Photo by Kim Bellavance
With aviation growing in British Columbia, the BC Aviation Council Silver Wings Awards Gala mingled seasoned veterans of the air, current leaders and the aviators of tomorrow. This Richmond-based organization’s goal is, “Promoting the shared interests of the BC aviation and aerospace community since 1938.”
The venerable organization’s event at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre was in three stages. The first was mingling, meeting and eating the excellent food provided by the centre while a local orchestra played. The view overlooking Burrard Inlet offered a clear view of Harbour Air’s float planes arcing take-offs amongst the ocean-going vessels, commercial boats and Seabus.
The gala was a chance to meet and mingle with the big names in BC aviation as well as up and coming members of the industry including the students from BCIT’s aviation campus in Richmond who ably volunteered with grace for the entire evening.
Much of the talk was amongst old friends and it centred upon the drastic need for new people in all areas of flight from those who work in terminals to air traffic control to pilots themselves. Another area of shortage is flying instructors as they can now find jobs with commercial airlines because so many baby boomers are retiring.
The second, awards, stage of the evening saw 16 scholarships awarded to students of aviation and related fields such as airport management. One student, Katherine Cowley from Squamish, won two awards to further her education as a float plane pilot. Asked later, she said she didn’t want to fly large planes for a large airline but rather wanted to make a difference in the world perhaps by flying aid flights in Africa or other parts of the world.
The young man who won the $5000 scholarship for an aviation student between 17 and 19 years of age, Jacob Loukianoff, thanked his flight instructor for taking him on, citing the “shortage of flight instructors in BC right now.” He said the award allowed him to go from flying once every two weeks to flying twice each week. In an industry where flying hours are required to progress and to eventually get a job, “That makes a big difference,” he said.
After the scholarships, came the six industry awards.
The Heather and Dave Frank Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Aero Design Ltd for the add-on equipment they design such as baskets that hook onto helicopters such as the ones seen carrying extra loads or rescued people in stretchers.
The BCAC Environment Award went to the Victoria Airport Authority for their work cleaning up and rehabilitating part of their land so that a clear creek runs through it once more.
In his video, accepting the Back and Bevington Air Safety Award, Doug Strachan of West Coast Helicopters said, “Safety is a team game rather than an individual game.”
In accepting her Robert S. Day award for the development of aviation in BC, Pat Kennedy CFO of the Pacific Flying School at Boundary Bay also stood for all the women in the industry. A growing number since the days when she became the first woman to be named Chair of the Air Transport Association of Canada in 2001.
The William Templeton Award for outstanding initiative and achievement in the successful development of a community airport or floatplane landing facility went to the Terrace Kitimat Airport Authority. In accepting the award, airport manager Carman Hendry, thanks the four owners of the airport: the city of Kitimat, the city of Terrace and the two cities’ chambers of commerce.
Hendry spoke of the $36 million invested in the airport and the 247,000 passengers who use Terrace Kitimat. With the growth of the Northern Gas Pipeline, this already-busy airport looks to host even more travelers in the years ahead.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to two people this year: John Ward of Pacific Adjusters Ltd for investigating and adjusting accidents over the past 45 years; and Peter Barratt of West Coast Helicopters who said he’d enjoyed 50 years of aviation and was still flying.
Barratt went on to say, “BC is the last bastion of uncontrolled airspace.” He ended with an all-the-more apt remark as he shared his award with an accident investigator, “As my dear old father used to say, ‘Stay out of the trees.’”
The remarks for the evening were offered by Craig Richmond, CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority in Richmond.
“Mr. Richmond is becoming an internet star whether battling Jackie Chan or channeling Seinfeld with CEOs in carts getting coffee,” said Heather Bell, BCAC chair by way of introduction.
In his opening remarks, Richmond prompted chuckles from all those assembled when he said, “I see BCAC is reducing fees just like YVR where we are keeping fees low.” In response to the laughter, Richmond said light-heartedly, “I see there are a couple of grumps out there.” (YVR’s landing fees are not those of a grass landing strip.)
Richmond continued, “We do exciting work. There are so many opportunities in this industry for bright minds to come up with the next big thing.”
“The core value of YVR is teamwork. This is the secret sauce,” he said.
Noting that this is the eightieth anniversary for BCAC, Richmond said with a smile, “You are almost as old as YVR,” which, according to their website says, “Started with a single runway and a small, wood-frame administration building that welcomed 1,072 passengers in 1931.
“We had 24 million passengers last year and expect that to grow to 29 million by 2020.”
Richmond cited YVR’s recently started $9.1 billion (yes with a B) construction project that will by the end of this year offer jobs for an additional 5,000 people.
Again, the topic of worker shortages in the industry came up: “We need pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers, operations people and much more,” he stressed.
Richmond ended with, “I’m confident we will meet the challenge. Congratulations to all the winners and scholarship awards. You deserve it.”
With that, photos of the winners were taken, personal congratulations offered and the silent auction in support of the scholarship fund promoted. At that, the crowd once again mingled, this time enjoying a variety of tasty desserts and congregated around the generous donations that made up the silent auction. Available was everything from an electric nail gun to luxury weekends at resorts, golfing packages and airport furniture to sight-seeing flights, holidays, and airplane tickets.
Each person there expressed an enthusiasm for their part in the aviation world. Later at the reception, Richmond spoke of his youth, pumping gas at Mohawk station confirming it wasn’t a particularly fun job but said he did it because, “I knew an eight-hour shift would pay for an hour’s flying time.”
Every person at the BCAC Silver Wings Awards was someone for whom all conversation stops when a plane goes overhead. They need to look, name the aircraft and its heading before resuming their chat. For them, aviation is not a job. It’s a calling.