Air Tindi Dash 7s: Seeing the Canada-Made Workhorses in Action & Flying on One


Over the years, the number of Dash 7 four-engined turboprops flying around the world has dwindled. With airlines like Air Greenland retiring the type out of their fleet, only two airlines operate the type on scheduled passenger flights today – Yellowknife-based Air Tindi and Nairobi-based Airkenya Express.

Recently, I had a chance to spend a couple of days with Air Tindi and learn more about its Dash 7s. I was even lucky to be able to join a flight from Yellowknife to Łutsel K’e and back. Continue reading to find out more about this very unique aircraft and to see what it was like to fly on one.

Air Tindi Dash 7 in Yellowknife
Air Tindi Dash 7s.

Air Tindi’s Dash 7 Fleet: One in Ten of All Produced Airframes

Being just over 80 feet long and able to carry up to 50 passengers depending on the operator and configuration, the Dash 7 is similar in size and capacity to ATR 42, Fokker 50, and Antonov An-24 among other aircraft types.

However, with four engines and the capability to operate from short, unpaved runways, the Dash 7 offers capabilities that arguably no other aircraft in this class – and even less so any in-production aircraft – can fully match. This makes it the perfect workhorse to serve in the Canadian North and other rugged environments.

Air Tindi Dash 7 on an Unpaved Runway
Paved or not, a Dash 7 can get the job done.

Because of this, it is no wonder that Air Tindi continues to operate the type to this day. In fact, the airline is so committed to keeping the type in service as long as possible that in 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it doubled down and bought seven Dash 7 airframes from Trans Capital Air, a Toronto-based airline operating aircraft for the United Nations.

Based on the Canadian civil aircraft register, the acquisition brought the number of Air Tindi-owned Dash 7s up to 11 – a whopping one in ten of the 113 airframes built while the type was in production between 1975 and 1988. That said, not all of the 11 Dash 7s are active.

All but one of the recently acquired ex-Trans Capital Air airframes sit in Toronto awaiting their fate. For some if not all of the aircraft on the ground in Toronto, that means being taken apart as a source of spare parts – which are otherwise hard to come by at this point – for the airframes currently flying. Air Tindi’s active Dash 7s include a mix of freighters and combi aircraft some of which stand out for wearing a striking red livery – a remnant of their previous life with Air Greenland.

Air Tindi Dash 7
Air Tindi Dash 7 in the airline’s regular livery.
Air Tindi Dash 7 New Livery
Air Tindi Dash 7 in the airline’s new livery. (Credit: Air Tindi)
Air Tindi Dash 7 Air Greenland
Air Tindi Dash 7 in Air Greenland’s base livery.

A Versatile Workhorse: From Charters to a NASA Testbed

The smaller DHC-6 Twin Otter is the default aircraft on Air Tindi’s six scheduled routes connecting Yellowknife with Hay River and a number of isolated communities in the Northwest Territories.

As such, Air Tindi uses the Dash 7 primarily on charter flights in and out of Yellowknife. In particular, with the Northwest Territories having a thriving mining industry, Air Tindi’s Dash 7s often carry workers, equipment, and supplies in and out of the region’s mines.

Air Tindi Dash 7 and Twin Otter
Air Tindi’s two workhorses – the Twin Otter and the Dash 7.
Air Tindi Fuel Barrels
Air Tindi uses the Dash 7s to carry fuel too.

When the demand asks for it, however, the Dash 7 is deployed on scheduled flights too. That typically happens when more cargo than the Twin Otter is capable of carrying or when something too large to fit through the Twin Otter’s doors needs to be transported. In an incredible feat back in 2022, Air Tindi even managed to load a Suzuki “kei” truck into the Dash 7’s cargo hold.

Occasionally, the Dash 7 substitutes for the Twin Otter due to increased passenger demand too. One such example was flights between Yellowknife and Hay River this May when Air Tindi was offering free tickets to Hay River residents returning home after having evacuated to Yellowknife due to forest fires.

Unfortunately, most of the equipment changes happen on relatively short notice and it is not possible to know in advance which flights will be operated by the Dash 7 making the aircraft difficult to fly on.




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In addition to operating the Dash 7 on charter flights and the occasional scheduled flight in and out of Yellowknife, Air Tindi currently also has a pair of Dash 7s operating on behalf of other airlines outside of the Northwest Territories. One of those is flying in Ontario and the other one is flying on behalf of Rise Air in Saskatchewan.

