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Iqaluit company grabs polar flights

Stephan Burnett
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Mar 01/04) - Simple economics was the rationale for Unaalik Aviation Inc. The Iqaluit company was awarded a $1.2-million Public Works and Government Services Canada contract to fly to the North Pole.

The contract is being issued in support of the Polar Continental Shelf Project, providing cost-effective services to hundreds of scientists from around the globe.

"The flights are based out of Resolute and flying to the North Pole. If it's possible for Twin Otters to get there, we can get there," said Jimmy Unaalik, owner of Unaalik Aviation.

Unaalik said it was a combination of price and experience that landed the contract.

"We're a new company but we have experienced people. Some have flown the route for 20-25 years," said Unaalik.

Unaalik sees the contract as being a significant aspect of his business.

"For now it's a one-year contract with an option to renew. It's a significant part of the business that compliments our Antarctic work," said Unaalik.

The most recent holder of the contract was Ken Borek Air Ltd.

Bradley First Air had held the contract previously.

Stephen Pinikett, general manager for Ken Borek Air Ltd., said the loss of the contract was simply a matter of economics.

"They underbid me," said Pinikett. "Actually, I was very happy to lose it because it never made us money. It's high risk and produced no profit for many years."