More than 100 workers at North Saanich’s Viking Air have been given 60 days’ notice of a temporary layoff this summer.
The company announced the layoffs Tuesday among its production workers in North Saanich and Calgary, citing a drop in world wide demand for its Twin Otter aircraft.
In North Saanich, the notice affects 136 workers and another 76 will be paid off from Viking’s Calgary location. The company plans to halt production of its new aircraft for 90 days — the length of the temporary layoff.
Viking Air CEO Dave Curtis says the company is facing challenges in its global markets, lowering demand for their aircraft. The Twin Otters made by Viking have been sold to countries such as Peru, Vietnam and China. Curtis said China has been promising changes to its civil aviation industry, which would allow their customers there to use their aircraft — however he said those changes — specifically in available airspace — have been slow in coming. He added the U.S. dollar is strong right now against other world currencies, and since Viking deals in U.S. dollars, it’s also having an impact on its sales. Curtis said oil and gas markets are still “in the tank” world-wide, which means resource exploration and development companies aren’t using their aircraft as much.
Curtis said the strategy is to have the company’s sales team try to catch up with production levels.
“We manufacture a new aircraft every 15 days,” he said. “And so we need to be selling one every 15 days.”
To help reach that target, Curtis said the company is launching its own leasing and financing wing — Longview Aviation Asset Management. That, he said, will help their customers in acquiring new aircraft — and hopefully help Viking’s bottom line.
Viking Air last year acquired a branch of water bombers from Bombardier, with hopes to diversify into the air tanker market.
“That’s going to be good for everyone,” Curtis said.
More than 100 Viking employees were laid off in April, 2015, again due to global market conditions. At the time, Curtis said production had been at one new aircraft every 10 days, and would be changed to one every 15 days.
This time, Curtis said it’s a temporary layoff, and he’s optimistic the workforce will be brought back after those 90 days.
The remaining 250 Viking Air staff will continue in the company’s parts and supply division.