Canadian North to phase out jet service to western Nunavut hubs

Boeing 737-200 jets to be replaced by turbo-props

Canadian North’s new call sign has aptly been registered as ARCTIC for all flights; its three-letter designator is AKT. (File photo by Mark Taylor/Canadian North)

By Jane George

Canadian North plans to end its jet service to Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk because these two communities’ runways are not paved.

The airline’s two Boeing 737-200 jets that can land on gravel are nearing the end of their lives.

“To extend [their lifetimes] further would require prohibitively expensive capital investments,” said Andrew Pope, the airline’s vice-president, customer and commercial.

“Our intention is to instead invest those funds into new aircraft acquisitions to support our entire network, including the Kitikmeot region.”

The first 737-200 will be retired in May and the second will be retired as early as 2022.

Once that happens, Canadian North plans to use a new ATR42-500 turbo-prop aircraft for its service to the Kitikmeot. The airline will use a different, unspecified plane for cargo.

Turbo-prop aircraft may be slower than jet aircraft, he said, but the flights will only be around 20 minutes longer.

Ticket prices or cargo rates for the Kitikmeot region will not rise after the change in aircraft, Pope said.

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(32) Comments:

  1. Posted by Flyer on

    Makes since, the 737-200s are getting up there in age, like my sore knees, GN could invest in he communities and pave their runways, it would help in lowering the cost of airplane maintenance also which might help in lowering the ticket cost.

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    • Posted by George on

      Yes, those ancient jets need to be retired. Of course, the ATR’s will not be brand-new either, only marginally newer.
      It would be a mistake for the government to shell out big bucks to pave those runways. It isn’t necessary and will result in increased maintenance costs to repair the asphalt as the climate and permafrost does its thing.
      We have often heard the old song about improved runways allowing bigger aircraft and reducing airfares. It has never happened. The companies might enjoy lower operational costs, but they simply pocket the money and the consumer gets nothing.

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      • Posted by Conner dear on

        Inuvik has a paved runway, ask them about cost, I’m sure the climate and environments are similar in Coppermine and Cam-Main in terms of climate change, YCB is cold, so don’t have to worry about permafrost shifting as much, right?

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      • Posted by Umingmak on

        This is a very ignorant comment. Anyone who’s ever lived in these two communities can tell you how important the jet service is.

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        • Posted by Jimmy on

          And why, specifically, is it so important? The ATR can handle the freight, is more comfortable and almost as fast.

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        • Posted by Camrat Tarmac on

          I get the impression they think it somehow lends prestige to their communities. Like they’re on that 40-year old jet, wearing monocles and eating cookies, laughing at the plebs from Kugaaruk, Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven.

  2. Posted by New World on

    We have entered a new age and there’s a significant uptick in cargo through Canada Post. Its not just COVID related but its due to access to online shopping. Frankly despite shipping costs most items are still significantly cheaper if shipped up via Canada Post than if I buy it at the Northern or Co-op. It’s a sad reality.

    I suspect if we continue to trend in this direction we will only see more cargo coming in via air rather than people depending on stores or sealift. I think ultimately you need to look to the future and trends to determine if a new runway is in order and cant just look at the past. The town is growing and the modern day customer uses the mail more and more for parcels.

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  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    Good call. We have seen this coming for a while now, the Aircraft are workhorses but if you look them up on the Aircraft Registration Database, GDPA and GOPW were built in 1980.

    The partnership First Air had with Summit Air was nice to have the RJ85 but it was not a Combi Aircraft, they landed fine in Cambridge Bay on the gravel airstrip but it just did not have the passenger numbers to make it a feasible alternative for the flights.

    ATR 72’s can ferry the cargo up and ATR 42’s can handle the Passengers, the new 500’s much smoother and only 15 min or so slower than the Jet going down. download some games for the Kids, spotify list for you and chill out, enjoy the rides south (when we can, next year?!?!)

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    • Posted by Conner Dear on

      Good call. We have seen this coming for a while now….why didn’t you tell us all about Covid, and we had to find out this way. Please share your knowledge sooner please.

