Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour grounded after Yellowknife show

The Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour has been inspiring many across the North, but organizers say they have run out of money after hoped for federal funding never materialized.

Organizers of the northern tour say they have run out of funding and may have to end the show early

Performers in the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017 in formation over Kugaaruk, Nunavut. Whether the remaining 35 Northern communities scheduled for a show will get one is in question. (Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour)

The Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017 has been grounded.

The show should have been flying over Umiujaq and Inukjuak in Northern Quebec on Thursday. Instead, it's run out of money. Organizers will decide on Monday if this postponement means the show won't make it to the remaining 35 Northern communities on its schedule, after last weekend's stop in Yellowknife.

Hoped for funding from the federal government through the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada hasn't materialized, said Nancy McClure, executive director of the tour.

Previously denied money under federal Canada 150 sponsorship, she said organizers had turned to other government agencies for funding. Organizers received many signs of positive support, she said.

"Unfortunately, that positive feedback and indications of support have not equated into dollars," McClure said.

"We have to make a decision about our next steps to mitigate our situation and not put ourselves further into debt on this."

The tour needs about  $1 million to carry on, she said.

Performers in formation fly by the community of Ndilo near Yellowknife. The Yellowknife stop for the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017 may have been the last after hoped for funding for the remainder of the show never materialized. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Volunteer effort about more than sky high performances

Ken Fowler, lead pilot for the tour, said he and organizers have reached a point where they can no longer finance the project that was meant to bring air shows to 97 communities in Yukon, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Northern Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We've run out of our own money and some of the sponsorship money," Fowler said.  "So it's to the point where we are dead in the water."

Fowler — and all pilots involved — have volunteered their time, as has everyone else involved in organizing the project, McClure said.

"Every dollar that goes into this project, 100 per cent of it goes to providing the event and the outreach," McClure said.

There isn't much time for a sponsor — federal, territorial, provincial or otherwise — to finance the rest of the show. The window of opportunity for aerial shows over the North is narrow.

"When you get up to places like Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord [both in Nunavut], winter is setting in starting in the later half of August, so we have to be out of there well before that," Fowler said.

The tour was supposed to wrap up in Iqaluit on August 18.

Fowler said the show has been about more than aerial acrobatics over Northern communities.

"It wasn't a matter of just racing in, doing an airshow performance and moving onto the next town," Fowler said.

"We were going into the schools and talking to the kids and inspiring them through aviation — inspiring them to chase their dreams."

The department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs has not returned CBC requests for interview.

With files from Juanita Taylor


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