Inuvik airport fire destroys 3 planes

Aklak Air, a northern Canadian airline, says it will recover from a fire that destroyed its hangar and three of its six planes in Inuvik, N.W.T.
The Aklak Air hangar in Inuvik, N.W.T., and three planes were destroyed in a fire Thursday night. ((Philippe Morin/CBC))

A northern Canadian airline says it will recover from a fire that destroyed its hangar and three of its six planes in Inuvik, N.W.T.

The blaze at the Aklak Air facility at the Inuvik airport happened around 10:40 p.m. MT Thursday, according to Northwest Territories transportation officials.

The fire wiped out half of Aklak Air's fleet, claiming a Beechcraft King Air 100, a Beechcraft Model 99 and a Twin Otter aircraft. Damages are estimated at more than $5 million.

James Thorburne, president of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation, which owns Aklak Air, told CBC News the airline is bringing in an extra plane from Alberta as it works on rebuilding its hangar.

"We do have the insurance, so it will be a while to rebuild and get back to normal," Thorburne said late Friday. "But in the interim, we'll be able to keep the service going."

Protected nearby buildings

Military fire crews joined Inuvik's volunteer firefighters in responding to Thursday night's hangar fire.

Local firefighters said their lone tanker truck did not have enough water to extinguish the blaze, so crews focused on protecting nearby buildings, including Aklak Air's office.

"We tried to pull the doors off so we could get the planes out, but the doors opened up and it was very difficult, so we weren't able to do that," firefighter and longtime Inuvik resident Vince Sharpe told CBC News.

"By the time we got around to getting the doors off, the inside was pretty much fully involved. With the planes full of fuel inside [we] were expecting an explosion, so we pretty much pulled back and just tried to protect adjoining structures."

No one was injured in the fire, Sharpe said.

Medical aircraft undamaged

A view Friday of wreckage from the fire at the hangar of Aklak Air, owned by the Inuvialuit Development Corporation. ((Philippe Morin/CBC))
A preliminary investigation suggests the fire started with the hangar's emergency generator, which might have malfunctioned during a power outage that hit Inuvik Thursday night.

Thorburne said Aklak's medevac aircraft was spared because it was parked in the local RCMP hangar at the time.

Aklak Air provides scheduled flights to most communities in the Mackenzie Delta region, where some communities are accessible mainly by air.

Thorburne said the airline would make all of its regularly scheduled flights Friday, except in cases where poor weather may affect service.

But at the Inuvik airport, Aklak Air customers said they faced some morning flight delays and cancellations.

"It's been cancelled," said Jason Bolduck, who was waiting for a flight from Inuvik to Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. "I've been here for a couple hours now."

Aklak Air is affiliated with Kenn Borek Air, a large charter aviation company based in Calgary.