1st Indigenous woman to start Canadian airline looks to B.C.’s remote regions

Teara Fraser is the first Indigenous woman in Canada to start her own airline, called Iskwew Air

Teara Fraser is used to being a rarity in Canada’s aviation industry.

Having flown for 15 years, Fraser is one of just six per cent of female pilots who exist in Canada. Becoming owner of Kisik Aerial Survey garnered her entry into another rather exclusive club: being a women CEO at an aviation-related company.

But this year, Fraser, who’s Metis, reached a new milestone as the first-ever Indigenous woman in Canada to start an airline from scratch.

“I’m so excited and proud of our vision, connecting people with each other and to the land,” she told Black Press Media outside of the South Terminal at YVR International Airport.

Iskwew Air (pronounced ISS-KWAYY-YO) is expected to take flight on March 8, or International Women’s Day. It’s one of the many facets that intertwine the power of womanhood into Fraser’s company.

“Iskwew is the Cree word for women,” she explained. “We celebrate all women and those who are lifting women.”

It will launch with one aircraft, an eight-seat Piper Navajo. Fraser said the plan is to start small, taking passengers to smaller communities outside of the Lower Mainland, that don’t have access to frequent airline services.

“This is an aircraft that can operate on smaller strips, even unimproved strips, and be able to access some of those small communities.”

Inspiration to earn a pilots license started in Africa

Fraser said it was a trip on a small plane over the plains of Botswana, Africa in 2002 that ignited the light inside her to pursue flight.

“It was the first time I had really travelled anywhere,” Fraser said. She was intrigued by how the land looked from the perspective of the sky

“I was so inspired, and after that trip I thought ‘oh, I wanna become a pilot.’”

A year later, Fraser achieved her commercial pilot’s license. In the years that followed she flew for Terrace-based Hawkair and started Kisik Aerial Survey, which she recently sold.

Fraser has many connections to Western Canada. She grew up in the fly-in-fly-out community of Fort Chipewyan, Alta., before living in northern B.C. and finally raising her children in the Lower Mainland.

Along the way, Fraser has held onto a special interest in promoting Indigenous youth and women – a passion she now folds into her everyday work.

“For a little girl that was maybe inspired to get her own wings, I would say follow your dreams, don’t let anything get in your way and if you dream it, design it and do it, you can make the impossible possible,” she said. “So just get busy.”


@ashwadhwani
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