Ethan Bradford is one of Lynden Air Cargo's most senior employees still on the job. "I am very proud and thankful to be part of the Lynden family to support 25 years and 200,000 hours of Hercules aircraft operations for Lynden Air Cargo," he says.
The company is now the largest civilian operator of Hercules aircraft in the world and is known for flying disaster relief missions and supporting the oil and gas, construction and mining industries.
"Our airline startup team brought on in the first few months of 1997 (see photo above) were faced with many challenges to get our FAA 121 Operating Certificate," Ethan explains. He is now Vice President of Technical Operations, but started as a Chief Inspector. The challenges included conforming the first two L382G aircraft from Safair in South Africa, setting up all the required training, maintenance programs, operations control, ground equipment and then coordination with the FAA on approving manuals and conducting proving runs to get a 121 certificate.
"At around this same time, we received our 137 certificate for oil spill response," Ethan says. "I commend everyone who was involved in the birth of the Lynden Air Cargo airline."
"I don't think any of us realized what we had signed up for: long hours and few days off while we were building this airline," says Roberta Avila, Manager of Crew Operations. "No one did just one job, we all worked together to accomplish the tasks that were required to get the L382 and the L188 on our certificate. One of my proudest moments was when we were granted our operating certificate for 'the little airline that could.' It was truly remarkable, and the adventure was just beginning."
Although some of those hard-working people have retired, passed away or moved on, some are still with Lynden Air Cargo today, contributing to safe and efficient operations around the world. They are: Gregg Thompson, Maintenance Station Manager who started in 1995; Joe Anderson, Special Projects Coordinator in 1996; and in 1997 Captains Jonathan Sluka, Tom Lindberg, Jason Wells, Pat Madland and Burr Maly; Clint Swanson, Flight Engineer; Roberta Avila; Ken Welch, Logistics/Purchasing Manager; and James Schneider, Director of Maintenance.
"I can quite clearly recall in the first few months of my employment with Lynden Air Cargo asking myself, 'What have I done?'" James recalls. "Now, 25 years later and looking back, it's 'look what we've done, and look where we've been.' The acquaintances we've made and long-term relationships we've established worldwide have been an amazing slice of the Lynden experience."
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Ethan Bradford is one of Lynden Air Cargo's most senior employees still on the job. "I am very proud and thankful to be part of the Lynden family to support 25 years and 200,000 hours of Hercules aircraft operations for Lynden Air Cargo," he says.
Lynden flew to the rescue of American and Canadian auto makers this winter when protestors blocked the streets of Ottawa, protesting against vaccine mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 precautions. Members of the Freedom Convoy blockaded U.S.-Canadian border crossings including the busiest and most important, the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario with Detroit, MI. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Toyota shut down or scaled back production at plants due to parts shortages and the lack of truck transportation.
According to Commercial Operations Manager Dan Marshall, Lynden Air Cargo was called upon to facilitate an air bridge to fly parts between Ontario and Detroit at the request of brokers Global Wings Express and Ascent on Demand. Crossborder flights are mainly used for emergency transport due to cost, but many auto manufacturers had no choice as the protest continued.
"We were mostly hauling truck engines for one of the major auto makers," he says. "Interestingly enough, our aircraft were already on contract hauling car parts from the Mexican border north to Detroit and the South Carolina area when the call came in for the Canadian border assistance."
Mobilizing quickly, the first Lynden aircraft started flights within 12 hours of the initial request. By then, air cargo movement at Willow Run in Ypsilanti, MI, had increased considerably as the same planes were taking off and landing every three hours loaded with auto parts.
"There were plenty of obstacles to compete with on these trips, including congested ramps, delays in paperwork processing, truck availability for cargo delivery to airports, delays for entry and exit custom/immigration approvals," Dan explains. "Lynden Air Cargo flight crews and the operations team persevered and accomplished all but one of the requested flights before the bridge reopened."
"The auto part supply chain is still struggling with limited truck availability," Dan says. "After our nine flights during the blockage, we have continued to run auto parts from the U.S.-Mexican border north to Detroit and into Canada."
The flight crews included Captains Brent Ellender and Aaron Dial, First Officers Michael Theriot and Curtis Schuermann, Flight Engineers Gary Maynard and Jeff Brown, Loadmasters Jacob Amarok and Kevin Boyles, Flight Mechanics James Brookshire and Travis Blaszak, and Flight Control Agents Kyle Zerkel, Rebel Tjomsland, Dolores Liberty, Mandy Hulet, Chris Anton and Cornelis Steyn.
International Women's Day is March 8, and during the month of March women are being recognized for their social, economic, cultural and political achievements. "This is a great time to focus on some of Lynden's female leaders and their unique contributions," says Vice President of Employee Relations and Business Development Gail Knapp.
From behind the steering wheel to under the chassis, Lynden's female drivers, pilots, mechanics, executives, accountants and others make up a talented workforce that is growing each year. The transportation industry has traditionally attracted more men, but that is changing. Natalie Stephenson worked her way up from an accountant 32 years ago to her current position of Vice President and Controller. "It's important to provide opportunities so more women can become leaders and learn how to contribute their views and think strategically to make Lynden an even better company," she says.
Gail Knapp and Judy McKenzie were Lynden's first female operating company presidents, Gail for Alaska Marine Lines and Judy for Lynden Air Cargo. "When I started working for Lynden in the early 1980s the company was smaller," Gail says.
"There were many meetings where I was the only woman in the room. Today, women have a seat at the table, but there is always room to grow. I tell female colleagues to seek opportunities to move up and learn more. Don't be afraid to put your hand up and hold your head high."
"At the beginning of my career in the '90s, most of my colleagues were men. Now it's closer to 50/50," says Stephanie Littleton, Lynden's Vice President of Taxes, "and both vice presidents who preceded me at Lynden were women."
Michelle Fabry is the only woman in Alaska working as a Director of Safety for a part 121 air operator. She is also Lynden Air Cargo's first female Director of Safety. "In the past I have felt I had to work harder to prove that I was capable of accomplishing a job primarily done by men," she says. "This motivated me to study more, network and take training beyond the minimum standards. Now I focus on integrity. Sometimes this means being wrong and admitting that, but at the end of the day, your word should have meaning."
Lynden Logistics Manager Becky MacDonald has watched opportunities for women change drastically over the past 30 years. "When I first started out as a cook on tugboats at age 18, I was one of two women and we weren't allowed to go on certain voyages as they were 'too long.' Now, there are female captains," she says.
Cary Lukes has served on Lynden's Board of Directors since 2012. She also worked for LTI, Inc. and spent summers in Bush Alaska with Knik employees. "I'm proud that the brilliant, hard-working women of Lynden are being honored in March and every month," she says.
Leadership at Lynden Service Centers is trending female, including Dani Camden in Anchorage, Jennifer Parker in San Francisco, Sheri Harris in Houston and Kristina Jordan in Seattle. "When I think of how things are changing, I think of the women who have gone before us," Kristina says. "My guide was always Laura Sanders. Watching her career let me know that I was good enough to reach for the top positions in the company." Lynden Vice President and Controller Stacey Sunderland says transportation is still a male-dominated industry so women need to be confident and strong. "As more women move into higher roles at organizations, it encourages and motivates others to reach those levels."
Lynden Air Cargo participated in two lifesaving projects this winter on opposite ends of the globe. Two flights were chartered to La Paz, Bolivia to supply Bolivian residents with Covid vaccines donated by the U.S. Government. Lynden's Hercules aircraft was one of the only planes capable of landing at the high-altitude airport; elevation 13,325 feet.
Each charter carried 1 million doses of Pfizer vaccines packed in dry ice with real-time temperature loggers to protect the temperature-sensitive drugs. "This project involved multiple Lynden crews and coordination with several departments as well as the customer," says Dan Marshall, Lynden Air Cargo Commercial Operations Manager. Additional charters are scheduled this month.
More than 7,500 miles away in the remote whaling communities of Point Hope and Kaktovik, a Lynden Herc delivered four 40-foot "hi-cube" containers to store frozen whale meat from the annual hunts in the villages. "Their size makes them extremely difficult to load and offload, so it required some novel solutions to accomplish the delivery," explains Dave Beach, Lynden Air Cargo Commercial Operations Manager. Lynden's Joe Bates and Cory Myren worked with the Alaska Marine Lines team to modify tractor dollies into mobile platforms for transfer. "Our partners at AML did an exceptional job," Dave says. "We found a way to help these communities when the only other delivery option was to wait for the next barge season.
