It was foggy and unseasonably warm on Feb. 23 as a Sunwing Boeing 737-800 landed at the Region of Waterloo International Airport and taxied up to the terminal.

From left to right: Newly-minted Sunwing First Officers Cameron Fuchs, Chelsea Anne Edwards, Siobhan O’Hanlon and Spencer Leckie, on the ramp at the Regional of Waterloo International Airport. Photo: Mike Reyno.

Inside the building, a large group of people was eagerly anticipating the plane’s arrival. On hand were representatives from the University of Waterloo (UW), Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC), airport staff and members of the media–all there to celebrate four brand new Sunwing first officers who are among the first direct-entry cadets the leisure airline has ever hired.

As First Officer Chelsea Anne Edwards descended the airstairs to the wet tarmac, she was joined by three of her fellow graduates from the four-year aviation program offered by the UW and WWFC. Founded in 2007, the program–which leads to an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Geography and Aviation or to an Honours Bachelor of Science in Science and Aviation–has produced six graduating classes whose members are now flying around the world.

It’s safe to say, however, that the class of 2016 represents a major milestone for the program. It’s the first time its graduates have been offered direct-entry co-pilot positions with Sunwing Airlines. Edwards–together with Cameron Fuchs, Spencer Leckie and Siobhan O’Hanlon, all aged 23–found themselves going from graduation to the right seat of a 737 in just one year.

Two of the new first officers, Edwards and Fuchs, told Skies that the transition from WWFC aircraft to the right seat of a Boeing 737 was akin to drinking from the proverbial fire hose.

“It was busy, but we were well prepared from the Flight Centre and the training at Sunwing is first class. It all went well, but there were certainly challenges,” said Fuchs.

Edwards agreed. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “Still, when I get in the plane, I just can’t believe it. I never thought this would happen, never! I thought I’d be working in Yellowknife. It’s unreal. I love working here.”

To quote Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changing. No longer do aviation program grads face years of flight instructing or toiling in the Canadian bush before an airline will even consider them for a first officer position. In fact, Sunwing took on the four UW/WWFC graduates–plus two more from Seneca College–with most of them in the neighbourhood of 250 hours total flight time.

At the event on Feb. 23, the airline confirmed the program’s success and announced its plans to take on a new crop of cadets from both post-secondary programs beginning in July 2017.

“Attracting high calibre graduates to join our flight team is essential to our growth and success as an airline,” said Capt John Hudson, Sunwing’s manager of standards. “We were extremely pleased with the performance of the cadets that graduated from the program this summer, and hired four of them as first officers upon completion of their studies. We expect to hire similar numbers of graduates next year.”

Sunwing’s Captain John Hudson and First Officer Chelsea Anne Edwards flew one of the airline’s Boeing 737-800s into Waterloo Airport on Feb. 23. Edwards is one of six direct-entry cadets hired by Sunwing last year. The airline has confirmed that it plans to hire more cadets in 2017. Photo: Brian Finnerty.

Partnerships between academia and industry are becoming increasingly common in the Canadian flight training landscape.

An early model dates back to 2007, when Jazz Aviation debuted its Jazz Award program in collaboration with select aviation colleges and universities. Today, it has been rebranded as the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program (Jazz APP) and expanded to include eight schools and three industry partners from across the country.

Meanwhile, the Jazz Cadet program continues with Seneca College. It now includes a new instructor pathway program, which will give past Seneca grads–who subsequently took instructing jobs with the college–the chance to land a pilot position with the airline.

Air Georgian has also offered a mentorship program to Seneca students since 2008. “Seneca will forward us resumes of graduates that stood out, who they strongly recommend,” said Dan Bockner, VP of operations and security at Air Georgian. “We want to take the highest performers from the program and bring them onto the Beech 1900 as first officers with as little as 250 hours of flying time.”

He said Air Georgian has hired a total of about 25 Seneca grads since the beginning of the mentorship program.

“When they come in, they get the same training anyone else does. There are some limitations. The low-time pilots do get 50 per cent more line indoc–60 hours versus 40 hours for a normal hire,” said Bockner. “We’re so comfortable with it that we’re really good at doing it now, and doing it safely and mitigating any risks. Since they perform so well, there really aren’t a lot of risks.”

Lynne McMullen, director of business development at Seneca’s School of Aviation, told Skies that these partnerships are a sign of things to come.

“Ultimately, what will happen is greater collaboration through the industry,” she said. “Schools are moving to partner with industry to move students along on a defined career path and they will choose the program with the pathway option that’s right for them, depending on their ultimate goal.”

