Canadian carrier First Air and Lynden Air Cargo have signed a strategic cooperation that will ensure continued availability of Lockheed C-130 Hercules freighter charters in Canada’s North. The announcement came on the last day of Hercules operation by First Air, the only airline in Canada operating civilian-owned Hercules freighter aircraft.
The ability to transport heavy, outsized cargo to short, gravel runways has established the Hercules as the ideal cargo aircraft for many charter customers in this part of Canada. Hercules freighters have long been an essential part of aviation in the North of Canada. First Air began operating its first Hercules aircraft in 1997 and added a second in 2006 but can no longer justify keeping the Hercules in its fleet.
“For a long time the Hercules made perfect sense, but markets are changing. The cost of operating and maintaining Hercules freighters has risen significantly in recent years. It is no longer viable to keep Hercules in our fleet”, said Bert van der Stege, vice president commercial, First Air, during a farewell ceremony for the type at Yellowknife Airport.
Instead, First Air is now strengthening its partnership strategy. Lynden Air Cargo will assume ownership of Canada’s remaining Hercules freighter on April 30, 2015 and will support the Canadian market’s need for the heavy haul aircraft by providing charter services to First Air in Yellowknife, subject to regulatory approval.
Both parties will uphold current customer relationships while offering enhanced overall reliability and service, based on the strengths of the individual companies, says van der Stege. “With a complementary fleet and an outstanding record of reliability and service, Lynden is a perfect fit for First Air. Both companies will realize synergies that are beneficial for our Hercules cargo customers,” he added.
First Air is Canada’s largest northern carrier with a fleet of 20 aircraft and 970 employees. It operates a fleet of Boeing 737s and ATR 42/72 turboprops serving 29 northern destinations and 4 major cities in the South. Its headquarters are in Ottawa but it also has hubs in Iqaluit and Yellowknife.