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Buffalo Airways shutdown comes after recent inspection flagged old issues

Transport Canada says its decision to suspend Buffalo Airways' operating certificate comes after a recent inspection flagged several repeat safety issues at the Hay River-based airline.

Company thanks customers for their support online

Buffalo Airways has had its licence suspended by Transport Canada. Details are sparse on the suspension, but fans of the television show Ice Pilots NWT and Northerners are offering their support to the iconic airline.

Transport Canada says its decision Monday to suspend Buffalo Airways' operating licence was a measure of last resort meant to persuade the company to improve its safety record.

The Ottawa-based regulator says an October inspection turned up "deficiencies" in the airline's operational and maintenance control systems.

Those systems ensure that when a plane is approved for takeoff, all regulatory requirements are met. They track everything from whether a pilot is fit for duty to a plane's weight restrictions. 

Some of the deficiencies found in October had already been identified by Transport Canada during previous inspections.

"In the past, Transport Canada has used various enforcement measures such as monetary penalties to encourage Buffalo Airways' compliance," said Natasha Gauthier, a spokesperson for Transport Canada.

"But these tools have not been strong enough to convince the company to significantly improve its safety record."

A Buffalo Airways DC-3 made a hard landing Aug. 19, 2013, at the Yellowknife airport. (CBC)

The airline won't be allowed to fly again until "it can keep its operations consistently compliant with aviation safety regulations," Transport Canada's initial release stated.

The suspension applies to "any flight for hire or reward, including all commercial operation of charters, regularly scheduled passenger operations, cargo operations, combination cargo-passenger flights," said Gauthier.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has also flagged issues at the Hay River-based airline, including the airline's tendency at one time to allow passengers and luggage on board without being weighed

The company wrote on its Facebook page Wednesday that it "will continue to support all of our customers' travel and freight needs though chartered aircraft," which suggests the company is outsourcing its services to other airlines.

Buffalo Airways could not be reached for comment. 

First Air has already started offering cheap flights on Buffalo Airways' signature route between Yellowknife and Hay River.

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