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Airline owner establishing program in Thompson to train Indigenous pilots

Program is named after a Perimeter Aviation pilot from St. Theresa’s Point, who will also be one of its flight instructors.
atik mason perimeter aviation pilot
Timothy Atik Mason, a Perimeter Aviation pilot from St. Theresa’s Point, will soon be helping to train Indigenous commercial pilots at a seasonal base in Thompson through a program established by the airline’s parent company.

The company that owns Calm Air and Perimeter Aviation will offer pilot training in Thompson as part of a program to increase the number of Indigenous commercial pilots.

Exchange Income Corporation announced the program April 14 and said that those who compete it and receive their commercial pilot’s licence will be offered jobs with the airline it owns.

“We have had a long-standing and supportive relationship with the Indigenous communities we serve,” said EIC CEO Mike Pyle. “Last year in an initiative with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, we further extended that support by bringing in over 1,000 members from Indigenous communities to partake in a Blue Bomber game to honour the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and bring awareness to the Every Child Matters initiative. At that time, we said that reconciliation needed to be an ongoing process and we are putting those words into action with the establishment of the Pathway. It creates opportunities for Indigenous youth to grow and thrive, both for themselves and their greater communities, and sets them up for long-term success.”

The Atik Mason Indigenous Pilot Pathway program is being offered with support and guidance from Manitoba Keewatinowi Oikimakanak, which represents 26 First Nations in Northern Manitoba.

“The Atik Mason Indigenous Pilot Pathway will open doors for our people,”said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “MKO is pleased for the opportunity to work closely with EIC to help make this program successful and empower a young generation of Canadian pilots who represent the communities they serve. We are proud to support EIC in this initiative as it’s programs like Pathway that spark discussion, bring awareness to Every Child Matters, and help the healing that is needed.”

The program is named for Timothy Atik (Tik) Mason from St. Theresa’s Point, who decided at age 35 to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, a journey that was aided greatly by his receiving the first Bill Wehrle Scholarship from EIC. After attending flight school in Moncton, New Brunswick and then becoming a flight instructor there, he took a job with Perimeter Aviation, which led to him flying into his home community for the first time in a Dash 8 last October as the first ever Indigenous pilot from one of the First Nations EIC airlines serve to work for them. Soon, he will be one of the flight instructors, mentors and cultural leaders for program participants.

The Pathway program  is designed to remove significant barriers preventing some Indigenous youth who dream of becoming pilots like Mason from pursuing that goal, including the cost as well as the need to move far away to receive flight training. Those who are selected for the program will be able to complete flight training offered by MFC Training, the same school that Mason attended, at a seasonal base in Thompson.

“We wanted to create an opportunity that overcomes many of the challenges that Indigenous people face when considering a career in aviation,” said EIC’s aviation programs director Robin Jacuzzi. “Flight training is costly, especially so if a student has to relocate away from their family and community. Providing fully funded training in the heart of Northern Manitoba will allow Pathway members to maintain a strong connection to their homes and cultures while they challenge themselves to build the skills, confidence, and licences to fly professionally.”

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