Indigenous pilot training program taking off in Northern Manitoba

Manitoba could be experiencing a pilot shortage in the coming years – but a new million-dollar idea could help.

A pilot from St. Theresa Point First Nation, Man., Atik Mason, is the inspiration behind Exchange Income Corporation’s (EIC) new pilot training program.

“If I were to take a step back and take a look at what this big huge sort of corporation-y sort of corporation, this is what I think financial, educational, and institutional and systematic reconciliation looks like,” Mason said in an interview with CTV.

The brand-new Atik Mason Indigenous Pilot Pathway program is moving pilot training north – to people in communities that depend on EIC’s planes.

The training will happen in Thompson, starting this May. Mason will be a flight instructor, and also the program’s cultural leader.

“I think I am going to be focussing on some of the elements outside of actually physically flying the planes with these candidates to try to provide an environment here in Thompson, which is closer to their home communities, and to provide them the atmosphere and the area they need to feel comfortable to be safe.”

The pilot training program will give 10 or 12 people from First Nations the opportunity to have high-paying jobs and live in their home communities.

The training will be fully funded – including housing and a living stipend from EIC.

It estimates the first year will cost one million dollars – a price tag CEO Mike Pyle says is worth it.

“We think it’s a great opportunity to invest back into our customers and give them an opportunity to succeed and make a difference in their lives,” Pyle said.

The Manitoba Aviation Council is expecting greater demand for pilots in the coming years as older pilots retire and large airlines replace them with experienced pilots from smaller airlines.

President Joe Vodopivec wants to see aviation councils and companies, and the government – find ways to support incoming pilots and mechanics.

“Things that the industry has to look at and I know the industry is (looking at) right now, is how do we keep those experienced in the province?” said Vodopivec. 

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