Bearskin Airlines

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Bearskin Airlines
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded July 17, 1963
Focus cities Sudbury Airport
Frequent-flyer program Aeroplan
Fleet size 16
Destinations 12[1]
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).[2]


Bearskin Airlines' Metroliner

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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[2]

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).[4] The company indicated it's refocusing on northwestern and northeastern routes in Northern Ontario.[5][6][7][8]

Bearskin is a major provider of flights for Hope Air, a charity that organises free non-medical emergency flights for people in financial need, particularly from remote communities.[9]


Bearskin Metroliner at dusk

Bearskin Airlines operates services to the following Canadian domestic scheduled destinations:[1]


Bearskin Metroliner interior
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


The Bearskin Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft (as of June 2012):[10][11]

Bearskin Airlines Fleet
Aircraft In Fleet Passengers Notes
Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner 15 19

Previously operated

Bearskin Airlines has flown the following aircraft in the past:[3]

Affinity programs

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.[12]
  • December 4, 1997: Flight 310, a Beechcraft 99 hit the runway at Webequie Airport when it descended too quickly. No injuries were reported.[13]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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.[15][16] The crash occurred south of the airfield where the aircraft struck trees and a power line before being destroyed by impact and fire.[17] The Transportation Safety Board of Canada concluded that there was a total failure of the left engine about 500 feet above ground due to an internal component. This slowed the aircraft and caused it to stall. This led Honeywell, the engine manufacturer, to issue a change to inspection procedures for fuel nozzles.[18]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Reservations
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 2007-03-27. p. 84.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Bearskin Airlines, Bear Country: Special 45th Anniversary Issue, 2008, ISBN D702544
  4. "Bearskin drops flights to Ottawa, K-W". Northern Ontario Business. Retrieved 2014-03-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Kelly, Brian. "Bearskin trims Sault service". Sault Star. Retrieved 2014-03-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Bearskin Airlines cancels all trips between Waterloo Region and Ottawa". CBC News. Retrieved 2013-03-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Bearskin Airlines Terminates Service to Ottawa and Kitchener/Waterloo" (Press release). Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada: Bearskin Airlines. Retrieved 25 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. CTV Kitchener (25 March 2014). "Bearskin Airlines ending service from Waterloo Region to Ottawa". CTV News. Retrieved 25 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Bearskin Airlines aircraft
  11. Transport Canada listing of aircraft owned by "Bearskin Airlines" (enter Bearskin Lake Air Service LP in the box titled "Owner Name")
  12. Report Number A95H0008
  13. "Record 19971204-0" at Aviation Safety Net
  14. "Record 20030129-0" at Aviation Safety Net
  15. [1] at Aviation Herald
  16. "Record 20131110-0" at Aviation Safety Net
  17. "Aviation Investigation A13C0150 Bearskin Airlines flight 311". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Retrieved 2014-01-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Engine power loss blamed for 2013 Bearskin crash". Northern Ontario Business. 2015-04-15. Retrieved 2015-04-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links