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The First Air name is recognized in the aviation business with innovation and operational expertise for remote regions and unusual environments, particularly when it comes to flying in challenging weather and onto gravel runways in the North. Our safety-based approach and extensive northern experience are two of the main reasons why First Air aircraft and crews are a natural first choice when it comes to choosing an airline in Canada’s Arctic.

First Air is reliable in providing safe, scheduled services and has a long history of dependable service in and out of remote regions over the last seven decades. Here, we feature just a few examples of some of the challenging terrain and unique communities First Air has flown into over the years.

A First Air Twin Otter on Little Cornwallis Island, helping a British Hot Air Balloon try to float to the Magnetic North Pole, 1999. © Jason Miller – Baffin Photography
A First Air Twin Otter on Little Cornwallis Island, helping a British Hot Air Balloon try to float to the Magnetic North Pole, 1999. © Jason Miller – Baffin Photography

Within a decade of its beginnings, in 1954, Bradley Air Services (First Air) begins charter and aerial survey work for the DEW line construction in the vast, untamed Northwest Territories. From 1958-68, charter operations in the Arctic Islands expand as Bradley Air Services is engaged by scientific and government agencies.

In 1968, Bradley Air Services is awarded the air support contract for the Polar Continental Shelf Project in the Beaufort Sea and Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.

In 1971, the company opens the most northerly base commercial air service in the world at Eureka (600 miles from the North Pole) on Ellesmere Island. In 1973, First Air also opens a base in Resolute Bay in the High Arctic.

In 1974, a First Air operation is conducted in Antarctica, for the U.S. Navy’s Ross Ice Shelf Project. Since then First Air provides seasonal Antarctic support for a variety of international clients.
In 1975, First Air opens its Iqaluit base in Nunavut, offering passenger and cargo service to this community only accessible by air.

First Air purchases the Baffin operations and routes of Survair in 1978, securing a position for passenger and cargo services in what was then known as the Northwest Territories. This includes a new charter base at Hall Beach. The Baffin routes signal a major expansion to First Air’s operations in the North.

Since 1997, the First Air Hercules performs the big jobs that no other airline can, accommodating heavy-duty payloads, and navigating challenging terrain and climate, including being involved in humanitarian missions in the North.

In 1999, First Air’s Twin Otters travel to Alaska to re-supply a Canadian Coast Guard ship locked in the ice.

Also, that year, a Twin Otter flies to Little Cornwallis Island to help a British Hot Air Balloon try to float to the Magnetic North Pole.

A First Air aircraft at the Iqaluit Airport. First Air files
A First Air aircraft at the Iqaluit Airport. First Air files

First Air is a sponsor of the Mars Institute and NASA’s historic Northwest Passage Drive Expedition (2009-2011), which is part of the ongoing annual Haughton-Mars Project on Devon Island in the Arctic. The project will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016. During the expedition, a feature-length motion picture documentary film is recorded. The film is now complete and about to hit the big screen. It is titled: Passage to Mars.

Because First Air operates in some of the harshest conditions on earth, it continually strives to find ways to improve safety and operational efficiency of the airline. In 2014, First Air added FLYHTStream’sTM automatically triggered, real-time data and live black box streaming capability to its aircraft, raising the standard of tracking and automated alerting that is unsurpassed in the industry.

To ensure First Air aircraft continue to fly safely in the remote regions of the North, First Air planes are equipped with innovative flight following capabilities. It is the only airline in the world with real-time event aircraft tracking. This is particularly important to First Air due to its operations in remote areas, offering an increased safety function to its valued passengers and cargo.

In a few short decades, Bradley Air Services has evolved to become Canada’s foremost Arctic and remote region air carrier. Operating today under the name First Air, The Airline of the North, along with its codeshare partners, First Air’s scheduled network provides reliable service to 30 destinations in the North.