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First Air’s ATR42 combi

Story and photos by Raymon J. Kaduck – first published summer 2003

First Air ATR42 combi

Passengers board Flight 842 on the ramp at Kugluktuk, Nunavut, January 14, 2003. The sun had risen above the horizon for the first time on the 11th, following a month of darkness. C-FTCP was the first of the ATR42s to undergo combi conversion.

Acquisition Engineering Operations

About 20 years ago, First Air entered the scheduled service market in the central Arctic with an aircraft that was a generation ahead of its competitor. While some scheduled services were provided with an Electra turboprop, the “eastern run” out of Yellowknife, through Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay to the central Arctic, was a DC‑3 service.

The new aircraft of the period, the Hawker Siddeley 748 turboprop, was a significant improvement over the piston-powered “Dak.” First Air made its mark, and never looked back. Today, it is firmly entrenched in the Arctic market, extending from its traditional stronghold in Iqaluit, Nunavut to Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory.

As the new century begins, First Air has rolled out a new type, and it promises to be a classic. The airframe is a proven ATR42-300, but the interior was designed and built for First Air’s specific requirements. It is the only combi version of the aircraft in existence, and has been certified to tough new Transport Canada standards.

“This is a huge step forward for the north,” says First Air President, Bob Davis. “The ATR sits low to the ground so loading is at waist level. Elders don’t have to climb long flights of stairs to board. The aircraft produces its own heat and electricity on the ground and it’s safer and easier to fly.”

Hawker heaven
The HS 748 is a remarkable product. Its original 1958 Avro design was a 20-seat DC‑3 replacement. The Fokker (Fairchild) F-27 program was well advanced at the time, offering aircraft in the 32- to 40-seat range. In response, the Avro was scaled up to a 48-seater, which first flew in June 1960, bearing the Hawker Siddeley name. (Avro had been merged with HS in the late 1950s.)

The first production aircraft was powered by 1,740-hp Rolls-Royce Dart 6 Mark 514 engines, and flew 14 months later. The characteristic engine nacelles were set above the wing to accommodate 12-foot diameter Dowty-Rotol propellers. Including those built under licence, 380 HS 748s were completed before production ended in 1988.

Over a production run spanning three decades, a number of improved models were built. After only 18 Series 1 aircraft were rolled out, it was superseded by Series 2, which featured the 2,030-hp Dart 7 Mark 531. Series 2A was introduced in 1967, initially powered by 2,290‑hp Dart 7 Mk 532-2L engines and offering an upgraded cabin decor. Series 2B, with increased power and wingspan, entered service in 1979. Series 2C, introduced in 1971, had a large freight door.

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