During the summer months, things are usually quieter at colleges and universities, but there was no shortage of activity when SooToday recently visited Sault College aviation technology-flight program students and instructors, the group moving around the college’s hangar (located near the Sault Ste. Marie Airport) and taking to the skies.
“I’m loving it. I like the challenge,” beamed Marla Keyes, a Thunder Bay native currently enrolled in the program.
“When you move on from the beginning of flight training, there’s always that ‘next thing’ you can do, like your first solo flight and so on. It’s fulfilling for me because I like to work with people. I think here at Sault College it’s a good environment where we work together to accomplish common goals and we’re all here because we love flying. It’s a great environment.”
“There are lots of doors that open from this program. There isn’t just one road to go down when you graduate, there are many opportunities, and I look forward to exploring them as they come.”
“It’s so peaceful. Flight just feels right,” Marla smiled.
“There’s so much growth and potential in the aviation industry, whether it’s flying in the north, flying for airlines, or instructing. It’s one of only a few industries in which you can go anywhere you want and try new things,” said flight student Moiz Khatra, who hails from Toronto.
“I enjoy flying just because it’s not your regular 9 to 5 job. It’s very exciting and it helps me in a lot of aspects in my life. It keeps me disciplined. It keeps me alert and ready for new things, and that’s one of the reasons I love flight.”
“I want to go as far as I can with the airlines. I love traveling the world,” Moiz said.
“I love it here,” said Jim Cairns, Sault College aviation technology-flight program instructor.
Originally from Niagara Falls, Jim is himself a Sault College aviation graduate.
After teaching flight in St. Catharines, he returned to the Sault in February of this year.
“I think people who go through this program typically have leadership qualities in them, and that’s something I have in myself, so I enjoy interacting with these students.”
“I’m a big outdoors guy too, so being able to instruct in Sault Ste. Marie, it’s beautiful to see the water, the terrain,” Jim said.
“It’s challenging in a good way. Being a Class 3 instructor, I’m going to Class 2 and then to Class 1. There’s always room for growth, and that keeps me motivated.”
“Sometimes they (Sault College aviation grads) call us when they’re flying overhead and tell us about their experiences and how prepared they were for the industry when they left here. To me that’s what it’s all about,” said Jason Morin, the aviation program’s assistant chief flight instructor.
“I ‘fly’ this desk in my office here at the hangar most days, but I do still get up in the air as well,” Jason chuckled.
“I’ve always found it fascinating we can get steel into the sky and make it stay up there, but I never wanted to fly the biggest, newest plane around the world. I prefer the teaching aspect and watching somebody go from ‘no clue’ to being a pilot. People who are going through this program right now will benefit from a lot of baby boomer pilots retiring.”
“I’ve always been in the college environment. I chose this career path instead of going into the flight industry because I like to see people learn how to become pilots, become successful and follow their stories as they move on,” Jason said.
The Sault College aviation technology-flight program is three years in duration, with approximately 150 students currently enrolled.
The department has 11 single engine ZLIN aircraft (manufactured in the Czech Republic) and two twin engine Piper Seminole planes for student and instructor use.
The planes are kept in good working order by Brian Trotter, the program’s maintenance and quality manager, and his team.
“We went to the grad supper a couple of weeks ago and there were so many happy students there, and a number of their parents spoke to me and told me they were impressed by the aircraft we have compared to other schools,” Brian said.
“To me, it’s a matter of seeing the students succeed by making sure they have aircraft in very good condition by which they can succeed.”