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Pilots take over airline

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Summit Air is flying into the hands of new owners.

Two of the company's pilots are in the final stages of purchasing the company from its longtime owners.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Jamie Tait is saying goodbye to Summit Air, he and his wife Barb's company of 20 years. Handing it over to two of their pilots is bittersweet, he said. - Erika Sherk/NNSL photo

"It's something we've had in the works for about a year and a half now," said Steve Tanton, one of the soon-to-be owners of the charter airline.

He and Dave Mathieson, both 37, will take over the company as soon as the financing goes through, said Tanton.

They have been running it for about a year now, said Jamie Tait, who will soon say goodbye to the company he started in 1987.

The duo came up to Yellowknife from Vancouver to work with Summit before buying it, said Tanton.

"We've been here for a year with the intention of doing this the whole time," he said.

They flew the planes, but also took care of much of the administration side, said Tait.

"It was a way for them to get their feet wet," he said.

Tait admitted he has never heard of an ownership changeover spanning a year before, but said it gave the guys an opportunity to learn how to run a company.

Even with a year of mental preparation, it won't be easy to walk away from the hangar, he said.

"It's been part of our lives," said Tait, "I've got mixed emotions."

Summit Air will still look the same, at least for the time being, said Tanton.

He and Mathieson won't be unveiling any grand changes at the airline, which does a lot of work moving crews and supplies for mines, he said.

"We want to keep plugging along," said Tanton. "We're pretty happy with the niche we've got right now."

In the future, they'll consider expanding, he said, but not until bank loans are paid and the company is stabilized.

The crews and planes will stay the same as well, said Tanton.

Those tallies are presently 15 pilots, 25 support employees and six planes.

Tanton said he and Mathieson plan to keep flying for the company, but less and less so.

"Obviously I'll have more admin work to do," he said. It doesn't bother him, he said, as he's been doing administrative work while learning the ropes.

As for the Taits, they will be moving back to Atlin, B.C., where they first started the company before moving to Yellowknife in 2000.

Tait, 50, a well-known local snowmobile enthusiast, said he plans to enjoy his retirement in Atlin.

"I'm going to build a snowmobile mecca for western Canada," he laughed.