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About First Air

The Airline of the North

First Air has evolved from a visionary pilot’s invention to today’s corporate business that connects more of the Arctic than any other airline.

It began with Canadian aviation pioneer, Russell (Russ) Bradley, who started his pilot training centre and flying school in Ottawa in 1946. From the outset, Russ proved an innovator. He and legendary pilot and partner, Weldy Phipps, revolutionized Arctic flying capability by developing the large balloon-like “tundra tires” in response to the Geological Survey of Canada contract awarded to Bradley Air Services in the late 1950s. Their growing number of clients were no longer limited to where and when they could land in the High Arctic.

In a few short decades, Bradley Air Services Ltd. has evolved to become Canada’s foremost Arctic and remote region air carrier, operating under the trademark name – FIRST AIR. Today, First Air, The Airline of the North, is owned by Makivik Corporation, the organization responsible for administering the land claim settlement of the Inuit of northern Quebec. Through a series of prudent acquisitions over the years (Ptarmigan Airways and NWT Air), First Air has expanded its fleet, its route system, and already extensive range of air carrier capability.

The First Air name is recognized in the aviation business with innovation and operational expertise for remote regions and unusual or especially taxing environments. Our service-based approach and extensive northern experience are two of the main reasons why First Air planes and crews are a natural ‘first choice’, when it comes to choosing an airline in Canada’s Arctic.


Our Fleet

First Air operates a versatile fleet of aircraft for regularly scheduled passenger and air cargo services. The fleet offers the capability for  gravel and ice strip operations and are equipped for landing in remote locations. Many are combination (combi) aircraft capable of multiple passenger/cargo configurations.


First Air’s Scheduled Service

First Air serves the cargo and travel needs of more northern communities than any other air carrier in Canada. Our scheduled service carries approximately 225,000 passengers and over 22 million kilograms of freight and mail over its vast and comprehensive route system, which connects 30 northern communities with major centres Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton. The company currently employs over 1000 people, of which more than 450 live and work in the north.


First Air’s Charter Services

First Air’s charter bases in Ottawa, Iqaluit and Yellowknife are major staging points for a sphere of charter operations that encompass a unique and demanding array of tasks.  With the capability to fly anywhere in the world, our fleet of aircraft provide a diversity of sizes and configurations to meet many charter needs, however unique the situation may be.