UPDATE: Great Slave Helicopters not going to Westwind Aviation — president

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Discovery Air, parent company of Air Tindi and Great Slave Helicopters, was granted protection from creditors by the Ontario Superior Court while it arranged for the sale of its subsidiary.

Assets from Great Slave Helicopters, one of Canada’s largest onshore helicopter companies, will not be sold to Saskatchewan’s Westwind Aviation, says company president Alasdair Martin.

Northern News Services reported earlier Thursday that the beleaguered helicopter company would be sold to the regional airline after Great Slave Helicopters, one of three Yellowknife-based subsidiary companies belonging to Discovery Air, announced it was restructuring operations and selling off its assets in September.

But Martin said that’s not the case.

“Westwind is not buying Great Slave Helicopters,” said Martin, who earlier declined to comment when asked to confirm the sale.

Westwind, which operates out of Saskatoon and LaRonge, is “First Nations and employee-owned,” according to its website. Westwind would not comment when contacted Thursday morning.

Its current fleet does not appear to include any helicopters, consisting of fixed-wing aircraft for regional chartered and scheduled travel.

Discovery Air filed for bankruptcy in March after an Ontario Superior Court of Justice allowed creditor protection for the company.

In 2009, the GNWT loaned $34 million to Discovery Air on condition that it relocate its headquarters from London, Ont., to Yellowknife. The company was $33 million in debt and facing major job cuts.

All three of Discovery’s Yellowknife-based operations, including Air Tindi and Discovery Mining Services Ltd., continued operations after the bankruptcy announcement.

The company had a fleet of around 80 helicopters in 2016 when then-president Chris Bassett announced layoffs and equipment sales due to, what he called, a “severe depression” in the resource sector, which provides the bulk of its work. The company currently has around 200 employees, according to court documents.

Great Slave Helicopters made plans to retain critical employees during this year’s restructuring, given the difficult nature of recruiting and retaining specialized talent in the NWT.

The company’s largest creditor, Clairvest, is owed $71.3-million. Its other secured equipment lenders are ECN Aviation Inc., which it owes approximately $7.8-million and has a secured interest in eight company helicopters, according to legal documents.

Roynat Inc. is owed $4.3-million and has a secured interest in four company helicopters. Great Slave Helicopter’s key lender, CIBC, is owed $15.2-million as of Aug. 30, 2018.

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