Indigenous Canadian Woman Launches New Airline

Filed Under: Aviation

As Ben and Andrew experienced on their recent trip to Whitehorse, small airlines can be an important part of remote communities. The more isolated the area, the more valuable the services of small airlines become.

And in places like Alaska and northern Canada, there are many towns that aren’t connected by roads, and rely upon small aircraft to “fly-in” food, equipment, and more. Alaska Airlines still operates what they refer to as “Milk Run” routes to drop cargo and connect smaller towns.

There’s an interesting story out of Vancouver, Canada, where an Indigenous woman has started a new airline to specifically serve these small communities. While it’s not uncommon for Indigenous groups to invest in air service (Air North is 49% owned by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation), this seems to be the first airline built from the ground up by an Indigenous woman.

Iskwew Air will start both charter and scheduled passenger service from Vancouver International Airport in March, operating a single Piper Navajo aircraft. Given the Indigenous focus of the airline, and that one of the goals is to improve access and tourism to First Nations communities, the announcement of operations was preceded by a blessing ceremony earlier this week.

When corporations or investment firms start new airlines (or pretend to), they tend to get a lot of coverage, which makes sense, as we’re all interested in airlines we might someday consider flying.

This is obviously a different scale, and most of us will probably never interact with this airline, but I thought it was a sweet and empowering story, so figured I’d share. You can hear a short interview with the CEO and how she decided to become a pilot here.

There’s also local news story here as well, if you’d like to watch (apologies for the Twitter embed, but this was the best I could find).

(Featured image via YVR Airport)

  1. You wouldn’t include her gender if it was something negative ie “woman pilot crashes plane” so you shouldn’t here either. Provide news, not a narrative – thanks.

  2. @Debbie M: Unfortunately, for most people, when they think of what a pilot in this country looks like, they think of a man — and likely a white man. Naming something doesn’t make it — in this case, this person’s gender — go away.

  3. @ Debbie M — Fewer than 5% of all airline transport pilot licenses in Canada are held by women (that number is similar worldwide). Women hold fewer than 3% of CEO positions (in airlines of any size) globally.

    Gender is absolutely part of what makes this newsworthy; hopefully someday that won’t be the case.

  4. “Sweet” is exactly what NOT to use. If this was a 50 year old white American (or Brit) it wouldn’t be ‘sweet’. She isn’t a cartoon character. A man would be enterprising, or industrious, or or or or. But ‘sweet’ it isn’t. If you thought you were doing something positive you destroyed it. How adorable. I mean sweet.

  5. And to preempt things….I’m a female in a VERY dominated workplace and industry. I’ve been dealing with being called a *tich on one end of the spectrum to cute on the other. I don’t think me being successful in spite of my lack of a penis to be sweet.

  6. @ omgstfualready — That’s a fair criticism, and obviously something I deal with myself. Certainly wasn’t intended to sound as though it’s “cute” that she’s starting an airline — that takes ambition and brains!

    That being said, I also don’t think “sweet” is a pejorative term. Listening to her voice catch as she describes the impact she is hoping to have on her community, and the example she’s wanting to set for her daughters…it is sweet, and thoughtful, and kind, and it should be okay for her to showcase all those attributes and be an effective CEO.

    Alternatively, it’s absolutely brilliant heartstring-pulling marketing.

  7. I can see things like this being newsworthy when male dominated crappy jobs are also more “equal”, like garbage collection.

  8. Interesting that the first few comments are somewhat negative and I thought I was going to be reading a lot of “good for her” comments. Lol

    In any case, this reminds me of various small planes I took while on safari in Africa. There are a lot of beautiful places in rural Canada that’s not accessible. I wonder if someone can pull together enough destinations to make these kinds of routes profitable commercially? I hope for her sake, that her new airline becomes successful soon before the inevitable recession in few years time.

  9. No so long ago, maybe 20 or 25 years, I was on a flight ( QF , IIRC) descending into old Kai Tak in Hong Kong. The pilot came on the intercom to tell us that a “black storm” was around and to buckle in early. This seemed to cause great alarm amongst the (mostly Chinese) passengers, with lots of murmuring and some agitation . I asked the guy next to me if the passengers were worried; he said not about the storm , but rathe that they were so shocked that the pilot was a woman.
    So, yes, thiskind of story is newsworthy and will continue to be for a while to come.

  10. It is a great story. And sweet. And ballsy. And inspirational. And anything else “positive” you can think of. The wording can be different. But advocate for that and leave the negativity for Endre.

  11. @ Paolo… I concur and love the imagery too. I live in Hong Kong & could just imagine the increase in volume (btw it’s black RAIN storm). I’m only a white man and yet the adjective I picked up on was that the CEO was an aborigine from a First Nation. Adding her gender only just further increases the rarity of the phenomena. Being a resident of a tiny remote settlement and wanting to do more make the story seem even more amazing. Having grown up alongside indigenous Australians, I congratulate the her for overcoming so many difficulties to engage in this.

    For once, can’t acknowledge and celebrate one individual’s contribution to humanity instead of deriding people for their desire to recognise this person’s efforts… can’t we?

  12. @chatter, Endre won’t be very interested since the flight doesn’t have a private suite. If his/her pleasure take him/her to rural Canada, s/he’ll surely go in his/her own private hot air balloon.

  13. Holy hell people are uptight and sensitive. It’s a nice story – take it as it is and move on. Give me a break with the criticisms in the first few comments.

  14. @omgstfualready says:
    “September 26, 2018 at 6:56 pm
    And to preempt things….I’m a female in a VERY dominated workplace and industry”.

    Well explains the chip on your shoulder. This is a great entrepreneurial story yet you only focus on the (supposed) negative sexist aspect to it. You need to get out and interact with the real world a bit more. I apologise for being a man, by the way.

  15. I’m a straight white male, so I am an extreme minority as an LPN in a 520 bed nursing home/ sub-acute facility. What I love about healthcare is that we don’t have time to see eachother as anything else than individual humans. Dedication to patient care and seniority lead to job promotion, and nothing else. What matters is having eachother’s backs in life and death situations. Rather than divide into subgroups based on identity, we go to eachother’s weddings, collect amongst ourselves to help with funerals of loved ones. Most importantly we have a great time with eachother and do good work. Thankfully life in the real world has nothing to do with Twitter bubbles and comment section echo chambers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *