Randy Wright in cockpit as Harbour Air president

Victoria-based Randy Wright, who joined HarbourAir in 2001 and was most recently its executive vice-president, is being promoted to president of the float-plane airline.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge. It’s exciting,” said Wright. “I never thought I’d be the president of an airline when I was working on the docks at Oak Bay Marine Group.”

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Wright joined Harbour Air from Oay Bay Marine, where he worked for founder Bob Wright, his father. As he progressed through that company, his responsibilities included float-plane access to Oak Bay Marine’s resorts.

“I always thought [Harbour Air] had a cool system and I’ve always been interested in aviation,” Wright said.

When he left Oak Bay Marine, Wright joined Harbour Air as a sales and marketing consultant. He became director of sales and marketing and, eventually, executive vice-president.

Harbour Air has grown significantly over that time and now has more than 400 staff and 50 aircraft that, at peak periods in the summer, will undertake more than 200 flights a day. They fly about 100 times a day along the coast in the winter.

Wright said his role will change and require him to be more hands-on when it comes to aircraft, maintenance, equipment replacement and expansion, as well as running the executive team and overseeing the company’s financial performance.

“I’m excited about it. There are some things I’ll have to learn, but I’m a quick study,” he said.

He will be flying a lot more, and spending more time at Harbour Air’s base in Vancouver, which he sees as a positive. It means he will get more of a first-hand appreciation of the company’s operations, from the cleanliness of aircraft and facilities to how crews work together.

He steps into a role previously held by Peter Evans.

Evans is now president of Harbour Air Consulting Services International, which is exporting the Harbour Air model and the airline’s expertise to China and other countries.

Chinese billionaire Zuo Zongshen bought a 49 per cent stake in the company and last year announced plans to transport the business model to his country and coastal cities around the world.

During a visit to Victoria last year, Zongshen told the Times Colonist there is a massive opportunity in China because of its long coastline and many lakes.

“The idea is to transport the expertise and business model to China. Harbour Air has nearly 40 years of experience. They have goodwill and good experience, and it's unique,” he said though an interpreter.

“I’d like to bring this to China and to learn from Harbour Air. Based on Harbour Air, there is also other expansion opportunities along the coast, even in North America.”

“It’s a very interesting time for the company, and there are some interesting opportunities out there,” Wright said.

“The cool thing is this is a made-in-B.C. product, a Canadian export. We have transformed the float-plane model into a full-on industry and we now have the world knocking on the door.”

Wright said this was made possible because of the staff and management at Harbour Air, still following the vision of founder Greg McDougall, who started the firm in 1982 with two de Havilland Beaver aircraft.

“I’m very proud of our culture and our people. We have some of the best people on the coast working with us,” Wright said.

“You’re only as good as your people ... and I want to make sure we keep our culture intact.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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