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FirstAir plans Ottawa cargo expansion

Canadian airline FirstAir has applied for government funding to expand its cargo facilities at Ottawa Airport as it anticipates demand growth over the coming years.

The wholly Inuit-owned airline said that it expects cargo demand to grow by 28% over the next five years and therefore needs to ensure that it has enough capacity to handle this amount of cargo.

Last year, the airline shipped 19.4m kilos of cargo from Ottawa to Canada’s Artic communities, including food, mail, medical supplies and other goods.

To meet the anticipated growth, the airline would like to increase warehousing and refrigeration capacity at Ottawa, while also modernising technology to reduce spoilage and delayed shipments.

The expansion would ensure compliance with federal security screening requirements, the airline said.

The total cost of the project is estimated at C$17m, with the airline hoping that the National Trade Corridors Fund will cover half the cost.

In support of the project, the Ottawa Airport Authority proposes to realign Alert Road to facilitate an expansion of First Air's existing maintenance hangar to the east.

Aeroterm, the managing partner of Ottawa's FedEx shipping operation, would take over First Air's existing cargo warehouse to expand its facilities.

First Air president and chief executive Brock Friesen said: “We want to ensure that we not only meet the growing cargo demand of Canada's Arctic and that we also continue to provide the best service possible in doing so.

“The Arctic communities depend on us on a daily basis, every day of the year. We take this role very seriously and are committed to modernising our facilities to optimise service to the north.”

"As a key gateway into Canada's Arctic, the Ottawa International Airport Authority is acutely aware of the importance of First Air's ability to meet the growing demand for the movement of people and goods to the North," said Mark Laroche, president and chief executive of the Ottawa International Airport Authority.

"This application not only meets the spirit of the National Transportation Corridors Fund, it will make a meaningful difference to communities and individuals in Canada's North who will benefit from increased availability and lower prices for goods, and we look forward to the federal government's favourable consideration."

The airline has also applied for funding for a second project to expand its Iqaluit cargo facilities, its eastern Arctic hub.

The expansion would include construction of a larger warehouse to aid in ensuring the uninterrupted delivery of critical freight.

This new facility would also include enhanced inventory management and delivery standards through increased refrigeration capacity and new radio frequency identification (RFID), as well as the integration of Green technology into the design of the structures to maximize energy conservation.

FirstAir operates a fleet of B737-400, B737-400combi, ATR42-300 and ATR42-500 aircraft.

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