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Change mean opportunities and challenges for Hawkair

It seems Rod Hayward was meant to work with aircraft in Northwest BC – fly, fix and manage them. Since he can remember, he's felt connected to the big metal birds in the sky.

Hayward's grandfather started working for Prairie Airways in 1938, one of the airlines that turned into Canadian Pacific Airlines in the 1940s.

"I grew up hearing stories about the original founders of aviation in western Canada," Hayward says."My mother would often recount the time when Grant McConachie, the founder of CP Air, came for dinner when my grandfather was the CP Prince Rupert base manager in the 1950s".

Rod and propellerThrough stories like this and with the encouragement of his family, Hayward started on an aviation career very early, becoming a licensed pilot when he was only 17 years old.
The Terrace resident is now the general manager - and one of the original founders of Hawkair - one of a handful of aviation companies based in and serving Northwest BC. Interested in every aspect of aviation, over the years, Hayward moved up the ranks from pilot to mechanic to boss.

Hawkair was founded in 1994 as a remote area cargo service airline, which excelled at transporting freight and equipment to isolated mine sites. Commodity prices fluctuated in the late 1990s, however, and mines started to close so Hawkair needed to adapt. 

In 2000, Hawkair evolved into its current form - a passenger airline with more than one hundred staff, flying modern aircraft on several scheduled routes while continuing to offer unique charter crew flights to resource companies in western Canada.

"We started with good intentions," Hayward says. "But we've become the company we are today as a result of good people, solid infrastructure and a healthy dose of knowledge."

Besides its beautiful logo designed by First Nations Hazelton artist Roy Henry Vickers, Hawkair is well-known and well-respected for its friendly people, fun work environment, and generous community contributions. The company's values, listed on its website, include 'Community Involvement', 'a culture of fun, action and teamwork' and 'making good things happen'.

"Hawkair comes from the local communities – the owners, staff and most of its customers," Hayward explains. "It's part of the community and believes in supporting local communities. Yes, (community support) is a strategy to differentiate ourselves from the other guys. But it's more than that. It's about giving back."

Currently, Hawkair is focused on meeting the needs of the regional development boom.

"A healthy local economy is good for business," Hayward says. "We are big beneficiaries of local projects. Lots of workers are coming from elsewhere and we fly them here." But the road ahead still has some challenges.
hawkair hangar
"The aviation industry is changing globally right now," Hayward says. "It's a mature industry but it's still evolving. Traditionally, bigger carriers flew bigger planes on more popular routes. Now they are trying to capture other markets, traditionally flown by smaller carriers with smaller airplane."

That includes WestJet. Earlier this year, the international, low cost airline announced it planned to start flying in Northwest BC and will decide to which regional airport in January 2013.

More competition is good news for local residents who will benefit from lower prices. But Hayward can't deny that the news is a little worrisome for Hawkair.

"Aviation is a high fixed cost business and managing expenses and revenues is already a balancing act," he says. Still, he remains optimistic.

"We've survived other airlines coming here before," he says. "Anytime there is change, one door open and another closes. Being a smaller organization, we can adapt more easily."

"We see an advantage to being here in the North," he continues. "We can react to the demands of projects better than anyone else because we are here, on the ground. If a contractor needs something, we are far more responsive."

Hawkair became a member of SNCIRE in early 2012 and Rod Hayward joined SNCIRE's board of directors in May 2012. Rod joined the board because he thinks the Northwest has a lot to offer and we need a strong voice to advocate for what we are offering. He believes SNCIRE is that voice.