Bearskin Airlines

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bearskin Airlines
IATA ICAO Callsign
FoundedJuly 17, 1963; 60 years ago (1963-07-17)[2]
AOC #Canada: 1861,[3] United States: VEKF819I[4]
Focus citiesSudbury
Frequent-flyer programConnecting Rewards
Fleet size22[5]
Parent companyExchange Income Corporation (Perimeter Aviation)[7]
HeadquartersThunder Bay, Ontario
Key peopleJohn Hegland, founder

Bearskin Lake Air Service LP, operating as Bearskin Airlines, is a regional airline based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It is a division of Perimeter Aviation and operates services in northern Ontario and Manitoba. Its main base is at Thunder Bay International Airport (YQT), with a hub at Greater Sudbury Airport (YSB).[8]


Bearskin Airlines' Metroliner

The airline was established in 1963 by bush pilot Otto John Hegland and began operations in July 1963[2] from its base at Big Trout Lake, home of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation. However, the airline was named after Bearskin Lake, home of the Bearskin Lake First Nation (where Hegland had a general store). It started by providing only charter services to the remote First Nations reserves in northern Ontario, using bush planes equipped with floats in the summer and skis in the winter. In 1977, it began its first regular scheduled flights between Big Trout Lake and Sioux Lookout.[9][2]

From then on, other scheduled flights were progressively added, first to Thunder Bay, followed by Kenora and Winnipeg. This was also the period when the Government of Ontario began constructing new airfields that would make the northern communities accessible year-round.[2] Therefore, in the late 1970s to the early 1980s, Bearskin made the transition of bush planes to wheeled commuter planes.[9] It entered into a commercial agreement with Air Ontario and joined Aeroplan in fall 1988.[2]

In the 1990s, Bearskin operated between Thunder Bay and Minneapolis–Saint Paul for almost three years. Following the collapse of NorOntair in 1996, Bearskin picked up over two-thirds of that carrier's routes, thereby adding scheduled service to all the major northern Ontario cities including Marathon, Timmins and Wawa. Three years later, it expanded operations to destinations in northern Manitoba.[2]

In September 2001, Bearskin launched its route between Toronto-Buttonville and Ottawa with seven daily roundtrips on weekdays and three daily roundtrips on weekends.[10] This was followed by Toronto-Buttonville and Sudbury route with three daily roundtrips in April 2003. In July 2003, it sold its routes and assets servicing northern First Nations communities to Wasaya Airways for $18 million.[2] This marked a break from its bush flying background to focus on becoming a regional carrier.[9] It withdrew its service between Toronto-Buttonville and Ottawa in August 2004 due to competition from major carriers. Sudbury received major connectivity improvement in April 2006.[11] Bearskin launched a new route between Ottawa and Waterloo in October 2007.[2]

It was owned by Harvey Friesen (president), Cliff Friesen (executive vice-president), Karl Friesen (vice president of operations), Rick Baratta (vice president of finance) and Brad Martin (director of operations). In 2010 it was sold to Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) for $32 million. EIC also owns Calm Air, Perimeter Aviation, PAL Airlines, Keewatin Air, and several other non-airline companies. Bearskin had 240 employees in 2007.[8]

As of April 1, 2014, all service at Region of Waterloo Airport (YKF) and Ottawa Airport (YOW) was cancelled, affecting seven routes and significantly decreased the flight operations. The company indicated that a softening mining sector and high tech sectors (such as BlackBerry) were to blame for cutting the routes. Additional factors included the introduction of new competitors (such as Porter Airlines).[12] The company indicated that it is refocusing on northwestern and northeastern routes in Northern Ontario.[13][14][15][16]

Bearskin is a major provider of flights for Hope Air, a charity that organizes free non-emergency medical flights for people in financial need, particularly from remote communities.[17]


Bearskin Metroliner at dusk

Bearskin Airlines operates services to the following Canadian domestic scheduled destinations:[6]

Province City IATA ICAO Airport Notes
Ontario Dryden YHD CYHD Dryden Regional Airport
Fort Frances YAG CYAG Fort Frances Municipal Airport
Kenora YQK CYQK Kenora Airport
North Bay YYB CYYB North Bay/Jack Garland Airport
Red Lake YRL CYRL Red Lake Airport
Sault Ste. Marie YAM CYAM Sault Ste. Marie Airport
Sioux Lookout YXL CYXL Sioux Lookout Airport Hub
Sudbury YSB CYSB Sudbury Airport Focus
Thunder Bay YQT CYQT Thunder Bay International Airport Hub
Manitoba Winnipeg YWG CYWG Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport Hub
Bearskin Metroliner interior


As per the Bearskin Airlines website, the only aircraft they operate are Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners. As of February 2023, Perimeter Aviation has 22 of the aircraft available:[5][18]

Bearskin Airlines fleet
Aircraft Number Variants Passengers Notes
Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner 22 SA227 Series 19 15 - SA227-AC Metro III
2 - SA227-CC Metro 23
5 - SA227-DC Metro 23
Bearskin Metroliner at Region of Waterloo International Airport

