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Sask’s 'first-ever' general aviation and career conference held at Moose Jaw airport over weekend

The Moose Jaw Municipal Airport (MJMA) hosted Saskatchewan’s first General Aviation and Career Fly-in Conference on May 6 and 7.

The Moose Jaw Municipal Airport (MJMA) hosted Saskatchewan’s first General Aviation and Career Fly-in Conference on May 6 and 7.

Candace Pardo, Provincial Airways’ Chief Flight Instructor and Director of the Canadian Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (COPA) in Saskatchewan, wanted to see the general public and youth interested in aviation careers come out to see what goes on at MJMA and interact with as many aviation professionals as possible.

The conference kicked off on Friday, May 6, at 8:30 p.m. with a showing of Top Gun (1986) projected on the side of a hangar at the airport. Free popcorn and soft drinks were provided.

The next morning, Saturday, May 7, at 9 a.m., the day started with a $10 pancake breakfast, with proceeds going to COPA’s scholarship fund.

Wet and wind slightly dampened the day

The weather put an unfortunate damper on Saturday’s attendance. Pardo said that several clubs that had planned on flying in were either forced to turn back or couldn’t make it off the ground thanks to the looming thunderclouds.

“We’re still pleased with how it worked out,” Pardo said. “This was our first-ever event like this, and we’re so happy with how many people are here and we’re grateful to all the amazing presenters who came out. We got a great representation of all the careers that are possible in general aviation. We’ll definitely do this again.”

Lt.-Col. (retired) Scott Greenough, director of CAE NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) operations at the base, said that when Candace Pardo called CAE and told them about a gathering of the general aviation community, they absolutely had to say yes.

“We’re happy to be a part of it, and we’re happy to be here in support,” Greenough said.

Greenough gave a presentation on the history of CAE, Inc., and the various careers it offers.

CAE also provided free transportation from several Moose Jaw high schools for the event, although some miscommunication meant that high schoolers missed a few of the morning’s career presentations.

“It’s a bit disappointing to miss some of the youth participation we were looking forward to,” said Roger Blager, the president of the Moose Jaw Flying Club. “And the weather is a bit of a drag, but you know, the presentations and booths are awesome, the pancake breakfast was delicious, and we can’t wait to do more of these.”

Military, civilian, and free-fall flyers showed up

Aircraft were displayed around the field, including a CT-156 Harvard II flown in by Captain Colin Mark, an instructor at 15 Wing. Conference attendees climbed up on the wing to take a look at the instrumentation and chat with Mark.

“I went and learned how to fly on this aircraft, and they liked me so much they asked me to stay and be an instructor, and it’s been an absolute blast,” Mark said.

Mark is from Saskatoon and has been in the Air Force since 2015, with the last four years spent instructing on the Harvard II. He complimented the recently extended MJMA runway and said he was pleased to be able to come out for the pancake breakfast and to show off his airplane.

Neighbouring Mark’s Harvard II, the SK Aviation Museum offered rides in a historic Harvard I. Several people donned flight helmets for the experience, climbed aboard, and took off for a tour of the local airspace.

Skydive South Sask chief instructors Sheldon Driedger and Burk Reiman did a couple of jumps during the morning with a newly-qualified student. The skydiving club’s blue-and-white Cessna 182 roared skyward, followed by chutes drifting down for graceful, expert landings on the grass between the taxiway and runway.

The jumpers had to time their drops between the scatterings of rain because, Reiman and Driedger explained, they actually fall faster than the water, which means any exposed skin hits the pointy end of the raindrops.

“Feels like bee-stings,” Driedger laughed.

Sky South Sask’s season has begun, and they are now accepting jump reservations. Their first-jump course costs $250 (+ GST) for five hours of initial instruction, followed by a solo Instructor-Assisted Deployment jump.

Booths and presentations on general aviation careers

Booths and presentations from all kinds of general aviation operators were set up in the Provincial Airways hangar, including aerospace engineers, a NASA robotics engineer, aircraft mechanics, military and civilian air traffic controllers, and a presentation by Pardo herself on Provincial Airways’ new flight school.

Andrew Goddard, a parts specialist and aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) at Yorkton Aircraft Service Ltd., had a booth set up to answer questions about aircraft maintenance and agricultural aviation.

“We’re an Aircraft Maintenance Operation (AMO) facility up in Yorkton. We’re the biggest for general and (agricultural) aviation parts in Canada,” Goddard said. “We are a Thrush (aerial application aircraft) dealer. We maintain about 80-85 airplanes for the year, and we travel across the prairies to help pilots who are down and out.”

Goddard said that now is a great time to become an AME because many older AMEs are retiring and they need to fill those spots. They’re looking for anyone interested in aviation — office roles, maintenance roles, support logistics, and more.

After noon, the conference focused on COPA members, including a presentation by Maryse Carmichael, the first female Snowbird and later commander of the team.

Other afternoon presentations covered areas of interest such as pilot fatigue, common flight test errors, and the popular conversion of military fixed-wing planes for civilian use.

The Royal Canadian Air Force had a booth set up to speak with attendees about career options in the Forces. Recruiters from the Reserves were also present to hand out materials and answer any questions.

“It’s a good relationship to maintain,” said Captain Mackenzie Dolphin, Public Affairs Officer at 15 Wing, about coming out for the Municipal Airport’s conference. Dolphin said that the two airports share a close proximity, and while the base is closed over the weekend, the MJMA is open. Military and training aircraft could potentially do weekend landings on the newly-refurbished runway — if the Moose Jaw Flying Club has their way, the military/civilian relationship will become increasingly close.