“Aviation is used for everything,” Teara Fraser asserts.
She’s not wrong. It’s not just those of us lucky enough to have disposable income deciding to board a plane to Mexico or France or Australia—it’s also how we receive our packages; how we get to medical appointments out of province; how we survey land for development; how we transport essential medical equipment; how we get basic goods to remote communities.
It’s also undeniably hurting our planet. And that’s where Fraser comes in. This Vancouver-based Métis woman—commercial pilot, founder of Iskwew Air and elibird aero, board director for the British Columbia Aviation Council, creator of the non-profit Indigenous LIFT Collective—is determined to find better ways to fly the skies.
What do you do?
Oh my goodness. I guess I would call myself an aviation professional. I’m a commercial pilot, and I am the founder of Iskwew Air and elibird aero.
Many people may have heard about your YVR-based airline Iskwew Air, but elibird aero is your newest venture. Can you talk more about it?
I call it an aero tech company. We have a flight training unit, and we have a deposit on two all-electric flight training aircraft. We’re interested in all things aero tech—all things innovation and emerging technology in aviation and aerospace. We’re interested in electric hydrogen. We are thinking about ways that we can walk more softly on Mother Earth in our industry.
Part of the launch of elibird aero is really about focusing on: how do we create a more sustainable and equitable aviation and aerospace sector?
So, how do you do that? What innovations or ideas are you focusing on right now?
We’ve spent some time researching and understanding emerging innovations like hydrogen technology. We’re really interested in immersive technologies for training, and one of the reasons for that is because if we are able to do more training outside an operating aircraft, that’s going to reduce our emissions—as well as improve our training using that technology like virtual reality, augmented reality, and expanded reality. We’re also looking at Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems. How can we actually use some of those technologies in the delivery of supplies to remote areas? For the delivery of urgent medical equipment? For firefighting? How can we innovate in a way where what’s coming from our industry continues to help people?
You started your aviation career as a pilot. How does that inform the rest of your work?
I say it all the time because it is important and true: getting my wings gave me wings for everything else in my life. Because when I made what seemed like a very impossible thing possible, then it opens your mind to what else can be possible. Never, as a young person, could I ever have imagined being something like a pilot. So that definitely opened my mind to what else would be possible. I learned very quickly that I loved flying; there’s really nothing more inspiring than the wonder of flight.
But I also learned very quickly that I was so curious about all kinds of other things: “How do we improve safety in our industry, and what is the connection between leadership and safety in our industry? And hey, what about the fact that only 2.3 per cent of aircraft maintenance engineers in Canada are women? And hey, how come there are very few women pilots? And how come there’s very little diversity?”
I realized I was interested in making changes in our industry and doing other things as well as flying.
You’re also involved with the Canadian Advanced Air Mobility consortium, which brings together industry players, members of government, and academics to propel the industry forward.
Iskwew Air is very, very proud to be one of the founding members. And I have so much respect and so much gratitude to be part of a community that is really gathering everyone together to innovate, to collaborate, and to work towards a more sustainable and equitable sector—and to chart the pathway to advanced air mobility, which is very exciting. I just absolutely love being part of that consortium because in aviation and aerospace, often people are just working in their own small silos. And CAAM is really bringing people together and uniting people for a clear purpose and vision.