Flight school lands back in the Yukon

After two years without a flight school in the territory, Alkan Air has taken up the cause to get more Yukoners in the sky.

After two years without a flight school in the territory, Alkan Air has taken up the cause to get more Yukoners in the sky.

As of this month, the airline best known for its charter flights and running the Yukon’s air ambulance is certified to train aspiring pilots behind the controls.

That means Yukoners will be able to stay home instead of having to go Outside to Alberta or B.C. to get their licence, said flight instructor Dan Rosen.

“A lot of people have to leave, go to school, get their licence and then come back and that’s a little bit harder,” he said.

“But hey, if you can live in Whitehorse, live at your parent’s place, and go to school, it’s cheaper, it’s easier and you get to stay around family and friends.”

The grandson of a pilot, Rosen was familiar with the basics of flying by the time he was seven or eight years old. He can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to fly.

“To be able to take off, fly around and land by yourself, there’s such a rush. I can’t describe it really.”

He’s worked as an instructor in B.C. and Alberta. For the last two years he’s been first officer on Alkan’s King Airs, the larger planes used by the company for medevacs.

Newbies will learn behind the controls of something smaller, a Cessna 172.

The small single-engine plane is slow and ideal to learn in, Rosen said.

“These things are really forgiving. If you land fairly hard on it, it’ll take care of you.”

The plane has a set of controls and breaks on both sides so the instructor can jump in if things go awry.

It’s also cheaper to fly. Burning only seven gallons of fuel an hour means that one hour with an instructor will cost you $230. Chartering some of the larger planes in Alkan’s fleet will set you back at least $1,000 an hour.

Alkan has three certified flight instructors on staff. Rosen said the demand for pilots is high in the Yukon.

“It’s sparse country and it’s beautiful country and a lot of people like to fly over it,” he said.

Getting a private pilot’s licence means a minimum of 45 hours flying a plane, usually more, Rosen said, and 40 hours of classroom training.

The whole thing will cost a minimum of $14,440 and take around three months to complete depending on weather and the availability of the plane.

For those who want to give it a whirl without committing that kind of cash, Alkan is also offering a $99 “discovery flight” with an instructor.

“You get to jump in, you go flying for half an hour, you get to touch the controls,” Rosen said.

“Someone said within the first five minutes you’ll realize if it’s something you want to do or not.”

A private pilot’s licence is just for personal use. Down the road, Alkan will also be offering commercial pilot’s licence training for those who want to get in the business of flying.

After getting a private pilot’s licence, the commercial variety means a minimum of 200 hours of flight time and 80 hours of ground school.

The company also has visions of working with Yukon College to develop an aviation diploma, to go along with a licence, Rosen said. Exactly what that would look like hasn’t been decided yet, he said. The plans are still in their infancy.

“Outside, around the country, especially in bigger centres, there are college aviation programs and they work together to produce pilots that have that kind of university or college credits.”

Having that college link would be helpful to Yukoners, he said. Right now getting a pilot’s licence here would not be covered by the Department of Education’s grant program for Yukon graduates.

“So if we could somehow partner up with Yukon College and turn it into a program that a student could go to college for, there is a chance that students could start using that towards their licence.”

For those who like a challenge, looking out on the world from inside a cockpit could be exactly the kind of thing they’re looking for, Rosen said.

“What do you see? You see everything.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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