Flying high at the Silver Wings Awards

By Lorraine Graves

Published 12:10 PST, Thu November 14, 2019

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

The Richmond-based BC Aviation Council (BCAC) annually offers $60,000 in scholarships. Oct. 24 saw over 200 people in the industry get together to both laud existing successes with awards of recognition and to encourage young pilots with the substantial scholarships. 

Formally known as the Silver Wings Industry and Scholarship Awards Celebration, the gala event at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre West saw many student volunteers from the BCIT Aerospace Technology Campus in Richmond, young trainees in the aviation industry, and established successes in BC’s aviation industry mix, mingle and network while nibbling outstanding finger food. The convention centre’s wall-to-wall windows offered a view of not only the mountains and water but also of industry-appropriate helicopters and float planes plying their trade in Vancouver Harbour. 

As the ceremony began, Anne Murray a vice president of the Vancouver International Airport Authority, spoke of the almost 26 million passengers who passed through YVR last year. Looking to both the future and the environment, she spoke of the airport’s ongoing construction project that will be one of the biggest geothermal energy facilities in North America. And also good news, she announced it will have a new parkade on top of it. 

Speaking of the need for more workers, Murray offered the website as the place for job hunters of all ages and backgrounds to begin their search for a variety of jobs on Sea Island, telling the assembled guests, “We all need to promote the benefits of a career in aviation.”

Harvie Buitelaar, chair of the Silver Wings Awards committee, said that this is the largest non-governmental scholarship program in Canada.

As the council’s scholarships, with each award in the thousands of dollars, were awarded the theme of evening became clear; YVR board member Kenneth Goosen said, “Our goal is getting skilled people into our industry. Our challenge is recruiting the talent we need.”

For the Anderson Family Private Pilot Flight Training Scholarship that is usually $5,000, the council’s board approved the awarding of two Anderson scholarships this year. One in the amount of $5,000 to Samuel Thiessen of BP Aviation and $3,500 to Gavin Boothroyd of Pacific Flying Club.

In his acceptance speech, Thiessen spoke of his grandmother, one of the first female pilots in Canada. She told him, “Your dream can come true with enough hard work and dedication.”

As a result, he started clearing snow and mowing lawns for money. “I decided then that I’d rather be flying,” said Thiessen. 

Victoria Grahn from Chinook Helicopters Flight School received the night’s largest scholarship. Harbour Air provides 50 hours of flight time, worth $25,000 towards her float plane endorsement.

“At 18, I didn’t have much money. My dad and I figured out how to finance my training but 18 months ago, he had a catastrophic work injury.” 

That alone, she said, points out the importance of scholarships as this will allow her to continue her training. 

Grahn spoke of being surrounded by bush pilots and that offered her an introduction to serene alpine lakes. She spoke of the joy of taxiing along mountain waters. 

She also took time to note Harbour Air’s VP operations, Eric Scott, her mentor: “He never tells me what to do. He lets me make each decision on my own.” Finishing her acceptance speech with, “Thank you Eric. At Harbour Air, they know they importance of investing in the next generation.”

It is a time when all sectors of aviation actively seek more people particularly as the baby boomers, who have held these jobs for so long, retire. 

On Sea Island alone, over than 26,500 people, more than twice the population of Powell River, are employed by hundreds of businesses in aviation and related sectors. 

Perhaps the most meaningful award of the night, the Hope Air Community Giving Award, went to Pacific Coastal Airlines for their work with the national charity, Hope Air. From their humble beginnings 40 years ago in Bella Coola, giving has always been a part of their operations. Pacific Coastal has now donated over 2700 flights, worth more than half a million dollars, to help rural patients access medical care. They received a hearty round of applause. 

As the formal part of the evening closed and the gala dessert service began, there were kudos to the council’s executive director. Heather Bell, president of the BCAC said, “David Frank steered this event to another grand success.”

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