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Ottawa-based aerial surveying company Sander Geophysics Limited (SGL) is making its fleet of aircraft available for cargo delivery during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The company’s business development coordinator, Adrian Archer, told Skies on March 26 that SGL has ceased all survey operations around the world, with aircraft and crews returning home to Canada.
The privately-owned company, founded in 1956, operates a total of 13 aircraft, including eight Cessna 208B Grand Caravans, one de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, two Britten-Norman BN2B-21 Islanders, and two Airbus AS350 B3 helicopters.
“Since there is such a big demand right now, we figured we might as well offer this cargo service,” said Archer. “We have aircraft available in Ottawa. Right now, we have four aircraft and two helicopters available and some under maintenance that will be available in a few weeks.”
Three Grand Caravans and one Islander are immediately available for hire, as are the two Airbus helicopters. The Twin Otter will be available soon following the completion of routine maintenance. All are equipped with cargo doors for ease of loading.
Archer said the Grand Caravans can haul about 1,000 pounds (453 kg) of cargo, with the Islander capable of transporting a bit less depending on the length of the flight.
The AS350 B3s are five-seat helicopters that are immediately available for passenger or urgent cargo transport.
Archer said SGL’s fixed-wing aircraft are suitable for moving medical supplies and other cargo into destinations not serviced by larger aircraft, supplementing other operators’ capacity or replacing aircraft that are AOG (grounded due to maintenance issues). Based in Ottawa, they are able to operate throughout North America.
SGL has offered its services to freight forwarders and submitted its capabilities to the government. Most of its 15 pilots live in Ottawa and can be mobilized quickly.
While SGL operates with two pilots during survey work, Archer said the company’s aircraft are all certified for single pilot operations.
The decision to send one or two crewmembers on cargo flights will be made on a case-by-case basis. Safety procedures to protect the health of flight crew and cargo handlers are currently being implemented, he added.
Archer said SGL has extensive experience flying in all parts of Canada and only needs a few hours’ notice to deploy a cargo flight.
“We’re a small company. We’re able to make decisions very quickly and move very fast if required. That’s something we bring to all our projects, but we think that will be particularly important in this situation.”
He noted that while air cargo is a new market for SGL, the company already has vast experience transporting its own survey equipment and supplies around the world.