"Lynden was key to making this important delivery happen for us. The flight crew watched for breaks in the weather and flew during small windows of opportunity," says Jenny Evans, Grants and Operations Manager for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. "It is so meaningful to our communities and to ensuring food security for our villages."
The Iditarod sled dog race celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and Lynden will be out in front as a major sponsor of the 2022 race. The world-famous Iditarod begins March 5 in Nome, AK, and commemorates the mushers and dog teams that delivered life-saving diphtheria serum to save critically ill children in 1925.
"Lynden has a long history of supporting the Iditarod and the mushers and dog teams who compete each year," says Susie Stevens, Lynden Transport Account Manager and coordinator of Lynden’s involvement in the event. "We are proud to support this iconic Alaskan race on its 50th anniversary and to celebrate the culture and heritage it represents."
"Given that the Iditarod is one of the most challenging events in all of sports, it’s great to welcome Lynden as a partner with its long history of logistical expertise and a strong commitment to bettering the lives of Alaskans," said Rob Urbach, CEO of the Iditarod. The Iditarod is an incomparable sled dog journey traversing approximately 1,049 miles of off-the-grid wilderness while contending with weather extremes of snowstorms, slush, ice, and high winds. These weather extremes are very familiar to Lynden as it has a reputation for delivering solutions and high-quality service through all logistical challenges over land, on water and in the air.
Lynden will sponsor the following mushers this year: 2019 Iditarod Champion Pete Kaiser (pictured right with Lynden volunteers) and repeat competitors Dakota Schlosser and Mike Williams, Jr.
Lynden’s history of supporting the Iditarod and its mushers goes back to the 1980s when it sponsored the late Susan Butcher. Butcher was the second woman to win the Iditarod in 1986, the second four-time winner in 1990, and the first to win four out of five sequential years. She is commemorated in Alaska by Susan Butcher Day.
Lynden Air Cargo continues its support of the race by delivering dog food and supplies to race check points, and employees volunteer to help in a variety of capacities. Lynden was also a sponsor of the Junior Iditarod for many years.
In 2005, Lynden Logistics and Lynden Air Cargo transported Fritz, a fragile, taxidermied member of the legendary relay of dog sled teams that brought the serum to Nome in 1925, from Lake Placid, NY to Anchorage. From Anchorage, the dog was flown to Nome where he is part of an Iditarod display at the Carrie M. McLain Memoriam Museum. Fritz and his half-brother, Togo, traveled more miles than any other mushing team to deliver the serum to Nome where it saved scores of lives.
"We had a very good seafood year," says Tyler Maurer, Alaska Marine Lines Seafood Sales Manager. The 2021 fish season for Alaska Marine Lines and the supporting Lynden companies has been strong. Alaska salmon runs were 15 percent higher than projected, and the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run stunned scientists with a record 66.1 million fish, with a catch of approximately 40 million which was 90 percent of the record 44 million.
At Lynden, salmon season is an 'all hands on deck' event typically lasting from May through September. All Lynden companies were busy keeping up with the volume this year, prompted not only by larger returns, but by restaurants opening back up after pandemic closures and a change in consumer buying habits.
Each year, Lynden Air Cargo flies fresh fish from Naknek, Emmonak, Cold Bay, Sand Point and Dillingham to Anchorage where Lynden Logistics provides support for transloading to Alaska Marine Lines, Alaska West Express and Lynden Transport and ships seafood with other air carriers all over the world. LTI, Inc. trucks provide Seattle surface delivery support and provides transportation to locations in the Lower 48.
On average, Alaska Marine Lines moves 7,000 containers of fish each year from Alaska fisheries southbound to Seattle. "We moved over 11,000 containers this year," Tyler explains, "and we still have more frozen and canned product to clean out of Alaska for a few more weeks to come."
Alaska Marine Lines moves significant volumes of frozen and canned fish from all over the state departing Western Alaska, Prince William Sound and Southeast. "We also have a new facility in Kodiak and have started to move domestic fish from the island. We use Kodiak as a re-handle port for fish originating in Western Alaska," Tyler says.
To prepare for the push each year, Lynden asks its customers for projections so it can build realistic expectations for staffing and equipment. "We knew this would be a big year," Tyler says. "We just didn't expect it would be this big of a year with all regions having strong returns."
