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Chopper charter a success

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 3, 2009

DEH CHO - In a year that's been marked by economic uncertainty around the globe and in the North, at least one helicopter company in the Deh Cho has prospered.

Denendeh Helicopters Ltd. purchased a Bell 206 LongRanger in April to supplement its existing A-Star 350 BA that was bought in 2005. Denendeh Helicopters is a partnership between Great Slave Helicopters Ltd. and Evergreen Forestry, a company that's owned by the Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation in Fort Providence and the K'atlodeeche First Nation of the Hay River Reserve.

NNSL photo/graphic

Seated in the cockpit of an A-Star Chief helicopter Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge, left, the vice-president of Denendeh Helicopters Ltd. and Chief Roy Fabian, the company's new president, congratulate each other on a successful year. - photo courtesy of John Curran

"Even though there was an economic downturn, the company continued to do well," said Chief Roy Fabian of the K'atlodeeche First Nation.

The new machine means the company will be able to fulfill more contracts and get more work both in the North and across the country, he said. Fabian was named Denendeh's president for the next year during the company's annual general meeting that was held in Yellowknife from Nov. 20 to 22.

Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge of Fort Providence was made co-vice-president along with Jeff Denomme, who's also the president of Great Slave Helicopters.

The LongRanger spent the summer in the territory fulfilling contracts related to mining and exploration. Currently it is based out of Calgary, used in conducting surveys in southern Alberta.

"We work wherever we can get work," said Fabian.

Denendeh Helicopters, which was incorporated with Great Slave Helicopters in 1996, was Great Slave's first partnership with an aboriginal group in the territory.

"The contract's been going really well," Fabian said.

The company's original helicopter, an A-Star, has been regularly used for contracts with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources related to the yearly forest fire season.

The A-Star was paid off a few years ago paving the way for the purchase of a second machine, said Fabian.

"I'm hoping that we continue expanding and build up our inventory and our equipment," he said.

Across the territory all of Great Slave Helicopters' six other joint venture operations have been doing well despite the economic slowdown, said Denomme.

Great Slave has returned other leased aircraft in order to give preference to the machines that are owned by the partnerships.

"They're first on the list for leasing aircraft," he said.

Great Slave has lease agreements with partners like Denendeh in which they agree to lease their helicopters for a minimum number of hours. The partnership with Denendeh set the stage for all of the other joint ventures that the company's created in the territory, said Denomme.

The arrangements benefit Great Slave's aboriginal partners and their communities because it allows them to own an asset and grow a business, he said.

"It certainly works well for us and it works well for them. We're very pleased with the partnership we have," Denomme said.

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