"For exceedingly remote sites, we will deliver cargo and personnel as far as the runway will take us, and Custom Helicopters will complete the journey."
Can you give an overview of Perimeter Aviation (Perimeter) and the role of the Ontario mining industry in your operations?
Perimeter was founded in 1960 by William Wehrle. He sold the company to the Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) in 2004. The business grew to around 45 aircraft, with a mix of Dash-8s and Metros. We are in the people business, helping them travel as well as move medical supplies, mail and cargo. We also service charter clients, including a couple of mining customers in northern Manitoba and Ontario. We are about 900 people strong.
Which aircraft in Perimeter’s fleet best service your mining clients?
We have a Dash-8-300. Although typically a 50-seater aircraft, ours is 45 because we moved the back bulkhead forward to accommodate more cargo. Now it is a combination aircraft that provides a unique lift to our mining customers. The Dash-8's exceptional wing design makes it an excellent STOL aircraft, allowing it to operate on strips 500 to 600 feet shorter than what other aircraft, like the ATR 72, would require. Many of the runways we service in northern Ontario are in that 3500-foot strip range, requiring a smaller aircraft like the Dash-8. The Dash-8-300 holds around 9,000 pounds of freight. We also have the Dash-8-100, an aircraft with a 37-seat configuration that can land on even shorter airstrips. The Dash-8s are the crown jewel for our remote operations. The other aircraft we have are the Metro-II and Metro-III. They hold around 3,000 pounds of freight.
If we need to upgrade to a larger aircraft, our sister companies under the EIC umbrella— like Calm Air and Keewatin Air— will provide it. We have access to aircraft anywhere from Twin Otters to King Airs to ATR 72s to 737s. This allows us to fulfill a large range of customer cargo needs and wants.
How does Perimeter benefit from being under EIC’s ownership?
This ownership grants us opportunities that our competitors do not have access to. For example, the EIC also owns Custom Helicopters. For exceedingly remote sites, we will deliver cargo and personnel as far as the runway will take us, and Custom Helicopters will complete the journey. EIC also owns Exchange Petroleum so, if a customer needs fuel we can either transport it in barrels or bladders and fly it to their location.
EIC bought Bearskin Airlines in 2010, allowing Bearskin and Perimeter to merge in 2018. Bearskin is a special company; they deliver workers to all the mining hubs throughout Ontario. The brand recognition for Bearskin in Ontario is very high. We are proud of their on-time performance and airline culture, which helps us ensure our customers’ needs are met.
Through EIC, we developed a special network, and we work well together. I have the presidents and CEOs of the entire group of companies on speed dial and vice versa. It is hard to be everything to everyone, but with the number of companies in the EIC network and its structure, we try.
How can airlines navigate the lack of infrastructure in the north, as the exploration boom looms?
Transport Canada recently approved Thin Bituminous Surface Runways. It helps airlines like us, and Calm Air navigate shorter airstrips. Everyone wants economies of scale, but the infrastructure in the North must support it. If it does not, we will only be able to land a Twin Otter, rather than a Dash-8. We are working with our industry partners to improve airstrips which will allow us to fly higher gauge aircraft. It is important that runways in the North and remote regions can accommodate larger aircraft.
We have stayed in lockstep with our mining industry partners to ensure they know how we can assist them. We can help with exploration, production, and closure.
What are Perimeter’s main priorities for 2024?
Safety is always number one. A close second is to become an airline that is always on time and servicing our customers in a safe, efficient manner. If you bring us business, we will figure out a solution. If we are unable to provide direct assistance, we will collaborate with our sister companies to ensure a solution is available for you.