden, Kenora, Red Lake, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg|
|Sudbury||Kapuskasing, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Timmins|
|Thunder Bay||Dryden, Fort Frances, Kapuskasing, Kenora, North Bay, Red Lake, Sault Ste. Marie, Sioux Lookout, Sudbury, Timmins, Winnipeg|
|Timmins||Kapuskasing, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay|
|Winnipeg||Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay|
|Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner||15||19|
Bearskin Airlines has flown the following aircraft in the past:
- Beechcraft 18
- Beechcraft 99
- Beechcraft King Air 100
- Cessna 180
- Cessna 185
- de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver
- de Havilland DHC-3 Otter
- Noorduyn Norseman
- Pilatus PC-12
- Piper Aztec
- Piper Navajo and Navajo Chieftain
- Saab 340
The airline offers Aeroplan rewards points, both to collect and to redeem.
Accidents and incidents
- May 1, 1995: Flight 362, a Swearingen Metroliner, collided with an Air Sandy Piper Navajo Chieftain while on approach to Sioux Lookout Airport, destroying both aircraft and killing all persons on both aircraft, a total of 8 dead.
- December 4, 1997: Flight 310, a Beechcraft 99 hit the runway at Webequie Airport when it descended too quickly. No injuries were reported.
- January 29, 2003: A Beechcraft 99 climbed and entered a turn, but the captain had trouble seeing the artificial horizon. The first officer called that the aircraft was in a 2000 feet per minute descent. He then took control, but was not fast enough to prevent the aircraft from striking a frozen lake and bouncing back into the air. Believing that both propellers were damaged, he then crash landed on the lake. No fatalities were reported.
- November 10, 2013: A Swearingen Metroliner crashed on approach into Red Lake Airport in Ontario after a flight from Sioux Lookout Airport, killing five of seven people aboard. The crash occurred south of the airfield where the aircraft struck trees and a power line before being destroyed by impact and fire. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is continuing to investigate the cause of the accident.
- "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 2007-03-27. p. 84.
- Bearskin Airlines, Bear Country: Special 45th Anniversary Issue, 2008, ISBN D702544
- "Bearskin drops flights to Ottawa, K-W". Northern Ontario Business. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
- Kelly, Brian. "Bearskin trims Sault service". Sault Star. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
- "Bearskin Airlines cancels all trips between Waterloo Region and Ottawa". CBC News. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
- "Bearskin Airlines Terminates Service to Ottawa and Kitchener/Waterloo" (Press release). Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada: Bearskin Airlines. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- CTV Kitchener (25 March 2014). "Bearskin Airlines ending service from Waterloo Region to Ottawa". CTV News. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- Bearskin Airlines aircraft
- Transport Canada listing of aircraft owned by "Bearskin Airlines" (enter Bearskin Lake Air Service LP in the box titled "Owner Name")
- Report Number A95H0008
- "Record 19971204-0" at Aviation Safety Net
- "Record 20030129-0" at Aviation Safety Net
-  at Aviation Herald
- "Record 20131110-0" at Aviation Safety Net
- "Aviation Investigation A13C0150 Bearskin Airlines flight 311". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
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