Equipment reliability is extremely important when moving a temperature-controlled, high-value commodity like fish, so reefer techs take on an even more important role during fish season.
"With Copper River Kings selling at $80 per pound to retailers in the Lower 48 states, to start the season, we must have everything in place and running well to deliver the fish in pristine condition," Tyler says. "We are sometimes pushed to the limit in the summer months, but we all get the job done safely. From top to bottom, it's a Lynden-wide group effort, and we all lean on each other to get the job done including our partners at Western Towboat, Bering Marine and Dunlap Towing."
Lynden Air Cargo completed its campaign in Afghanistan in June after flying six flights and over 68 flight hours for the U.S. military. "We operated out of Bahrain for just under a month providing scheduled service and hauling Cargo Returning West (CRW) out of Bagram, twice a week," says Flight Engineer Mike Schuler. One Lynden crew was dedicated to Afghanistan flights while other crews served Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. "The June Afghanistan campaign was a short one compared to the ongoing services we are providing around Kuwait," Mike explains. "No day was the same. We adapted and performed in true Lynden Air Cargo fashion despite changing and often challenging circumstances."
"This was a volunteer campaign, and we really appreciate all the crew members who accepted this duty," says Michelle Fabry, Director of Safety. "The security situation required good communication with the crew prior to every flight to ensure each mission could be safely operated. They did an excellent job."
The month of August brought temperatures so hot that wells ran dry in Oregon. The month also delivered devastation in Haiti with a magnitude 7.2 earthquake. In typical Lynden fashion, LTI, Inc./Milky Way and Lynden Air Cargo quickly mobilized people and equipment to help.
"Like many states, Oregon has been suffering from drought conditions this summer. When I first talked to the Oregon Emergency Management Team about this project in late July, there were 55 dry wells. That quickly increased to 187 and numbers continued to climb," says LTI, Inc. Klamath Falls Operation Manager John Bailey.
The state reached out to LTI, Inc./Milky Way to see if its tankers could haul water, instead of milk, to stranded residents. Oregon's Bootleg Fire was in full swing and water tenders were scarce. John, Regional Manager Greg Tolle and Lynden leaders came up with a viable plan and moved forward to meet the state's needs.
A milk tanker is not set up to pump water, so alterations were needed to make the deliveries. "On day one it took two drivers, one to run the pump and the other to hold the end of the hose so it wouldn't come flying out of the tank," John explains. "On the second day, we built a 2-inch PVC fitting that slips into the tanks making it a one-man job. That worked so well another water hauler copied us."
John says he was surprised at the overwhelming support from residents when they first saw the Milky Way tankers pulling down their streets. "Driving a 6,700-gallon milk tanker on city streets can be challenging. In some instances, we had to ask neighbors if it was ok to back into their driveway to get turned around." Each day, the Oregon State Water Master emails a list of homes needing water to LTI, Inc. and the delivery route is built from that information. The Lynden team will continue serving Oregon residents through October.
A half a world away an earthquake struck Haiti on Aug. 14 leaving thousands dead and many injured. Haiti is still dealing with the fallout from an earthquake in 2010 that killed an estimated 300,000 people. As it did in 2010, Lynden Air Cargo began flying relief missions immediately.
"Our first three flights were assisting with the movement of a search and rescue team's gear from Washington, D.C. to Port-au-Prince in Haiti," explains Dan Marshall, Lynden Air Cargo Charter Manager.
"We have also flown two supply missions from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Port-au-Prince. Authorities that grant landing permits switch from one day to the next which adds to the confusion on the ground, however the Lynden team persevered and operated all flights very close to the originally scheduled date and times."
The two crews flying to Haiti include: Captains Brent Ellender and Chris Nichols, Flight Officers Random Dudley and Guillaume Saget, Flight Engineers John McClellan and Cliff Ayers, Loadmasters Ron Pine and Kevin Boyles, and Mechanics Bill Hamilton and Jim Brookshire.
View from the cockpit, left to right: Hudson Bay, Canada, the Niger River, Niamey, and Tabubil, Papua New Guinea.
A Lynden Air Cargo crew completed a full circle of the globe in under two weeks in February. "This doesn't often happen in our fleet, but it's a testament to how much of the globe we can cover in a short period with one crew," says Dan Marshall, Charter Manager. "It was no small task with all of the COVID-19 restrictions on top of typical logistical challenges that had to be overcome with each country. It makes this an extra special accomplishment."
