North Star Air Gets Avionics Upgrades to Improve Arctic Operations

Credit: North Star Air

Canadian charter, passenger and cargo airline North Star Air is upgrading the avionics on its ATR 72 fleet as it works to grow its cargo and maintenance operations.

The airline’s four owned ATR 72 converted freighters recently received flight deck upgrades performed by Mid-Canada Mod Center (MC2). The upgrades included installation of Universal Avionics’ UNS-1Lw flight management systems, Dual Sagem F227 APIRS attitude and heading reference systems, and Latitude S200 SkyNode aeronautical communications devices. The new equipment will help North Star Airlines obtain approval for flight into northern domestic airspace, correct altitudes at cold temperatures and complete landings at challenging airports with features like short gravel runways.

“Airlines like North Star Air operate in extremely challenging conditions and must meet additional requirements to fly in Canada’s remote, northern and polar regions,” explains Bill Arsenault, president, MC2. “With ADS, our engineering and design partner, we have developed unique skills and expertise to solve avionics problems permitting these airlines to fly these routes.”

North Star Air ATR 72 flight deck
Credit: North Star Air

“Because we run in the High Arctic, there’s a problem with the magnetic poles, so we have to introduce that modification to run that power up north,” explains Sean Fillion, director of maintenance, North Star Air. According to Fillion, the airline’s maintenance operations are also impacted by cold weather conditions in northern Canada.

“We need tons of ground equipment to produce heat and lots of GPUs (ground power units). We preheat engines and we do tons of preheating just because of the temperature that we run in,” says Fillion. “We have to support the aircraft because they’re outside for the majority of the time with the way we operate. We only bring them in when we have scheduled maintenance and unscheduled maintenance or deferrals, so everything is supported from the ground side up.”

According to Fillion, North Star Air is still a relatively young maintenance operation, having only started its internal maintenance operations around four years ago. It performs most of its own line maintenance but uses a third-party provider for base maintenance, since it does not have a heavy maintenance facility.

On the technology side, North Star Air’s technicians use RAAS aviation management system software from Aviation Intertec Services. The airline currently uses a combination of electronic and paper filing. Fillion says the airline plans to implement a fully paperless system once its maintenance operations get more mature.

The flight deck upgrades are not the only avionics project North Star Air has in its maintenance pipeline. Fillion says the airline is planning to implement quick access recorder monitoring system modifications for its ATR 72s over the summer. North Star Air is working to secure third party providers to perform the specialized work and hopes to complete the modifications before next winter.

In addition to its four owned ATR 72s, North Star Air operates a leased ATR 72, eight Pilatus PC-12s, three Basler BT-67s and two De Havilland Canada Dash-8-100s. It serves more than 54 remote communities in Northwestern Ontario, Northern Manitoba and Nunavut.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.