The training program has native pilot production on its radar

By Dave Baxter

Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative

A new pilot training program is coming to a northern Manitoba community and those behind the program say they hope it will create more opportunities for Indigenous people to train as pilots and seek careers in the aviation industry.

“Flight training is expensive, especially if a student has to move away from family and community,” said Robin Jacuzzi, director of aviation programs at Exchange Income Corporation (EIC).

“We wanted to create an opportunity that overcomes many of the challenges Indigenous people face when considering a career in aviation.

EIC is a Manitoba-based company that owns both Calm Air and Perimeter Aviation, two airlines that serve a number of northern and remote Manitoba communities.

Last week, EIC announced the launch of the Atik Mason Indigenous Pilot Pathway (Pathway) program, a program they say will be a “fully funded opportunity for members of the Indigenous community to learn to fly and pursue a career in as professional pilots.

According to Jacuzzi, the Pathway program will create funded pilot training opportunities in Thompson, a northern city located more than 750 kilometers north of Winnipeg, and where there is a large Indigenous population in both the city and surrounding areas. and surrounding communities.

“Providing fully funded training in the heart of northern Manitoba will allow Pathway members to maintain a strong connection to their home and culture while challenging themselves to gain the skills and confidence to fly professionally,” Jacuzzi said.

As part of the Pathway program, MFC Training, which EIC claims is the largest flight training school in Canada, will establish a seasonal training base in Thompson.

“The Pathway program was designed to remove significant barriers to flight training faced by Indigenous applicants, including cost and location, and honors the importance of maintaining a deep connection to Indigenous culture during training. said EIC CEO Mike Pyle.

Pyle added that EIC supports reconciliation efforts with Indigenous peoples in Manitoba and across Canada, and said achieving this goal takes “not just words, but actions.”

He added that the program hopes to not only train, but also hire Indigenous pilots and launch them into their flying careers.

“Pathway members will be assigned employment as pilots with one of EIC’s local air operators upon obtaining their commercial pilot license,” Pyle said.

And according to Pyle, EIC has recently taken other steps to build positive relationships with Manitoba’s Indigenous peoples and communities, including a recent initiative that saw the company work with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to bring over 1,000 Aboriginal community members to Winnipeg for a Blue Bombers game.

“At that time, we said reconciliation should be an ongoing process, and we’re putting those words into action with the creation of Pathway,” Pyle said.

According to EIC, the program is named after Timothy Atik Mason, a St. Theresa Point man who, at the age of 35, began pursuing his dream of becoming a pilot and has since become the first Indigenous pilot in the one of the First Nations communities that EIC Airlines used to fly for the company.

And Mason will now have a strong connection to the new program, as EIC said he will be one of the flight instructors, mentors and cultural leaders working with Pathway.

EIC has also partnered with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), an organization that represents dozens of First Nations communities in northern Manitoba, and MKO will work with EIC to help create the program.

“The Atik Mason Native Pilot Trail will open doors for our people,” Garrison Grand Chief MKO Settee said in a statement. “MKO is thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with EIC to contribute to the success of this program and empower a younger generation of Canadian pilots who represent the communities they serve. »

Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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