Captain James Wallace was joined by Mason Gaines, Jimmie Mizell, Ronald Pine and James Love for the noteworthy flights. The trip began in Kelowna, B.C. after installing external fuel tanks used for longer Trans-Pacific flights. From Kelowna, the crew flew to Maui, HI and from there to Nauru, a tiny country in Micronesia, followed by Brisbane, Australia, to Tabubil, Papua New Guinea (PNG), to Port Moresby, PNG, to Darwin, Australia, to Bali, Indonesia, to Gan, Maldives, to Entebbe, Uganda, to Niamey, Niger, to Las Palmas, Gran Canaries, Spain, to Bangor, Maine, and the crew made its last stop in Anchorage. The "live leg" for the flight was from Brisbane to Tabubil, PNG to transport a critical switchgear to replace one that had shut down the Ok Tedi Gold Mine. The gear was too tall to fit in any other aircraft capable of landing at the remote runway there. The flight gave the Lynden crew the opportunity to swap out an aircraft that was due for a heavy maintenance check in Niamey, Niger.
"Our customer helped us obtain landing permissions on Nauru for a tech stop between Hawaii and Brisbane," Dan explains. "All of our normal airports denied entry due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Captain Wallace and his crew overcame so many hurdles with pandemic restrictions, including hotel lockdowns, to deliver a challenging load to a very remote destination in PNG."
The Lynden flight operations and crew operations teams found unique solutions, always staying ahead of the aircraft with hotels, catering, fuel, and anything else they needed to keep pushing forward. The maintenance team provided the critical external tank installation in less than 24 hours in Kelowna to maintain the initial schedule as close as possible. "This is the first time in recent memory that a single crew has fully circumnavigated the globe with our own aircraft," Dan says. "In addition to the flight crew, our operations and maintenance production teams got all the pieces to fall together to make this trip successful."
South Sudan is the newest country in Africa after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011. Since then it has been plagued by civil wars, ethnic violence and unrest. In 2020 the government and opposition forces signed a peace agreement, but the operating environment remains challenging.
Lynden Air Cargo's aircraft N409LC and crew arrived in Juba, South Sudan, last December to fly supplies to Rubkona Airfield near the town of Bentiu where the United Nations' largest refugee camp is located. It was the first time a Lynden Air Cargo aircraft and crew was based in South Sudan and the first time operating into Rubkona for the World Food Programme. Rubkona has very little infrastructure, so the Lynden plane landed on a dirt airstrip with visual flight rules operations only. Over the next three weeks, the crew averaged two flights per day for a total of 25 relief flights. The last flight was completed in January.
In advance of the crew arriving, Lynden Air Cargo Director of Safety Michelle Fabry and Project Manager Corné Steyn flew to Juba to meet with airport officials, vendors and the representatives supporting the World Food Programme. The threat level remains high in the area, so each flight required a security assessment and release prior to takeoff.
"We had contingency plans in place in the event that conflict erupted with pre-determined locations to divert and relocate as necessary and backup communication devices," Michelle explains. "I was most impressed with the positive attitudes, teamwork, and patience displayed by each crew member, even after multiple delays in getting started, COVID restrictions, and anything else that came up. Our team completed the campaign safely, without incident, damage or injury. We truly appreciate their extraordinary efforts."
Lynden Air Cargo's crew included: Captain Warren Woods, First Officer Isaac Ufford, Flight Engineer Chris Allen, Loadmaster Leo Lopez, Mechanic Milton Beaver, Mechanic Tim Buchholz, and Project Manager Corné Steyn. Some members of the crew are pictured above.
Captain Warren Woods had words of praise for his entire crew. "I'm amazed at the team I was allowed to work with, many sharing their vast local knowledge of Africa," he says. "Leo Lopez is not only a Loadmaster; he is a magician. He gets things done with limited resources, and his dedication to getting the job done safely is very important on campaigns like this. He earned the trust and respect of all the customer handlers, aircraft loaders and security personnel at Rubkona."
According to a member of the World Food Programme Aviation Unit in Rome, "The cooperation was brilliant between the two UN agencies and Lynden Air Cargo. World Food Programme is looking forward to future cooperation, as Lynden has proven once again to be a reliable and professional operator."