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Helicopter tour company to fly out of waterfront

Temporary three-year use bylaw for Pool 6 lands approved by city council.
Liam Dowds
NorthWest Helicopters company director Liam Dowds speaks at a Thunder Bay city council meeting on Monday, May 28, 2018. (Matt Vis,

THUNDER BAY – A company planning to offer helicopter tours based out of the city’s waterfront has been given clearance for takeoff.

Thunder Bay city council on Monday night approved a three-year temporary use bylaw to allow NorthWest Helicopters to operate out of the Pool 6 lands.

The tours would allow for a maximum of three people per flight, which would last between 10 and 20 minutes, according to the report to council. The proposal indicated estimate flights of between six and 12 per week day and as many as 15 to 20 on weekends and holidays.

Company director Liam Dowds told council he wants to provide a go-to adventure tourism service, which means providing a high quality experience with minimal disruption.

“My whole business case is predicated on showing Thunder Bay and everything it has to offer, including wildlife, including the environment,” Dowds said.

An information package presented to council advised that tours will have several pricing tiers, with options including a view of the Terry Fox Monument or a flight up the Kaministiquia River to Fort William Historical Park or Kakabeka Falls.

Dowds said he anticipates the company will complement existing tourism opportunities and help promote the city.

“This is good for me but this is good for Thunder Bay because not only are we going to showcase our service but by extension, Thunder Bay,” Dowds said.

City administration had initially received six letters of concern and two letters of objection from adjacent residential property owners after issuing notice of the application, with noise and concern about flight paths among the issues cited.

Dowds said a public meeting held earlier this month answered many of those concerns, adding the helicopters would be based 650 metres away from the nearest residences and would not be flying directly overhead.

“We looked at some flight paths and decided we could create our own noise abatement programs,” Dowds said.

“Our flight paths will never be over the residents. Our plan is to depart either out over the water or out over the industrial lands. We’ll climb to a reasonable altitude our noise study will dictate and we’ll use the breakwater that’s along the waterfront as a guide to traverse back and forth across the waterfront.”

Fueling and maintenance will be conducted off site, Dowds added, telling council the goal is to have a minimal footprint at the waterfront.

The tours will not operate during while cruise ships visit the city, as they dock at Pool 6. Cruise ship travel will return to Thunder Bay this summer for the first time in six years when the Victory II uses the Lakehead as a turnaround point in July.

Matt Vis

About the Author: Matt Vis

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Matt is honoured to tell the stories of his hometown.
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