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Wasaya launches Dash-8 service to Musselwhite

Thursday October 14, 2010
James Thom/Wawatay News
Bishop Lydia Mamakwa blesses Wasaya Airways LP’s newest aircraft, a Dash-8 which can transport nearly 50 people per flight. While this plane will be used primarily for transporting miners to and from Musselwhite Mine, Wasaya announced Oct. 7 plans to purchase a second Dash-8 which will have reduced seating capacity but greater storage space. It is expected to join the fleet by the end of November.
James Thom/Wawatay News
Wasaya Group Inc. board chairman Hez Sakakeep, left, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy, Wasaya Airways LP president and CEO Tom Morris and Wasaya Group Inc. president and CEO Tom Kamenawatamin disembark Wasaya Airways’s newest plane, a Dash-8.

Gil Lawson had a fun commute from work to Wasaya Airways Oct. 7 for a press conference.

He was one of the passengers on the Dash-8 aircraft purchased through an arrangement between his employer, Musselwhite Mine, and Wasaya.

“This is my commuting car,” Lawson, general manager of the mine, joked during a press conference for the plane’s launch at the Wasaya Hangar in Thunder Bay.

The plane was purchased primarily to transport miners to and from Musselwhite.

It has been in service for more than two weeks. Wasaya and Musselwhite have partnered for staff transport since 1997.

“Wasaya has provided us with tremendous service,” Lawson said. “Prior to this, we used smaller aircraft to transport staff. This will make it easier.”

With the $7.5-million US deal now complete, Wasaya Airways is turning its attention to acquiring a second Dash-8 to complement its existing fleet.

That should be done by late November, Wasaya Airways president and CEO Tom Morris said.

“Dash-8 planes are all equipped to fly into gravel runways,” Morris said. “They are great aircraft to meet the needs of our communities.”

These aircraft can land in lower cloud ceilings and accommodate more passengers and cargo than other planes in the fleet. Other features include easier cargo loading, lower stance and better fuel efficiency.

Morris anticipates it will be modified to seat either 38 or 29 people.

In contrast, the plane transporting the miners seats more than 48 people.

Wasaya Group Inc. board chairman Hez Sakakeep sees Dash-8 service as an important step in Wasaya’s growth.

“Wasaya is a lifeline to our communities,” Sakakeep, who hails from Kingfisher Lake, said. “We play an important role in the lives of the people.”

From grocery delivery to medical supplies, fuel and recreational vehicles, Wasaya delivers it all. But now, it will be easier with the Dash-8 aircraft, he said.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy was one of the many dignitaries at the Dash-8 launch, along with several chiefs from Wasaya’s owner communities.

Beardy stressed the importance of supporting First Nation business during his remarks.

“Wasaya is one of our enterprises that are very successful,” Beardy said. “Wasaya is an indication of what we are capable of. If we are successful, all of us will benefit.”


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