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Can you discuss some of the latest news at Nolinor, such as the opening of a sub-base in Edmonton?

Over the past 12 months, Nolinor Aviation has achieved significant milestones, reflecting our continued growth and commitment to meeting our clients’ needs. One of our top priorities was the reintroduction of a Boeing 737-200 to our fleet. This project involved six months of dedicated work and an investment of over CAD 3 million. The 737-200 is a key asset for us, particularly for the mining industry, where we’ve seen a substantial increase in flight demand. The 737-200’s advantages include greater payload capacity, higher speed, and the ability to carry larger cargo loads thanks to its bigger cargo door. These features make it particularly suited for last-minute equipment deliveries to northern regions.

Our operations in Yellowknife, where we’ve been active for the past decade, primarily involve cargo flights for mining firms. Initially, our work supported the exploration phase of various projects. However, there has been a noticeable shift as more projects move into the operational stage, necessitating the transportation of workers, food, and additional cargo.

In response to this growing demand, we are establishing a new sub-base in Edmonton. Edmonton offers a significant maintenance facility, which aligns with our operational needs. The initial operations at the Edmonton base will feature one Boeing 737-200, chosen for its versatility and superior capabilities compared to the turboprop aircraft currently predominant in the area. As demand increases, we already plan to add a second 737-200 to our Edmonton operations if needed. Our investment in fleet expansion and new bases underscores our commitment to supporting the mining industry’s evolving needs and maintaining our competitive edge in the market.

How do you assess the future of the 737-200?

The 737-200 holds a unique position as the only jet certified by Boeing to land on gravel runways, a critical capability for operations in the North where infrastructure is limited. The Northern regions lack road networks, and the permafrost makes constructing traditional paved roads impractical. Therefore, the most efficient and safest way to access mining projects is by air, using gravel runways. These runways are not only easier to construct but also blend back into the terrain more effectively once mining projects conclude.

In contrast, alternative solutions like half-paved runways, which might be viable in the South, have proven unreliable and too costly in the North. Gravel runways remain the most practical, economical, and secure option for these remote areas. The 737-200 is the ideal aircraft for such conditions, providing dependable service depending on the stage of the mining project.

We are actively engaged in discussions with Boeing, who have reaffirmed their commitment to our fleet. As the best replacement for a Boeing is another Boeing, they have been visiting our operations in Mirabel and Yellowknife, conducting research and development to understand the specific challenges our aircraft face in the North. Boeing is working on an improved, versatile aircraft designed to use less fuel, particularly tailored for operations on unpaved runways.

How does Nolinor leverage AI?

AI is a game changer for the aviation industry. Last year, we partnered with the MILA – Québec AI Institute to enhance our Safety Management Systems. In Phase 1, the AI system summarized reports from crew members, significantly reducing administrative workload. Phase 2 will further improve the system by analyzing data to suggest safety improvements. The success of this initiative led us to create a separate sub-division, as several firms showed interest in our AI solutions.

Click here to read the entire article from Global Business Reports.