More interestingly, in April 2022, Air Tindi partnered with magniX (an aircraft electric propulsion unit manufacturer) and AeroTEC (a company integrating electric propulsion on aircraft) on magniX’s NASA Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration project. As part of the partnership, one of Air Tindi’s Dash 7s will have two of its four Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop engines replaced by two magniX magni650 electric propulsion units.

The hybrid aircraft is expected to fly for the first time in 2025 after undergoing the necessary modifications in Moses Lake, Washington. Recently, one of the Dash 7s acquired from Trans Capital Air in 2021 (C-FJHQ) was ferried from Toronto to Yellowknife where it is undergoing maintenance in preparation for the project.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Engines
With its four engines, the Dash 7 is the perfect aircraft for the magniX project.

A Detailed Onboard Tour of an Air Tindi Dash 7 Combi

While in Yellowknife, I had a chance to tour – and fly on – Air Tindi’s Dash 7 Combi registered C-FWZV (fleet number 802). The aircraft was the 81st de Havilland Canada DHC-7 to come off the production line and was originally delivered to Papua New Guinea’s Air Niugini in 1982. It then spent about five years (1999-2004) with Canada’s Voyageur Airways before joining Air Tindi’s fleet.

In 2011, the aircraft was purchased by Tli Cho Air, a Tlicho Investment Corporation company, and leased to Air Tindi to help provide daily air service to the Tlicho communities of Whati, Wekweètì, and Gametì. The Tlicho are a Dene indigenous group of First Nations who have lived in the region for many generations.

Because of this, C-FWZV features Tli Cho Air’s logo under the cockpit on both sides of the fuselage in addition to the base Air Tindi livery.

Tli Cho Air Dash 7
C-FWZV – Tli Cho Air’s Dash 7 in Yellowknife.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Tli Cho Air
The same Dash 7 in Łutsel K’e.
Tli Cho Air Dash 7
Tli Cho Air.
Tli Cho Air Dash 7
Aside from the Tli Cho Air logo, the aircraft wears the regular Air Tindi livery.

Onboard, starting from the front of the aircraft, there was a cockpit accessible through the cargo compartment behind it and equipped with dozens of analog gauges.

What it distinct compared to the cockpits of other similar aircraft was, of course, that all engine-related controls and gauges including the thrust levers came in sets of four – one for each of the four engines on the aircraft. An old-school handset used for communicating with the cabin crew added to the cockpit’s charm.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Cockpit
Air Tindi Dash 7 Cockpit
Air Tindi Dash 7 Cockpit
Thrust levers.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Handset

Behind the cockpit was the main cargo compartment which could be loaded through the aircraft’s side cargo door but could be accessed from the passenger cabin behind it.

With this being a combi aircraft, the bulkhead panel separating the cargo compartment from the passenger cabin could be moved back and forth to adjust the balance between cargo and passenger capacity. For my flight, the partition was just past the middle of the overall cabin length.

When I saw the aircraft, there were roughly three pallets worth of cargo space and 18 seats in the passenger cabin. Other possible combinations include “all passenger” (46 seats), 34 seats + 1 cargo position, 26 seats + 2 cargo positions, 10 seats + 3.5 cargo positions, and “all cargo” which also includes 2 seats.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Cargo Hold
Cargo hold.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Cargo Hold
Looking toward the panel separating the cargo hold from the passenger cabin.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Seats
A stock of Dash 7 seats.

The 18 passenger seats on the aircraft consisted of four rows in a 2-2 layout and an extra pair of seats on the right side of the cabin’s very back. Like on most other aircraft, the bulkhead/emergency exit row offered the most legroom at the expense of lacking storage space under the seat in front.

The seatbacks were equipped with a seat pocket, a regular tray table, and a small drink table that could be opened without having to open the tray table itself.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin
Passenger cabin.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin
The seatbacks had a small drink table in addition to a tray table.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin
Bulkhead/emergency exit row.

Above the first row of seats and on the bulkhead wall were emergency exit, no smoking, and seatbelt signs.

Above each pair of seats was an overhead panel with individual air vents, reading lights, and a flight attendant call button. Relatively small overhead bins were available too. That said, there were no overhead bins in the cargo compartment – i.e. the overhead bins can be installed and removed depending on the aircraft’s configuration.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin
Seatbelt, etc. signs.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin
Overhead panel.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin
Overhead bin.

In addition to the passenger seats, there was also a cabin crew jumpseat right past the aircraft’s passenger door. Across from the jumpseat were a handset similar to the one in the cockpit and a panel for controlling cabin lights.