Jazz celebrates 10 years; adds University of Waterloo and Conestoga
June 5, 2017: Jazz Aviation LP Press Release

Jazz Aviation LP (Jazz) is celebrating 10 years of the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program (Jazz APP), developed in 2007 to create a streamlined career path for the pilot profession in Canada.

Jazz marks this continued commitment to Canada’s future professional pilots by announcing new agreements with two Ontario-based educational institutions and their aviation programs – Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning (Conestoga) and the University of Waterloo (Waterloo).

“Conestoga and Waterloo both offer high-calibre programs and are excellent additions to the Jazz APP during this milestone year,” said Steven Linthwaite, vice-president, flight operations at Jazz. “We’re pleased that both institutions share our vision of creating a strong future for the pilot profession in Canada and we look forward to furthering our relationship with Conestoga and Waterloo toward these common goals.”

These agreements are the first of their kind between Jazz and both Conestoga and Waterloo. The industry-leading Jazz APP program includes collaboration on training and curriculum to promote safety and professionalism, while providing up-to-date information on industry best practices.

The Jazz APP is aimed at establishing a direct career path for qualifying graduates including flight simulator evaluations, student scholarships, and the opportunity for top-performing aviation graduates to transition to first officer positions at Jazz.

“We are very pleased to work with Jazz to address Canada’s growing need for highly qualified pilots and aviation professionals,” said Andrew Schmitz, chair, School of Liberal Studies at Conestoga. “This new agreement builds on Conestoga’s established strength and reputation in aviation training by providing students with a direct pathway to career success in the industry.”

“The University of Waterloo is pleased to join the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program and welcomes their recognition of the high quality of our aviation graduates,” said Ian McKenzie, director of aviation at Waterloo. “Waterloo acknowledges the strength that industry collaborations and scholarships provide to learning at Waterloo. We are also celebrating our 10th year, and our seventh graduating class, with our graduates currently flying globally-to every continent, even Antarctica. Members of this year’s graduating class are looking forward to the opportunity to be considered for direct entry into a major airline and the Jazz APP offers a four-to-five-year jump start to their aviation career.”

The Jazz APP awards $60,000 each year to top students in recognition of safety and professionalism. Each of the 10 Jazz APP educational institutions awards two $3,000 scholarships:

The Jazz Aviation Pathway Award for Professionalism: Awarded to a full-time student in his or her final year of the aviation program for outstanding contributions to safety, leadership and professionalism. The award consists of a $3,000 scholarship and an opportunity to participate in the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program selection process. The award recipient is selected by the program chair or designate in consultation with Jazz to ensure the criteria as outlined are respected.

The Jazz Aviation Pathway Award for Professionalism and Diversity: Awarded to a full-time student in his or her final year of the aviation program who has self-identified as Aboriginal, a person with a disability, a visible minority, or female; for outstanding contributions to safety, leadership and professionalism. The award consists of a $3,000 scholarship and an opportunity to participate in the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program selection process. The award recipient is selected by the program chair or designate in consultation with Jazz to ensure the criteria as outlined are respected.

Posted on June 5, 2017; Northern Lights Aero Foundation Press Release

Elsie Award Winners

Congratulations to our own rising star, Jessalyn Teed winner of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation Elsie Rising Star Award!

The Northern Lights Aero Foundation board has announced the eight recipients of its 2017 aviation and aerospace awards.

Each year, the not-for-profit foundation honours outstanding women who have made a significant contribution in their field and who continue to lay the groundwork to attract other women to enter or excel in these industries.

The foundation’s award program, called the “Elsie,” is named after aviation pioneer and human rights advocate Elsie Gregory MacGill, the world’s first female aircraft designer. MacGill graduated from the University of Toronto’s electrical engineering program in 1927 and later became pivotal in the design and production of the Hawker Hurricane in Canada during the Second World War. During her career, MacGill was appointed to the Canadian Royal Commission on the Status of Women and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

“Elsie was a woman who was not very well known yet made significant contributions toward the advancement of women in Canada,” said Joy Parker Blackwood, president of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation. “Our goal is to bring more recognition for her and all the women doing great work in aviation and aerospace in Canada. They are all awe-inspiring role models for our youth!”
The 2017 recipients are:

Pioneer Award: Maj (ret’d) Dee Brasseur, one of the first two female fighter pilots in Canada, flying the CF-188 Hornet, with 21 years of distinguished service and 2,500 hours of flying jets;

Flight Operations Award: Heather McGonigal, Transwest Air’s director of flight operations, a training captain and a Saab 340 line pilot. A director for four years at the Air Transport Association of Canada, she became chair last year;