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      • Posted by Northern Flyer on

        Seriously? If you are from the area and have travelled in and out of the communities (Cambridge and Kugluktuk) you would know the jets are very old, pushing past 40 years old with the amount of landing and takes off does alot to those planes. It sucks but what can you do it is time to retire those work horses and look to something better then an ATR (maybe bring back the Herc for cargo needs).

        The real question should be what was the outcome of a certain individual who travelled to Alaska to find out about how they pave their runways and able to maintain them at a decent operational cost.

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        • Posted by Northern Inuit on

          every movement on the aircraft are tough, but landing the 737 on a 5,000 foot runway barely legal to land on is harsh, no matter how experienced their Crews are. landing, slamming on the brakes and hard reverse are tough on them.

  4. Posted by Yipeeee….. on

    Here comes the daily frequent of bumped luggage again in favour of the prized priority fire water. Don’t know why the luggage always gets bumped on the ATR and the prized liquor makes the flight. Just ain’t right.

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  5. Posted by Alan Klie on

    I think they should pave the runway. In fact, I think all runways in Nunavut should be paved and the airports improved with VOR/DME and hangars despite the costs and small populations. Airports are the lifeline of Nunavut and will continue to be so until highways are built. They provide not only basic transport but emergency services like medevac. There are technologies and techniques that can protect permafrost and mitigate frost heave even in the Arctic. If airports were improved food transportation would be easier, as would general travel, with far fewer cancellations due to weather. It could also save lives by allowing landing for medevac in more hostile conditions. Costly, yes, but in my opinion more than worth it. When governments or companies say something like this is too expensive, what they’re really saying is “You’re not worth it”, and, to a certain extent, “You’re expendable.”

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    • Posted by Camrat Tarmac on

      All runways? Grise Fiord? Kimmirut? Chesterfield Inlet? Do you have any idea what that would cost to build and over its life? Even just Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk?

  6. Posted by Jeff on

    CB has had past MLAs who included extending & paving the runway as part of their platform. Guess they bs’d u CB folks just to get votes. More like they didn’t try hard enough once elected. A common theme in NU w elected officials. Your current MLA is basically a conduit for govt public notices. But what more can u expect from an mla who never made it past grade 10.

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  7. Posted by larry on

    WOW,there jeff ,its a business decision by cdn north,and the ATR 42,72, ARE EASIER TO LOAD AND UNLOAD,and they spend less time on the ground,and you will likely get 2 flts a day,lots of traffic in cam bay,and they will have to serve the public not themselves,those old 737s are going the way the DC3 and 748 hawkers

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  8. Posted by Oscare on

    The RJ 85 jet series can land in both communities as I have seen this first hand. Its the cargo or lack thereof that will be the issue mainly. See what happens I guess and yes our runways should be paved, this is the 21st Century, but Nunavut always gets left in the dark frm the Feds.

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  9. Posted by Umingmak on

    This is going to hurt Kitikmeot residents. The jet brings so much cargo while also allowing residents to travel comfortably & quickly. It also reduces the cost of shipping cargo.

    Terrible news from a terrible airline.

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  10. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    It’s likely that the two aircraft being retired are due for their “D” checks, which is a massive check, basically taking the whole aircraft apart and putting it back together. IIRC there would also be a major modification required based on aircraft age and/or number of cycles.
    .
    Any 737-200 would be subject to these requirements so replacing these two aircraft with other 737-200’s is just not feasible.
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    The other issue with replacing the aircraft is that the certification for gravel operations was done by Boeing on the original aircraft. The main aircraft manufacturers no longer care about the off paved strip market so they would not interested in taking the necessary mods through government certification. Such certification would be far too expensive for an individual airline to do themselves.
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    I’m not sure that paved airstrips throughout Nunavut are the answer, especially in a warming arctic where permafrost may not be so permanent. First Air has issues with the Thompson runway when they went in there for a brief period due to a huge frost heave in the runway. It affected payload and was a potential safety hazard if it had gotten worse.
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    Cambridge Bay due to being a regional centre and due to it’s location may be an exception to this, and the GN should be able to convince the feds to chip in as they could use it as a FOL for their military jets.
    .
    Ideally what you want for everyday service are long and wide gravel airstrips which can handle an ATR72 at full payload. Many of the Baffin airstrips should be lengthened.

