Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

Student pilots earn their wings

Montair Aviation opened its doors to the public on Friday under the kind of blue skies that lured the pilot school to Central Alberta.

Montair Aviation opened its doors to the public on Friday under the kind of blue skies that lured the pilot school to Central Alberta.

Red Deer Airport is home to the company’s second flight school, joining its Pitt Meadows school in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

Sixty mostly Chinese student pilots are being trained at the Springbrook flight school and living in nearby former CFB Penhold barracks.

Montair Aviation chief operating officer Ian Kennedy said the company has 26 aircraft, 10 of which are based in Springbrook.

A majority of the students there now are from China’s civil aviation university, which is the biggest flight training organization in the world, said Kennedy.

“They will go back to that university and then they’ll graduate straight into their sponsoring airlines.”

But first the fledgling pilots will immerse themselves in all things aviation learning all there is to know about flying from the ground up.

“When they come to us they have absolutely no experience. They’ve probably never even sat in an airplane before.”

It is an intense program that begins with a pilot’s licence through night ratings, commercial licence, multi-engine and then finally instrument ratings. All of the students have a working knowledge of English and are hand picked by Montair, which has connections with the university and airlines in China.

“Then, depending on which contract they’re with and which airline they’re with they go into high-performance training.”

High-performance training involves mastering larger, faster and more complex aircraft, he said.

Once the students graduate, they will move into the cockpits of large passenger jets and many will become international flight pilots.

“We’ve had students who graduated from us maybe seven or 10 years ago and they are now flying internationally between Canada and China.”

Montair is one of only 23 flight training organizations worldwide — three in Canada — that China has approved for its training.

On the other side of the airport, Sky Wings Aviation Academy has also been training pilots on contracts with Chinese airlines for the past few years.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com