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New additions at First Air

Faster fleet will keep the North travelling

Thorunn Howatt
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 05/01) - Northern airline First Air is keeping its fleet ship-shape with some new additions.

We have purchased four of these aircraft and they will all be entering into service in Yellowknife between now and the end of January, says First Air vice-president of marketing, Jim Ballingall.

Ballingall was referring to the airlines four new ATR 42s. It is the new generation, state-of-the-art turbo prop, he said.

The planes, which range between seven and 10 years old, cost more than $26 million for all four.

They will replace four of the eight Hawker Sidley aircraft owned by First Air.

By the end of the next two years, the plan is to have phased out the entire fleet of Hawkers and replace them with the ATR 42s, said Ballingall, who couldnt commit to buying another four planes.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist incident First Air has experienced a 10 to 15 per cent drop in traffic, mostly on the Edmonton-Yellowknife and Ottawa-Iqaluit routes.

About 50 to 60 per cent of our business is connections to Air Canada, said Ballingall.

First Air flies to 26 communities in the North using 28 aircraft.