    • Posted by George on

      I agree. As an example; the gravel runway in Kugluktuk is one of the best-maintained in the entire territory. Frankly, it’s as smooth as a baby’s bum, and when it (rarely) gets a little pothole a quick pass with a grader is all it takes to fix the problem.
      Contrast that to a paved northern runway. I’ve landed at many and they invariably have dips and hollows that you can’t fix with a grader. Eventually they get dangerous and then the only option is to fill and re-pave. Very expensive and entirely unnecessary. Stick with the gravel. There is really no down-side.

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      • Posted by Alan Klie on

        Other than it limits the types of planes that can land, they become more problematic in inclement weather and they’re more difficult to stop on. Grooved paved runways are a much safer option. I think paved runways are worth the expense, they last longer and with new techniques and technologies, the risks associated with heaving are mitigated. Even in the North, paved runways should be, or become, the standard.

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      • Posted by CYCO on

        Thanks. I showed this post to 2 of the 3 maintenance crew (1st female certified maintainer of Nunavut was off this week) The biggest smiles they had. They don’t get the appreciation they deserve.

        • Posted by ATR Capt on

          Landed there today. Told my copilot it was the nicest, hardest runway in the North. Might as well be paved

  11. Posted by ATR Capt on

    I believe costs will go down if you go to the ATR-42 for pax and ATR-72 for cargo. The 72 can carry about 16,000lbs of freight from yzf to ycb, at a fraction of the cost of a 737-200. Fuel, maintenance, ground support, all significantly cheaper with 2 ATRs than a 737. Probably about the same payload between them, and no need to waste weight with ballast. The runway condition requirements for the 737 are also (usually) more restrictive, therefore bumping up the runway maintenance costs. Ground crews can turn around a passenger ATR in half the time of a combi 737, so you’ll probably end up getting to yk sooner. If there are too many passengers booked on the ATR, I have no doubt Canadian North will call Summit to get their RJ. That kind of arrangement was in place for the yzf, yeg route. No reason that couldn’t happen again.

    I think parking the old 200s is a fantastic financial plan for CDN, and the result will be lower costs for NU and more frequent service.

    Just a Northern Pilot’s 2 cents

    • Posted by Northern Flyer on

      That only works if they actually had some ATR72’s but they don’t anymore, they would need to put a large cargo door and then have the floor done to hold pallets (similar to what Summit has) for it to work best or do the half size cookie sheets. Nobody wants to hand bomb 16000 lbs of cargo especially if it’s pop lol

      I truly think they should just repurchase a Herc for cargo needs.

      • Posted by ATR Capt on

        Yeah, but they are using Summit’s ATRs all the time for that run. Small door with pallet jacks. Seems to work well for them. CDN doesn’t need to purchase the freighters, just make something more regular with Summit.

        The herc costs too much to run. Unless you need to move big mining equipment, the cost to move general freight is too high.

        • Posted by Northern Flyer on

          We don’t get much of the Summit ATR’s in Cambridge Bay for freighters like we used to, it makes more sense for them to use cargo only 72’s compared to a combi.

          Only time will tell what’s going to happen right?

  12. Posted by Porter on

    All this talk about the ATR’s, Canadian should instead invest in the Dash 8-400, the quietest and fastest turbo prop in the industry. Speeds of over 600km/h is nearly fast as the 737.
    I’ve flown with Porter airlines and those Dash 8-400 are very comfortable much more than the ATRs.

    • Posted by Northern Flyer on

      Nobody cares for those Dash 8’s, when you can put cargo in the back you have to use seat packs and they are just a pain in the rear end.

      Having flown on both ATR and Dash 8, I have to give it to the ATR, the Dash 8 400’s have such narrow seats compared to the 200’s that Canadian have flown in the past. The ATR’s are better capable in the cold weather environment too.

  13. Pingback: Canadian North Phasing Out 737-200s - Canadian Aviator Magazine

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