There was also a small lavatory at the very back of the passenger cabin. Interestingly, the toilet cover was square.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin
Cabin crew jumpseat.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin
Handset and light controls.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Passenger Cabin

Lastly, behind the passenger cabin was a small, 240-cubic foot cargo compartment.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Rear Cargo Hold
Rear cargo hold.

Experiencing an Air Tindi Dash 7 in Action

Considering how rare of an aircraft the Dash 7 is nowadays and the unpredictability of which scheduled flights it appears on, I would, of course, have been very happy taking any flight on the aircraft. I was even happier to hear, though, that I would have a chance to fly to Łutsel K’e – a small community of just over 300 people located about 120 miles to the east of Yellowknife.

The reason was simple. Flying to Łutsel K’e as opposed to, let’s say, Hay River or Fort Simpson meant we would be landing on and taking off from a gravel runway rather than an asphalt one. It also meant seeing Air Tindi in action in one of the communities that they are the only company offering a way in and out of.

The road connecting Łutsel K’e airport with the rest of the community.

Air Tindi Flight 202 from Yellowknife to Łutsel K’e

After checking in at Air Tindi’s terminal which is located right across the street from Buffalo Airways and separate from the airport’s main terminal, I had a chance to observe the Air Tindi team preparing our aircraft for the flight. Seeing them load the cargo hold with sheets of plywood, pallets of groceries and other essentials, and even an ATV made it clear why the flight was operated by the Dash 7 rather than the much smaller Twin Otter.

Boarding started about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time of 5PM. With there being just three passengers including Kyle (my contact at Air Tindi) and myself on the outbound leg, boarding was quick. In addition to the three of us, there were also two flight attendants/loadmasters.

Air Tindi Terminal Yellowknife
Air Tindi’s terminal at Yellowknife Airport.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
Cargo being loaded in preparation for the flight.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e

About ten minutes before departure, safety instructions were aired over the PA. In the seat pocket were a safety card and a copy of Up Here – a magazine covering topics related to the Canadian North.

The passenger door was closed soon after that and at 4:55PM, the four PT6 engines came to life one after another. We taxied out of our parking spot at 4:59PM – a minute ahead of our scheduled departure time. Just five minutes later, we took off from runway 10 – the shorter of Yellowknife Airport’s two runways.

Seconds after take-off, we were offered an excellent view of Buffalo Airways and Air Tindi ramps and hangars. With a Curtis C-46 Commando, a Lockheed Electra, and a de Havilland DHC-7 visible on the ground, it was hard to believe it was the year 2023. Another few seconds later, we were offered views of Yellowknife’s Old Town and the nature surrounding it.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
Ready to go.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
Chasing our own shadow.
Yellowknife Airport
Buffalo Airways and Air Tindi facilities at Yellowknife Airport.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
Climbing out of Yellowknife Airport.
Yellowknife Old Town
Yellowknife’s Old Town.

For the remainder of the very short flight, I enjoyed the views and learned more about Air Tindi from Kyle. I was surprised to hear that the airline lands a Dash 7 on an ice runway they build in front of their float plane base in the Old Town every winter if the conditions allow for it and that they weren’t able to do so this year as the ice thawed quicker than expected.

As for the views, those are difficult to describe in words. It was a beautiful mix of forest, tundra, and countless lakes of all shapes and sizes – some completely thawed, some still frozen to one extent or another.

Service-wise, at some point after the seatbelt signs were briefly switched off, one of the flight attendants/loadmasters – wearing her flight attendant “hat” at that time – went around the cabin offering bottles of water.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
The entire flight offered breathtaking views.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
More of the countless lakes.
Air Tindi Service
Water, safety card, and Up Here.

In preparation for landing, the seatbelt signs were switched back on at 5:30PM – just 13 minutes after they were switched off.

As we descended, we flew over Stark Lake which was still completely covered with ice in its middle. That said, toward its edges the ice was thawing and breaking apart, and its shore was completely melted. What a sight!

Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
Stark Lake.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
Stark Lake thawing.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
Almost there.

We landed on Łutsel K’e Airport’s 3,003 feet long (or short…) gravel runway at 5:37PM.

Three minutes of taxiing later – five minutes ahead of schedule – we parked in front of the airport’s small terminal.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Lutselk'e
Landing in Łutsel K’e.

A Quick Turnaround in Łutsel K’e

As soon as the engines stopped and the passengers got off, the crew got into action – they had half a Dash 7 load of cargo to unload before loading and boarding the return flight. Everyone – the flight attendants/loadmasters, those on the ground in Łutsel K’e, and even the pilots – participated in the unloading and later loading of cargo.

