I started flying 10 years ago, in my final year at the University of Victoria. At age 25, I had no clear goal in mind other than the fact that I wanted to fly aeroplanes for a living. I chipped away at my licences for 4 years, flying when I could afford to do so, until I completed my Instructor rating in the spring of 1996. Whilst I could have finished faster, I owed no money at the end, which was a huge relief when it came time to look for a flying job, and the subsequent pay cut!
The Victoria Flying Club hired me in the summer of 1996 as a Class 4 Instructor. This job continued part-time into the winter, by which time I was a Class 3, and up until June of the next year when I was offered a position in Pickle Lake, Ontario, on a C-185 on floats for the summer. I loved flying in the bush – apart from daily phone calls to the office, I was my own boss, making up my own schedule, keeping track of customers, fuel, destinations and money.
The summer on a 185 led me further into the float industry, where I spent two summers on a Twin Otter, and one on a single Turbo Otter. After four years of seasonal employment, however, I was getting a little sick of looking for work every spring, and not knowing in March where I was going to be living in May. I therefore decided to look for year-round employment.
I had kept in touch with my old Ops Manager from Pickle, who was now working for the Manitoba government. He told me that the MGAS was looking for a Navajo pilot, so I sent in my application, was given an interview, and was awarded a position based in Thompson, Manitoba, starting in February of 2001.
I am now flying both a C-310 and a Navajo, in a rotation with two other pilots. Occasionally, I am also asked to fly (usually to fill in on rest days) on one of the three DHC-3 Otters that the Government also operates. The government is a great employer; the job is fairly secure, the pay and benefits are good, the planes are maintained very well, are hangared every night (great for doing a daily inspection when there’s a howling blizzard outside!) and there is no pressure from our management to fly if we do not feel comfortable doing so.
The majority of our flying is in support of the Justice Department. We fly a court party, consisting of a Judge and several Lawyers, to all of the outlying reserves in Northern Manitoba, on a weekly rotation, so that all of the towns can have a court. The passengers are generally drawn from the same small group of people every week, so whilst we operate in a professional manner, we are on first name terms with our clients.
Apart from the Otters, the Navajo is the entry-level plane for the government, and promotion upward is on a seniority/competition basis. The next step upward will be to either fly a Citation Jet on Medevacs, based in Winnipeg, or to move into the Fire Program, where the Government operates seven CL-215 Tankers.
Are there any disadvantages to this job? There are some, but their annoyance is relative to one’s point of view. We don’t fly much (about 50 to 60 hours per month on average,) the location can be trying, and Airline passes would be a great at times (especially when the OAT is –30C and your roommate is going to the Caribbean!)
Overall, I’m quite happy with the progress of my career to this point, and working for the government has added a level of stability that has hitherto been missing.
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