On Tuesday, November 18, Canadian North and CFL officials welcomed regional media, VIPs, football fans and airport neighbors to share a, “big announcement”. So big, they said, that they had to host this press conference in a plane hangar.
The suspense drew as the large crowd moved into the Executive Flight Center’s Terminal 3. Guests greeted each other, drank coffee and ate CFL cookies and other finger foods. You could feel the excited energy in the room. Several elected officials had left the AAMDC Convention held downtown to attend (Alberta Association of Municipal districts & Counties). The guest of honor, placed in front of a large CFL/Canadian North backdrop, was the Grey Cup in her shining glory. Of course, many guests could not resist the invitation to pose with the Cup. Some even donned an Eskimo helmet to pose. Yes, other guests donned a Calgary Stampeders helmet for this photo opportunity.
The host of the press conference was a celebrity known to Eskimos fans far and wide, Morley Scott, the rich booming voice and play-by-play broadcaster of the Eskimos on the radio since March of 2010, who was a congenial and fun host. He introduced Steve Hankirk, president of Canadian North who shared that Canadian North has, “built a successful charter business to complement its scheduled service to the North. It also is the premier charter for Canada’s resource sector, top sport franchises and air-inclusive vacationer.”
CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon was the next speaker at the podium, visibly proud to share that earlier this year, Canadian North has announced a three-year partnership that made Canadian North the official airline of the CFL. What he and Steve Harkin were excited to announce was seemingly hidden behind a large black curtain. It was finally taken down swiftly and revealed the Canadian North’s CFL Plane! The Boeing 737-300 aircraft magnificently decorated with the CFL logo and the logos of the nine CFL franchises, sat proudly under bright lights with a couple dozen Canadian North employees proudly waving to the awed visitors, patiently posing for news cameras. Our readers might have caught this on the news that day but to be able to view up close, climb aboard and visit the cockpit of such a large, shiny new Boeing 737 was a memorable experience.
Upon visiting the cockpit, this reporter and friends were pleasantly surprised to find out that the Canadian North Pilot, Laurie Barkman, is a Southfork resident while the First Officer, Syona Maclean, is a former City of Leduc resident along with her husband Jesse Maclean and their adorable son Oxley, who now have become homeowners in Leduc County near Thorsby.
While visiting the airplane’s spacious and comfy passenger cabin, our congenial host was Jeff Hendren, a three-year Manager of Cabin Safety and Training. He shared that although always looking for quality individuals to train as flight attendants, Canadian North’s hiring process depends on current staffing needs. This 80-year-old airline is owned by NorTerra Inc. and the Inuvialuit Development Corporation and is 100% owned by the Aboriginal of the Western Arctic. This young man was a proud and articulate member of the Canadian North family.
A video enthralled the guests, depicting the painting process of this imposing and colorfully CFL-branded aircraft. The nine franchise logos and the CFL logo were painted by Premier Aviation Overhaul Center, a paint and maintenance provider based in Trois-Rivières, Québec. The Canadian North logo features a polar bear standing against a backdrop of the midnight sun and the Aurora Borealis, seen on both of the aircraft`s two engine housings. Interestingly, when the aircraft was delivered, it was entirely white, causing Canadian North employees to nickname it ‘Casper’. When all the logos were skillfully painted, the entire fuselage was covered in a clear coat to protect the logos’ longevity and shine.
As shared by Steve Hankirk, Canadian North hopes that many Canadians will have an opportunity to view this aircraft, a colorful CFL billboard, as it carries teams, officials and other passengers for years to come. Its most exciting commission will be to bring back the Grey Cup winning team from Vancouver BC. Mark Cohon is retiring after this Grey Cup as the CFL Commissioner and he shared that he looks forward to the Battle of Alberta and will continue to attend CFL events, a proud Canadian tradition.
Pictured: Canadian North President Steve Hankirk, CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon and the Grey Cup stand in front of the newly commissioned CFL Boeing 737. Photo by Dominique Vrolyk