Government Award: Col (WSE) Helen Wright CD., MD., a bioscience officer with the Canadian Armed Forces, is one of the preeminent aircraft accident investigators with specialized knowledge in human factors analysis. She also led a team of aerospace medicine specialists responsible for the oversight of the aircrew medical fitness of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Wright is currently deployed on a one-year mission to Bagdad;

Business Award: Heather Bell recently retired as the general manager of the Vancouver FIR (Flight Information Region), Nav Canada. She has had a 33-year career in navigation services. During that time she received both the chairman’s and the president’s award;

Education Award: Joan Williams has more than 30 years in commercial aviation and flight training. She was the flight training manager for Toronto Airways Ltd. for 10 years and then became the director of business development. She is a long-time member and director of the Air Transport Association of Canada and recently received its Lifetime Achievement Award. Williams has been a mentor and role model for many career pilots flying today;

Engineering Award: Catherine Tsouvaltsidis graduated from space engineering. Currently working infrastructure technology solutions (ITS) for TD Bank, Tsouvaltsidis spent six years working in the Canadian Space sector, where she worked on a variety of different projects including the refurbishment and upgrading of a 46-metre radio astronomy dish; design, development and integration of a satellite tracking and monitoring platform; design, development and calibration of a micro-spectrometer aimed to measure soil moisture content from space to be used in large scale soil analysis and farming applications; and the design and development of a UV gas camera used to monitor SO2 volcanic emissions;

Rising Star: Jessalyn Teed is a student at the University of Waterloo (U of W) enrolled in the environmental studies and aviation program. In partnership with the U of W program, she does her flight training at Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC). At U of W and WWFC, Teed has taken on a human factors thesis in aviation, studying the best practice for Millennials in the classroom, which targets the aviation industry as the demand for pilots increases and the practices evolve; and

Rising Star: Candace McKibbon is a terminal duty officer with the Vancouver Airport Authority and an operations agent for Marquise customer service at YVR. In addition, she is the executive director of the B.C. Aviation Council, where she is active in promoting aviation throughout the province.

Other initiatives include a speakers/mentors bureau and a scholarship program. The 2017 Gala Award Dinner will be held on Sept. 30, at the Toscana Conference Centre in Vaughan, Ont. Tickets go on sale in July.

Free Event: May 13, 2019

Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC) in Ontario will be holding its annual Girls Can Fly event on Saturday, May 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is a free educational event that promotes women in aviation and offers free flights for girls aged eight to 18 years.

Girls Can Fly Event

Registration for flights filled up in two weeks, but a limited number of stand-by spots are available on the flight centre’s website.

“This is an excellent event for girls to learn more about the aviation industry,” said Bob Connors, general manager of WWFC. “This is our sixth year offering the event, which has been hugely successful. Girls and their families will have the opportunity to tour our state-of-the-art facility, meet women in the industry, learn more about aviation and go for a free flight.”

The event will also feature exhibitors from the industry who will have some interactive components.

Featured Exhibitors

  • Porter Airlines;
  • Historica Canada;
  • Air cadets;
  • Region of Waterloo International Airport;
  • University of Waterloo – Science & Geography Aviation programs;
  • Kitchener-Waterloo Aero;
  • Waterloo on the Grand Ninety-Nines;
  • Canadian Owners and Pilots Association;
  • Canadian Women in Aviation;
  • Hamilton Watch; and
  • iHaro.

Guest Speakers

  • Anne Hoffman – Toronto Pearson Control Tower controller;
  • Siobhan O’Hanlon – First Officer with Sunwing Airlines; and
  • Contessa Bishop – Q400 Captain with Jazz Airlines.

“If visitors haven’t been able to sign up for a free flight, I’d still encourage them to come to the event,” said Connors. “It’s a great opportunity for girls and young women to learn and meet women in the industry. It’s truly an inspiring and energized day.”

The event was established to promote the aviation industry to girls and young women. The representation of women in the aviation industry has changed over the years, but there is still a long way to go. And now with the shortage of pilots it’s an even greater opportunity for young women to enter the industry.

The shortage of pilots is not just a Canadian issue. It’s something that is being talked about around the world. Airlines are working with flight schools and taking young pilots to mentor and groom for jobs. It is a practice that has been going on for years in Europe and is now becoming more common in Canada.

Pilots are not the only career in demand. Aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) are also seeing a shortage in recruits and looking for new ways to source staff.

Gender equality

The WWFC aviation program works cooperatively with industry partners to define and deliver training that meets the needs of modern airlines.

