Kelly Owlijoot first concept of changing into a helicopter pilot whilst operating as a natural world technician primarily based in Arviat, Nunavut.
It wasn’t an glaring occupation selection. although Nunavut is determined by air shuttle for thus many things, Inuit were traditionally underneath-represented within the aviation business.
That’s now converting and Owlijoot, FORTY SIX, hopes to encourage more Inuit to apply in his footsteps.
He made up our minds to turn out to be a pilot while he used to be running with biologists from the Nunavut government’s Surroundings division, studying the migration and conduct of Qamanirjuaq caribou herd. Sometimes that paintings would take him to the skies, driving in helicopters over portions of Nunavut’s Kivalliq region, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“I Would be within the again, tallying what the biologist may say, like, ‘a cow, cow, bull, bull, calf, yearling, yearling.’ And I needed to write them down and i could not even glance out at the caribou and stuff,” Owlijoot recalled.
He did that paintings for a pair of years, earlier than realizing there was every other profession he in point of fact wanted.
“i began thinking, why am I no longer sitting up there? Like, possibly i could develop into a biologist or a pilot? So I needed to select between the 2.”
He chose to be a pilot.
In 2020, Owlijoot used to be usual into Prairie Helicopters Inc.’s flight training program in Gimli, Man., 90 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
However he additionally needed to in finding the $97,500 to pay for the learning.
Owlijoot applied for scholarships and funding through the Nunavut Executive and the Kivalliq Inuit Affiliation. He wasn’t sure his application can be general, but it surely was once and he ended up receiving financial give a boost to from both.
“i didn’t understand what to mention. i used to be kind of speechless.”
‘i did not truly think I Might finally end up becoming a helicopter pilot. But anything’s possible,’ Owlijoot mentioned. (Photograph by means of Justin Seniuk)
Owlijoot left his job as a wildlife technician and headed to Gimli just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He anticipated it might take him 5 to 6 months to finish the educational, however it ended up being so much longer.
“I had to cross house to my children’ weddings, of them got married, so I had to isolate two times. And so, , it’s worth it, despite the fact that,” Owlijoot mentioned.
‘The sky is the restrict’
On Jan. 18, he turned into certified to fly a Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopter with Prairie Helicopters, which also operates a charter service.
“I’m FORTY SIX and i did not in point of fact suppose I Might end up turning into a helicopter pilot. But anything’s possible, the sky’s the restrict. Doesn’t really count how antique you are,” he mentioned.
“I Am just actually pleased to be in my place at this time.”
He admits the training was once severe — EIGHTY hours of ground faculty, studying things like meteorology, air law and the theory of flight. Then there has been every other 100 hours of flight time, solo and with an teacher.
“to tell you the reality, I nearly hand over a couple of instances the first few months. It was so overwhelming,” he mentioned.
Owlijoot admits probably the most difficult part used to be writing the exam for Delivery Canada. He says he studied for approximately 8 months sooner than.
He failed the exam the primary time, then handed the second one time.
“i haven’t known any pilot that passed their first examination because it’s a in reality onerous take a look at, right? you may have to study all the time,” Owlijoot mentioned.
Hunting skills, flying abilities
Owlijoot is an skilled hunter and he believes the ones skills help him to be a pilot. He Is successfully hunted polar bears, wolves and grizzly bears.
“the idea that, I Might say, is pretty identical, as a result of if you end up approximately to move hunting, you must prepare for the whole lot, right?” Owlijoot said.
He says that hunters always must plan beforehand, and pay attention to things like weather conditions. Hunters also should be informed from their experiences.
“it is the related thing with helicopters, like, I made mistakes — all pilots made errors — prior to it, and that i needless to say those errors. So next time, I won’t make the similar mistake. So it is lovely equivalent – looking and flying a helicopter.”
Owlijoot is observed with others after a a success polar bear hunt. He says his looking enjoy has helped him as a pilot. (Picture via Norma Jean Kablutsiak)
He Isn’t positive that’s the bigger thrill — a a hit hunt or flying a chopper.
“It’s hard to mention. However I Would say if I finally end up flying to Arviat, I Believe that would be my largest thrill of all. Seeing my grandkids and my kids and my circle of relatives, and i can not wait to look their faces,” Owlijoot mentioned.
Owlijoot isn’t positive whilst on the way to be. He just lately moved to Warren, Guy., simply outdoor of Winnipeg. He’s proceeding his training in slingload operations and flying in white-out conditions.
“Confidently I’ll fly up north sooner or later, perhaps be based in Churchill with the tourism for slightly and get extra revel in. or even get a hangar in Arviat in the future.”
He Is additionally pondering ahead to imaginable possibilities for helicopter work within the development of the proposed Kivalliq Hydro-Fibre Link, which would provide renewable power and broadband internet carrier from Manitoba to Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. The $1.6-billion infrastructure project also objectives to help the area’s mining sector.
“Anything’s possible, right?” Owlijoot says.