Transport Canada has suspended the air operator certificate of Orca Airways for “repeated non-compliance with aviation safety regulations,” effective March 15, 2018.
But the company’s chief operating officer says the suspension is primarily the result of mis-timing of the company’s recent merger with Calgary-based Integra Air Group, and at least some flights are planned to resume as soon at this weekend.
“For financial reasons, the two companies merged together, and the Orca management team was phased out,” said Andrew Naysmith, former president of Orca Airways and now COO of Integra Air Group’s Orca Airways division. “You can’t operate on a certificate if you don’t have a management team. We didn’t quite time it the way we wanted to time it.”
Naysmith told the Parksville Qualicum Beach News that Orca Airways flights are scheduled to resume at Qualicum Beach Airport Saturday, March 17, flying under Integra Air’s operating certificate.
“We actually implemented this merger seven or eight weeks ago with Integra,” Naysmith said. “We’ve been flying to Tofino for two months on (Integra’s) certificate.”
In an written news release, Integra Air CEO John Macek confirmed the merger of the companies, and said, “Integra Air is currently in the process of negotiating aircraft, crews and management to support Orca Airways and prevent any further interruption to Orca passengers and customers.”
The airline, which operates daily flights from Vancouver, Victoria, Parksville, Tofino, Ucluelet, and Qualicum Beach, is frequently used by major resorts and lodges in Tofino and Ucluelet.
In a statement, Transport Canada said they found several areas of non-compliance, “including maintenance, operational control, documentation, and quality assurance.” Flights are suspended until the airline comes into compliance.
“Orca’s Air Operator’s Certificate was always planned to be phased out as operations moved to Integra Air,” Macek stated in the company’s release. “The suspension of their AOC by Transport Canada-Pacific Region, although untimely, should have only a short-term, minor impact on our ability to provide Orca’s existing customers and passengers the level of safety, reliability and outstanding customer service they deserve.”
Contacted by Black Press with a request for details of the reasons for the suspension of Orca Airways’ operating certificate, Transport Canada spokesperson Marie Anyk said in an email reply, “Transportation Canada is not in a position to release details of the contraventions due to privacy reasons.”
— With files from J.R. Rardon