“Canadian airlines have stated they’ll be hiring about 1,000 commercial pilots in 2017, but only about 600 Canadians will be produced by Canadian flight schools,” said Connors. “The remainder are international students who train in Canada and return to their home country upon graduation.”

The low rate of women in the aviation industry also plays a factor.

“The ratio of women to men in the aviation industry remains low,” said Connors. “However, that can change with increased awareness and promotion of career opportunities to young women. There are many women pilots, AMEs and controllers who are very successful and well respected and there is huge potential for more.”

WWFC is involved in gender-equality initiatives to reach out to young women and highlight aviation career paths, such as pilots, air traffic controllers and maintenance professionals. WWFC hosts two events, Girls Can Fly and Aviation Fun Day, each year with a focus of introducing the aviation industry to youth and their families. Both events are hugely successful with a large attendance.

Flight school makes Waterloo airport 16th busiest in Canada

Story by: Staff, Metroland News Service
Juyl 10, 2014

BRESLAU — The Region of Waterloo International Airport was 16th busiest airport in Canada for takeoffs and landings last year, thanks in large part to the Waterloo-Wellington Flight Centre.

The flight school accounted for more than 61,000 of 107,000 takeoffs and landings in 2013.

“Flight school causes so much activity on the movements,” said Chris Wood, airport general manager. “They’re constantly doing landings and takeoffs as training.”

Passenger flights accounted for a lower percentage of takeoffs and landings here than at the 11other provincial airports, including London, Hamilton and Windsor.

About 139,000 passengers used the airport in 2013.

Wood said the Canadian ranking is good news but won’t necessarily bring big dollars into the local operation.

“The only way to judge success financially is going to be scheduled (passenger) traffic,” he said. “That’s the only thing that can get us to where we want to go financially.”

The regional airport exempts landing fees for aircraft that weigh less than 3,000 kilograms, and also gives the flight school a discount on fees.

The flight school is charged a flat fee per airplane as part of its lease, Wood said, as opposed to a fee for each landing that other airports charge.

“That’s part of the strategy of growing the business is attracting business with lower fees,” Coun. Sean Strickland said.

Strickland continues to be concerned about the lack of passenger flights.

The airport offers daily flights to Chicago and Calgary. Sunwing offers winter charters to sunny destinations.

“It’s good to see that our airport continues to be busy in terms of takeoffs and landings,” he said. “But the fact remains we’re well under capacity for passenger volume, so good news report but more work to be done.”

It has been a difficult year for the airport, after Bearskin Airlines cancelled flights to Ottawa in March and regional officials dealt with complaints about noisy Arctic charter Nolinor.

Regional officials have put potential expansion plans on hold indefinitely and will decide in September whether to hire someone to drum up business at the airport.

The airport operated at about half its capacity in 2012, handling about 121,000 passengers. It received a taxpayer subsidy of about $6.3 million.

Wood said officials are concentrating on getting new Ottawa service and also seeking other business.

“It’s a dynamic industry and business, that’s for sure,” Wood said. “(Airlines) want to know that they’re going to make money in your market and we have a great story to tell — we’re the biggest underserved market in Canada.”

He added money isn’t the only indication of the airport’s value, noting the popularity of the flight school and the pilots it trains.

The busiest flight training centre in Ontario

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570 News file photo.
Credit: John Macdonald Architects

Story by: Chris Pope, 570 News
September 3, 2015

The Waterloo-Wellington Flight Centre continues to be the go-to spot for people in our region who want to become a pilot.

The Region of Waterloo International Airport was ranked the busiest flight training centre in Ontario, when it comes to flights that take-off, and land at the same airport.

General Manager Bob Conners says 60 per cent of their business is training young people who want to be pilots, mostly in partnership with Conestoga College and University Waterloo.

“The other 40 per cent of our business is supporting and assisting people who want to fly recreational, most of whom live relatively locally, to either get a private pilots license or to rent an airplane or to enhance their knowledge or skill,” says Conners.

Conners says they have 23 planes, and they fly between 14-and-16 thousand hours a year.

Read full story at 570 News website

Regional airport is busiest training Centre in Ontario

Student pilot John Dabu inspects the airplane prior to a flight at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. Photo: Peter Lee, Record Staff.

Story by: Catherine Thompson
September 2, 2015

BRESLAU — For John Dabu, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of being in command of your own airplane.

Dabu, 21, got the travel bug as a young violinist, travelling to different musical competitions. The excitement of being in the airport and in a plane, flying off to new places, has never left him, but being able to actually fly the plane is another experience altogether.

“You get to control the plane, and feel what it’s doing. It’s definitely a lot better than being a passenger,” he said.

Read full story on the Guelph Mercury website