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Yukon flight instructor earns pilot examiner accreditation

Prospective pilots no longer have to wait for Outside examiner to visit territory
Alkan Air Flight Academy chief flight instructor Lance Appleford leans on a Cessna Skyhawk 172 M in Whitehorse on November 4, 2020. Appleford is the first pilot examiner in the territory since 2013. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukoners working to earn their private and commercial pilots license will now have more flexible options testing with Alkan Air Flight Academy chief flight instructor Lance Appleford taking on the role as pilot examiner.

The last time there was a pilot examiner in the territory was in 2013.

Appleford recently returned from Edmonton where he spent a week getting his pilot examiner accreditation through Transport Canada.

After the required two weeks of self-isolation back home in the Yukon, Appleford is ready to take on his additional role as pilot examiner with the flight school and that means students waiting to be tested for their licences are better able to book their exams at a time that works for them.

Previous to Appleford getting his accreditation, the flight school typically brought pilot examiners in from British Columbia for a few days at a time about every three months, Appleford said.

That was before COVID-19 hit, closing borders and taking its toll on the economy.

While the border between the territory and B.C. is now opened, the situation had officials at the flight school looking at what it could do to ensure students are able to test for their licences at times the school can’t get examiners into the territory.

At any given time, Appleford said, there’s between 30 and 40 part- and full-time students working towards their flight test, which can be a somewhat dissatisfactory experience when waiting for an examiner to visit the territory.

Previously, students would be told when an examiner was coming up and would either have to be ready for that date or wait for a subsequent visit a few months down the road to be tested if they weren’t ready. Weather issues can also impact flight tests when an examiner is in the territory.

Ultimately officials decided to send Appleford to Edmonton for the training and accreditation that would provide an in-house pilot examiner at the school.

Appleford said he was pleased with the training provided by two Transport Canada staff, noting becoming a pilot examiner “seemed like the right fit” for him.

Lance Appleford takes the student side of the aircraft so his instructor pilot student can practice teaching during the flight in Whitehorse on November 5, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

There are a number of benefits for the school and its students as the cost of flight exams could come down as per diems, hotels and such will no longer have to be covered for the visiting examiner.

It also means that prospective pilots can book their flight test when they’re ready for the test.

“They can book (their flight exam) with me anytime,” Appleford said, adding that students at the school already know him in his role as chief flight instructor which he’s hoping will help them feel more comfortable about the exam.

“Alkan Air’s Flight Academy was created by, and for, Yukoners so our team is very proud to have Lance certified to conduct flight tests,” Alkan Air president Wendy Tayler said in a statement.

“Investing in Yukoners is key to everything Alkan undertakes and we look forward to local pilots in our flight school receiving this additional service and becoming part of our strong and rewarding aviation industry right here at home.”

Appleford’s own flight career began years ago when he was working as an English as a second language teacher in Korea and Taiwan.

He came back to his former home in Toronto on a break for a couple of months and while he saw many old friends he was hoping to see, he also found many were busy with their own careers, families and lives.

Somewhat bored, he said when he heard a radio ad to take part in a 20 minute flight from Toronto Island for $40, he headed down there and took in that first instructional flight.

“I was hooked,” he said as he recalled talking with the instructor about getting his private pilot’s licence and soon working to get his required 45 hours of flight time required before the examination.

“I flapped down my money at that school,” he said.

After getting his private licence he returned to teaching English in Taiwan, saving money so that he could get his commercial license when he returned to Canada.

In moving to a career as a pilot, he has incorporated his skills as a teacher as well.

He began his flight-training career at Moncton Flight College where he led an English for pilots program for students from China who were studying at the New Brunswick flight school.

After his time there, he made his way north over nearly a dozen years before joining Alkan Air as part of its air ambulance team.

It was after two years as a medevac pilot with Alkan Air that he moved to the flight school and has since taken on the role as the school’s chief flight instructor.

While COVID-19 continues to impact the flight industry and has altered some of the school’s operations, Appleford said prospective pilots are continuing to train at the flight school and interest in the school remains strong.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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