Pilot training takes flight

Barry Bergen and Jim Heidema of Northwestern Air Lease at the Terry Harrold School of Aviation Open House on February 7, 2019, introducing potential new pilots to the program.

In an effort to address a worldwide pilot shortage, Northwestern Air Lease will be launching the Terry Harrold School of Aviation in Fort Smith in March. It will offer a direct-entry program for people who are interested in becoming private pilots, and a two-year college diploma in aviation management through the SALT College.

The direct-entry program gets underway with the ground school in March, followed by flying operations in April. Classes will be held two evenings a week. The five-se-mester diploma program will begin in September. “Sometimes students will be on campus, and sometimes they will be at the airport,” NWAL Chief Operating Officer Jim Heide-ma explained. Pilots will be tested and licensed by Transport Canada.

NWAL wants to recruit more Northern pilots to a profession that pays well and provides an alternative to resource industries such as mining. “Every kid in the North is aware of aviation, but not as a career,” Jim said. “Our pilots come from the south, get experience, move up the ranks and then go back down south to the WestJets and Air Canadas. What we are trying to do is slow down the revolving door by recruiting Indigenous and non-Indigenous northerners.” Nunavut has five Inuit women who are captains, he noted.

The school is hiring a chief instructor and a program administrator creating two new jobs for Fort Smith. Four ground school instructors will be current NWAL employees. More staff will be added as the program grows. The school has generated interest among Fort Smith residents, as well as potential students from other communities. The program is expected to have spots for 12-24 students in the direct entry program, with another 15-20 enrolled for the college diploma in aviation management.

For more information contact Terry Harrold School of Aviation chief instructor Mike Butler at 613-851-6132

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