'Dreams take flight' for first Indigenous woman to own an airline in Canada
A veteran pilot with more than 15 years of experience is setting her sights even higher with the launch of her very own airline – the first for an Indigenous woman in Canada.
Teara Fraser, a Metis pilot and entrepreneur, plans to offer flights to remote Indigenous communities underserviced by other major carriers through her new airline Iskwew Air next year.
“I’m hoping to inspire people to have their dreams take flight,” she told CTV’s Your Morning from Vancouver on Friday. “It means a lot for me to be able to combine my experience and my passion for aviation as one of the very few women and Indigenous pilots and to be able to create an airline that is for everyone.”
The name “Iskwew” means a lot to Fraser.
“Iskwew is a Cree word for woman and the name was mindfully chosen as an act of reclamation,” she explained. “Reclamation of womanhood, reclamation of matriarchal leadership, and reclamation of language.”
For now, Fraser only has a single twin-engine aircraft to transport travellers to remote locales, but she said she hopes to grow her fleet to offer full charter services one day.
Iskwew Air will operate out of Vancouver International Airport starting on March 8, 2019 – International Women’s Day. Fraser said her company received a blessing from the Musqueam people – whose territory the airport is located on – in September.
Ahead of the launch, Fraser said she’s still deciding on which destinations her airline will fly to.
“Between now and then we’ll be exploring the communities and the areas that we can serve that are in line with our values and vision and where we can be of the best service,” she said.
The longtime pilot has already owned her own businesses before, including Kisik Aerial Survey Inc., which provides aerial imagery in Western Canada and the northwestern United States. Iskwew Air is special, Fraser says, as she hopes it will become a champion of women and Indigenous peoples.
“I care about ensuring our communities continue to receive the services that they very much need in a time where we’re facing a global, national, and local pilot shortage that is sure to impact our communities,” she said.