Canada’s only Indigenous aviation college program loses hangar, entire aircraft fleet in fire

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | February 25, 2022

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 51 seconds.

On the evening of Feb. 24, the Second World War-era hangar at Mohawk Airfield, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario, was involved in a major structural fire and destroyed completely.

The airfield is used by the First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) for its aviation program — the only post-secondary Indigenous aviation program of its kind in Canada. The program offers “hands-on flight training for students interested in pursuing a pilot’s license or working in the aviation industry,” according to the FNTI website.

The hangar structure was completely destroyed in the fire. Tim Durkin/Quinte News Photo

Multiple fire departments arrived on scene at 314 Airport Road at around 11 p.m. local time on Feb. 24. Efforts to extinguish the fire continued through the night and into Friday morning.

The hangar, which was built in 1943, was made of heavy timber due to the period it was built in, and therefore burned quickly.

According to Cathie Findlay, government relations and communications director at FNTI, the entire fleet of 13 aircraft was lost in the fire — five of which were recently purchased. The aircraft maintenance operations office and equipment used to service the planes were also destroyed.

The damage is estimated to be tens of millions of dollars.

In a Facebook post, FNTI said “all staff and students were successfully evacuated from the premises and no injuries were reported.” Everyone has been accounted for.

FNTI’s entire fleet of 13 aircraft was lost in the fire. FNTI Photo

The buildings adjacent to the hangar, which include the student residence, aviation simulator building, and Indigenous learning center, were impacted by the heat from the blaze, but no serious damage has been reported.  

The nine students living in the residence building are currently being housed in a local hotel, and “all available services are being offered to the students at this time,” FNTI said in a statement.

“While this is a devastating loss to our community and it means that our program will pause temporarily, we are already looking at recovery options,” the statement continued. “FNTI would like to thank all our partners for the tremendous outpouring of support. We look forward to working with all of you to help us rebuild this program.”

Donations to FNTI can be made here.

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