Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

For the findings in this case please go to:

Wings clipped

Delta carrier upset over suspension

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 02/02) - One of Inuvik's busiest air carriers was shut down last week without notice by Transport Canada.

Arctic Wings president Carl Falsnes said the company has never had an accident and has maintained a flawless record with Transport Canada. But based on information from what Falsnes believes is a disgruntled employee, the business was grounded last Friday afternoon.

Falsnes said the company completed an audit with seven Transport Canada officials only weeks ago.

"We had an unexpected, major audit less than a month ago and we cleared it with flying colours," Falsnes said. "We had two audits less than six months previous to that and we cleared those with flying colours."

"We have always been told we were safe and Transport Canada has always been happy with us."

Arctic Wings has seven aircraft in its fleet and flies over 100 passengers each day, plus freight and cargo.

Passengers stranded

Falsnes said the grounding cost the company and their customers a great deal of stress and thousands of dollars.

"We had people stranded everywhere," he said. "There were people from Germany stranded on the Horton River with no communications for three days."

The company has sought the help of other carriers to fly their planes and passengers until they are given permission to fly again.

"We had groups of Norwegians booked to fly out on their summer vacations and we had to make arrangements with North Wright Air to move them for us," he said. "Several other charter companies have also offered to help out because they believe what was done was wrong."

As of last Sunday he was able to reschedule all Arctic Wings flights through the other carriers.

Falsnes said the Northern Air Transportation Association will be looking into the situation.

"The feeling is, is that if it can happen to us, who have a good reputation, it can happen to anyone of them," he said.

He says when deficiencies are found with any carrier, Transport Canada normally allows 30 days to rectify the situation, unless it is an extreme case of negligence, unsafe aircraft or pilots.

He complains that despite their outstanding record for safety, they were shut down without proper reason or notice.

"We were found guilty until proven innocent, and even if there were minor deficiencies we were not unsafe," he said. "I would put any of my family members on any of our planes, with any of our pilots, without question."

"It's a really sad day when Transport Canada makes decisions that effect the livelihood of 20 employees, my lifetime investment, because they 'think' there might be a problem," Falsnes said. "They should never have had the opportunity to make such a ridiculous decision without talking to me."

While the other airlines are filling in temporarily, Falsnes is hoping to be back on the stick by week's end.

Transport Canada had not returned calls by press time.