West Wind Aviation released a statement Monday supporting Fond du Lac First Nation’s bid to have its runway both widened and expanded.
West Wind Aviation operates West Wind and Transwest Air and flies into the community.
The runways at the Wollaston and Fond du Lac airports are shorter than other small airports, measuring at just 3,800 feet long and 75 feet wide. Fond du Lac is hoping for government funding to expand the runway to 5,000 feet and widen it to 150 feet.
A larger runway is needed to operate larger aircraft West Wind says are needed to meet the demand.
“We work closely with our regulator to ensure we are following the most up-to-date practises and guidance for the unique aspects of northern airfields such as Fond du Lac and Wollaston,” said Michael Rodyniuk, president and CEO of West Wind Aviation.
“We always operate with safety as our priority. It is currently cost-prohibitive to fly large aircraft into the community because we can only fly a handful of people out. The proposed improvements to Fond du Lac airfield would remove some of the unique issues created by the shorter runways.”
Smaller planes mean stopovers in Stony Rapids for passengers, as well as longer supply routes and delays.
According to West Wind, smaller airports in the province have 5,000-foot treated runways, including Stony Rapids and Buffalo Narrows.
Last week Fond du Lac Chief Louie Mercredi accused the provincial government of backing away from a promise to fund a runway expansion for the airport.
He accused the provincial government of putting lives at risk. In 2017, a West Wind flight crashed at the runway. Investigators ruled out runway length as a factor, instead of determining the plane was improperly de-iced.
The province fired back, saying that the first nation failed to complete the necessary paperwork for the province to put forward the runway project for consideration for a federal-provincial funding program announced last week.
Deputy premier Gord Wyant went one step further, saying accusations the government is racist were “offensive.”
Mercredi fired back, saying the first nation lacked the necessary expertise and asked for help filling out the documents but did not receive the assistance.
Wyant said Fond du Lac can reapply.
“We’ll evaluate this project once they make the formal application as part of the next intake,” Wyant said.
Mercredi called on the province to reverse its decision and help Fond du Lac complete the application. For him, the next intake isn’t soon enough.
“I have told my people that we are getting our runway upgraded,” said Mercredi. “So the province has created a liar. I’ve lied to my people.”