A major air charter company in northern Saskatchewan has ceased operations.
Allison Thompson of Osprey Wings Ltd. confirmed to CBC News that it has ceased operations because the owners are aging, but hopes someone will take over maintenance of the area.
The family business has been put up for sale. According to an online listing by Colliers, it has the largest seaplane fleet in Saskatchewan.
The fleet consists of De Havilland Beavers, Turbo Otters and Twin Otters, using float and ski configurations.
Osprey Wings has been in business for over 50 years and has bases in Missinipe, La Ronge and Points North Landing.
Among other customers, its fleet of nine aircraft served the tourism, mining, firefighting and utility sectors.
Outfitter concerned about impact of loss of business
Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe, said many camps up north depend on Osprey Wings – and if a replacement isn’t found, it will have a huge impact on many businesses in the area.
“There are many, many companies that are going to go bankrupt if there is no seaplane company there,” he said. “Like many fishing camps, they have no other choice.
“It’s a big thing we’re losing. It’s not just a small seaplane company. It’s a big, big thing and so many businesses and so many industries depend on it.”
Driediger expects his business to survive, but said it will make a “huge, huge difference” to the canoe trips they can organize.
He also said Osprey’s wings were “heavily” used during wildfire season to monitor fires.
“Who is going to watch these fires? He asked. “Who is going to do this kind of work that the provincial government is counting on?”
CBC News has asked the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) for a response to news of Osprey Wings closing.
In a statement, a spokesperson said that the SPSA works with external air transport services in remote areas of the province and that if any of these services are no longer available, the SPSA will seek alternative measures and other resources to fill the gap.
Pam Schwann, president of the Saskatchewan Mining Association, said Osprey Wings has played an important role in mineral exploration and the mining industry in the province.
Schwann said there were very few roads in the areas of northern Saskatchewan where exploration took place, and the only way to get to many places was by seaplane in the summer or by plane with skis. in winter.
“With no one ready to take over and change the floats to skis, it will put a lot of pressure on exploration companies who may have just assumed it was normal business operations and were planning to use planes departing from Missinipe or Points North for their winter programs,” she said.
She said that without a viable operation in either of these locations, customers will face increased costs due to the longer distances they would travel or the use of helicopters.
“When you move your camps in or out, or your people in or out, or you do your grocery shopping, they were a very big part of the whole exploration cycle and mining off base in Missinipe,” she said.
Schwann said there are other companies with seaplanes in places like La Ronge and Buffalo Narrows, but with Osprey Wings out of the picture, customer options are limited.
“It really limits not only the locations, but the types of planes. Because the planes that Osprey had were really a lot of northern workhorses – the Beavers, the Twin Otters,” she said. “These are the types of aircraft that could safely transport large cargo – and not all flight operations would have that.”
Beyond the implications for the mining sector, Schwann said she was saddened to hear the news of Osprey Wings and their owners, Garry and Bonnie Thompson.
“It was a mix of emotions of a bit of disbelief and sadness,” she said. “But also knowing that they’ve been in the business for a long time and at some point everyone has to retire.
“I would just like to thank the family for many years of very good, safe and reliable service. It meant a lot to know if you are somewhere you would hear the plane pick you up.
“You always had that confidence with Osprey Wings.”