Previously operated[edit]

Bearskin Airlines has flown the following aircraft in the past:[9][2]

Affinity programs[edit]

Bearskin Airlines joined the Aeroplan when it entered into a commercial agreement with Air Ontario in fall 1988. It participated in the Aeroplan rewards program until June 30, 2018 (the airline merged with Perimeter Aviation on December 31, 2017). Since then, Bearskin Airlines is part of Perimeter Aviation's frequent flyer program, Connecting Rewards.[19][20]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • May 1, 1995: Flight 362, a Swearingen Metroliner, collided with an Air Sandy Piper Navajo Chieftain while on approach to Sioux Lookout Airport, destroying both aircraft and killing all persons on both aircraft, a total of eight dead.[21]
  • December 4, 1997: Flight 310, a Beechcraft 99 hit the runway at Webequie Airport when it descended too quickly. No injuries were reported but the aircraft was written off.[22]
  • November 10, 2013: A Swearingen Metroliner crashed on approach into Red Lake Airport in Ontario after a flight from Sioux Lookout Airport, killing five of seven people aboard.[23][24] The crash occurred south of the airfield where the aircraft struck trees and a power line before being destroyed by impact and fire.[25] The Transportation Safety Board of Canada concluded that there was a total failure of the left engine about 500 ft (150 m) above ground due to an internal component. This slowed the aircraft and caused it to stall. This led Honeywell, the engine manufacturer, to issue a change to inspection procedures for fuel nozzles.[26]
  • On February 24 2020 a Fairchild SA227-DC Metro 23 aircraft, operated by Perimeter Aviation as Bearskin Airlines Flight 344, crashed about 4:10 p.m. CT at Dryden airport in Ontario. Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigations found pilot error was the result due to an incomplete pre-taxi checklist. The aircraft left the runway while taxiing and crashed into a snowbank at speed with left propeller fragments penetrating the aircraft interior and injuring passengers. Multiple passengers were injured but there were no fatalities.[27]


  1. ^ a b "ICAO Designators for Canadian Aircraft Operating Agencies, Aeronautical Authorities and Services" (PDF). Nav Canada. May 4, 2023. p. 2. Retrieved February 24, 2023. Bearskin Lake Air Service: BLS, BEARSKIN
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bradshaw, Stacy (September 29, 2009). "Bullish About the Bear". Wings Magazine. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  3. ^ Transport Canada (August 30, 2019), Civil Aviation Services (CAS) AOC.
  4. ^ "Federal Aviation Administration - Airline Certificate Information - Detail View". Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Canadian Civil Aircraft Register: Quick Search Result for Perimeter Aviation". Transport Canada. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  6. ^ a b "Route Map". Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  7. ^ "Exchange Income Corporation Subsidiaries - Perimeter Aviation". Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  8. ^ a b "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. March 27, 2007. p. 84.
  9. ^ a b c d Bearskin Airlines, Bear Country: Special 45th Anniversary Issue, 2008, ISBN D702544
  10. ^ "Bearskin Airlines to start Toronto-Ottawa service". CBC News. August 14, 2021. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  11. ^ "Bearskin greatly enhances Northern Ontario schedule". March 20, 2006. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  12. ^ "Bearskin drops flights to Ottawa, K-W". Northern Ontario Business. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  13. ^ Kelly, Brian. "Bearskin trims Sault service". Sault Star. Archived from the original on March 26, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  14. ^ "Bearskin Airlines cancels all trips between Waterloo Region and Ottawa". CBC News. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  15. ^ "Bearskin Airlines Terminates Service to Ottawa and Kitchener/Waterloo" (Press release). Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada: Bearskin Airlines. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  16. ^ CTV Kitchener (March 25, 2014). "Bearskin Airlines ending service from Waterloo Region to Ottawa". CTV News. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  17. ^ "Commercial Airlines". Archived from the original on May 13, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  18. ^ "Aircraft". Bearskin Airlines. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  19. ^ Team, Rewards Canada (April 19, 2018). "April 19 Update: Bearskin Airlines leaving Aeroplan, Flair Airlines expanding domestic service, lots of new bonuses". Rewards Canada. Retrieved May 28, 2023.
  20. ^ Horizons Summer 2018 The in-flight magazine of Bearskin Airlines and Perimeter Aviation Page 43
  21. ^ Report Number A95H0008
  22. ^ "Record 19971204-0" at Aviation Safety Net
  23. ^ Crash: Bearskin SW4 at Red Lake on Nov 10th 2013, impacted ground on final approach at The Aviation Herald
  24. ^ "Record 20131110-0" at Aviation Safety Net
  25. ^ "Aviation Investigation A13C0150 Bearskin Airlines flight 311". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. November 22, 2013. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  26. ^ "Engine power loss blamed for 2013 Bearskin crash". Northern Ontario Business. April 15, 2015. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  27. ^ "'Slip of attention' to checklist likely contributed to 2020 Dryden small-plane crash: TSB". CBC news. April 14, 2021.

External links[edit]