Air Inuit has made history with the creation of the world’s first Large Freighter Door Dash 8-300 (C-GAIW). After more than three years of planning, engineering, and precise modification work, the modified cargo plane successfully completed its Transport Canada certification flights on November 28, 2021, and will soon begin moving large cargo to better serve the needs of Nunavik communities.
The historic achievement began with the determination that the Dash 8-300 was the most fitting option for the very particular characteristics of Nunavik’s runways. The Dash 8’s ability to perform on 3,500 feet gravel strips made it the best choice for cargo and passenger flights when compared to other types of aircraft.
However, their standard freight door made it difficult to carry large items such as snowmobiles, ATVs, construction materials, and large mining equipment that are common for Air Inuit’s cargo operations. As such, Air Inuit imagined the concept and teamed up with the Winnipeg-based Rockwell Collins engineering team to turn the idea into a reality that would improve large item transportation efficiency. Bombardier Aerospace collaborated by supplying technical drawings and some engineering for the aircraft, Rockwell Collins provided engineering expertise and support, and the Air Inuit team executed the modifications at its Montreal facility.
As part of Air Inuit’s fleet modernization and standardization plan, the standard door (50 x 60 inches) was sizeably upgraded to measure 108 x 70 inches. From a safety and practicality standpoint, the large freighter door is manually activated. Given the remote nature of where Air Inuit flies, an electrically or hydraulically activated door is far from ideal when considering the level of risk associated to grounding an aircraft due to the door’s system malfunction when in a remote area. Once opened, the door is secured by two highly engineered hinges and complemented with a safety pole for backup protection. Considering the complexity of the project and the worldwide realities of the past 20 months, completion timelines shifted from the original 24-month plan to a 36-month project.
As we finalize this text, Dash 8-300 C-GAIW is entering its final phase of completion. Pending Transport Canada’s certification, the aircraft is estimated to be online by the end of January 2022. Our second large door aircraft will enter its modification sequence in July of 2022 for completion 18 months later. Congratulations to the passionate maintenance team that worked extremely hard on this momentous feat!