Welcome aboard Air Borealis—the indigenous joint venture that’s bringing isolated Labrador communities closer together

Posted on July 01, 2021 | By Ossie Michelin | 0 Comments

 

No two workdays are ever the same for Amanda Combden, the commercial operations manager for Air Borealis. On any given day Combden can literally have dozens of things up in the air, ensuring cargo and passengers make it to and from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Innu and Inuit communities along the North Coast of Labrador.

“If we get good weather, it’s pretty consistent. The weather delays, they give us challenges, but it’s the challenges that make us think faster,” says Combden. “Things just pop up out of nowhere. The weather can just almost instantly come down, the fog will roll right in, in a matter of 20 minutes, and then we have to change our plans all over again.” 

The weather here is infamously fickle and there are no roads in Northern Labrador. From the late-Fall until the late-Spring each year, thick sea ice encases the coast of Labrador, making maritime transport of freight impossible. During the long Labrador winters, Air Borealis is the main way to transport cargo to and from Northern Labrador. Annually the airline moves 3.5 million pounds of cargo and 25,000 passengers. 

For the six Indigenous communities along the North Coast of Labrador, the nearest hospital is in central Labrador in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Air Borealis offers a vital service to these communities, not just as a transportation link between coastal Labrador and the rest of the country, but also providing emergency medical flights known locally as a “medevac,” and scheduled medical flights known as a “schedevac”. The airline also provides charter flights, helicopter services, provides regular transport for the Voisey’s Bay mine workers living in Labrador and carries the mail. 

Making sure all these passengers and cargo arrive at their destination sounds like a logistical nightmare, but for Combden, it’s just another day in the office. “My day-to-day is always busy,” Combden says. “I am making sure that all the aircraft take off at full capacity. I ensure that the scheduled passengers are booked on all their flights, that the routings are properly aligned based on payload and destination. I make sure that aircrafts are available for chartered flights, and I assist the cargo department to ensure they get the aircraft and the routings they require. Weather challenges play a major role in how we schedule our flights, but we try to get things moving as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”

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