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Bearskin Airlines aircraft (Screen Capture)

Fort Frances/Dryden seek new air passenger service

By Randy Thoms Mar 28, 2024 | 4:07 PM

An official search is underway for new air passenger service for Dryden and Fort Frances.

The two communities have joined forces to solicit a carrier that would take over routes to be dropped by Bearskin Airlines in May.

Dryden’s Chief Administrative Officer, Roger Nesbitt, says it was best the two communities work together.

“The expression of interest is created in such a way that it would allow a carrier to propose service to one or the other or both communities. It’s not an all-or-nothing approach, but we thought that it would be to our advantage to have both communities working together on that expression of interest,” says Nesbitt.

Nesbitt says air passenger service has been crucial to the communities as an economic development opportunity for businesses, access to healthcare in other communities and opportunities for other government services.

Both town councils are looking to the provincial government for financial support with that search.

Resolutions supported this week by both councils note the importance of the airports to services like Ornge, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and other private aircraft.

The Fort Frances Airport is also a Canada Customs Port of Entry.

With the loss of Bearskin, the airports become ineligible for federal funds for capital improvements.

Fort Frances had to put upgrades to its runway and tarmac on hold because of it.

The resolution asks the federal government for continued access to the Federal Airport Capital Assistance Program.

The communities are giving potential carriers until the middle of April to submit proposals.

“Ideally through the expression of interest, we’re seeking a carrier that can provide reliable, affordable, and convenient scheduled air passenger service and looking for a carrier that most definitely can connect us with the major airports in Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, but potentially even beyond to primary destinations such as Toronto and or Calgary,” says Nesbitt.