They’re movers and shakers. Their contributions have changed and continue to change the nature of travel, both in Canada and around the world. In this week’s issue, Canadian Travel Press’ series of profiles on Women in Travel continues with Teara Fraser, the CEO of Iskwew Air.
Caught up in the excitement of accelerating down the runway aboard a small plane while travelling in Africa, Teara Fraser decided to pursue a career in aviation.
“The pilot was showing us the animals from the air and I was just like wow, that guy’s got the coolest job I’ve ever seen,” she says of the transformational trip. “That was so awesome and I loved it, and then a couple of weeks later, my second time in a small plane, I decided that’s what I wanted to do. It ignited a passion that probably I’ve been looking for, for all of my life. I decided in that moment that I would be a pilot.”
Within one year of returning home to Canada, the then 30-year-old had a Commercial Pilot’s License in hand.
“I was a single mom with two kids, very little in the way of money or financial support from family, making that happen, like honestly, it was hard,” she recalls. “And making that possible is awesome, and what it did was it made everything in my life today possible – just believing in myself, believing that it was possible. This was just post 9/11, probably the worst time to try to find a job in aviation, and I did it.”
Ready for takeoff
It’s that passion, drive and determination that’s helping fuel her next task: being the first 100% Indigenous woman to own an airline in Canada. Taking its name from the Cree word for woman, Iskwew Air (pronounced ISS-KWAY-YO) is set to takeoff in March 2019 out of the South Terminal at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
“The name was mindfully chosen as an act of reclamation – reclamation of womanhood, reclamation of matriarchal leadership, and reclamation of language,” she says. “As a date it was also chosen carefully – March 8 is International Women’s Day. It’s likely that we will be ready to go and start taking charters prior to then, but we’ve chosen that day to have an official launch and celebrate.”
Kicking off as a single-plane operation with a Piper Navajo, the airline will launch with charter service, but has plans to provide scheduled service to remote communities in the future.
“Humbled starts with one small aircraft, definitely a big vision. Someone said where do you fly and I said where do you want to go? And then we’ll continue to look at growth in the way that is slow, steady and smart,” she says. “My homeland in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, is a fly-in-fly-out community, and I know how important connection and accessible transportation options are for remote communities.”
For the full story, check out this week’s digital edition of Canadian Travel Press.