First, the ATV was carefully unloaded with a forklift. Then, plywood sheets were taken out one by one. Lastly, the pallets with everything from flour and water through instant noodles and soda all the way to dishwashing liquid and reusable cloths were taken off the plane and loaded directly onto Łutsel K’e Co-op trucks that parked right next to the aircraft. Overseeing and helping with the unloading of the co-op inventory was the store’s owner, Joe.

Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
The ATV being unloaded.
Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
Maneuvering the ATV out of the cargo hold took some time and patience.
Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
Plywood being unloaded.
Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
Co-op inventory being unloaded.
Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
Joe the co-op owner.

During the turnaround, I was able to take a look inside Łutsel K’e Airport’s terminal too. It was equipped with a few benches and a check-in/gate counter – all that is really needed for an airport with one or two mostly Twin Otter-operated flights a day.

I also had a chance to chat briefly with one of the flight attendants/loadmasters who had a fascinating story. Originally from Vancouver, her dad was a pilot and she grew up to love aviation. That said, she never had a chance to work in the industry until joining Air Tindi which was the reason behind her move to Yellowknife.

Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
Łutsel K’e Airport terminal.
Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
Inside the terminal.

Air Tindi Flight 202 from Łutsel K’e to Yellowknife

With most of the cargo being delivered from Yellowknife to Łutsel K’e rather than the other way around, there was only one thing to load into the hold – a snowmobile. “Bringing in an ATV and taking away a snowmobile – that must be the North Canadian equivalent of switching from winter to summer ‘tires,'” I thought.

The passenger cabin got considerably busier than on the previous flight, though. There were about ten passengers.

Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
One of the pilots assisting with the loading of the snowmobile.
Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
Boarding in progress.

Once onboard, I settled in one of the right-hand side seats. We taxied out of our parking spot with a slight delay at 6:35PM and three minutes later we took off from runway 08 – i.e. from the same runway that we landed on but in the opposite direction.

This is common at relatively quiet airports where aircraft use the runway that minimizes taxiing when wind conditions allow for it. In Łutsel K’e, this means landing on runway 26 and taking off from runway 08 which is nearer to the terminal.

Air Tindi at Lutselk'e Airport
Not your usual asphalt taxiway.

The flight itself was essentially the same as the previous flight.

That said, in addition to water, candies were handed out too. Plus, the views out of the window were arguably even more breathtaking due to it being later in the day and the sun getting lower.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Yellowknife
Flying back to Yellowknife.
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Yellowknife
How many lakes are in the photo?
Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Yellowknife
A part of ice road that hasn’t melted yet.

At 36 minutes of flight time, the flight back took a few minutes longer than the flight to Łutsel K’e. Still, it went by way too fast and before I knew it, at 7:14PM, we landed in Yellowknife. Three minutes later, we arrived at our parking spot in front of Air Tindi’s terminal, bringing my very memorable Air Tindi Dash 7 experience to an end.

Air Tindi Dash 7 Flight to Yellowknife
Approaching Yellowknife Airport


Nearly 50 years after its very first flight in 1975, the Dash 7 remains a unique aircraft with very few if any direct alternatives.

While the passenger demand on Air Tindi’s scheduled routes to communities around Yellowknife could be served by the Twin Otter, the Dash 7’s ability to use short, unpaved runways that the small airports in these communities have is crucial when it comes to getting bulky cargo – like a snowmobile or a “kei” truck – in and out of them.

As Air Tindi is committed to keeping the type in the air as long as possible – it even expanded its Dash 7 fleet considerably during the pandemic – the aircraft will continue to grace the Canadian skies for the foreseeable future.

With that, I would like to thank the Air Tindi team for arranging the opportunity to fly on the Dash 7 and see the airline doing what it does best – serving the remote communities of the Northwest Territories. For the latest Air Tindi-related content, make sure to check the airline’s Instagram and Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Air Tindi Dash 7s: Seeing the Canada-Made Workhorses in Action & Flying on One”

  1. Love the DASH 7, flew in the prototype C-GNBX out of Melbourne on 3rd May 1979 and since then have flown 10 more sectors with AIR NIUGINI, some in the jump seat.
    Fantastic tough and sturdy aircraft.

  2. Flew the Dash 7 at the beginning of my career. Flown many types since but looking back at the DHC7 endorsement on my licence brings back good memories. Would fly it against n if I had the opportunity.

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