Helping students soar
Aviation alumnus Jason Arthur hopes scholarship fund will take off
As a young boy, Jason Arthur was captivated by airplanes. At the age of 14, he would scrape together his savings, ride his bike to the flying school close to his home in Okotoks and take introductory flights as often as he could afford them.
Little did Arthur know that his pedal-pushing would land him in the Aviation program at Mount Royal, then take him to Afghanistan and the North Atlantic Ocean before eventually bringing him right back to where he started, giving back in ways that exemplify a proud and committed alumnus.
Now the aviation safety manager for the Bissett School of Business, Arthur’s introduction to Mount Royal happened after high school through alumnus and mentor Kelly Shaw, who is now a senior pilot with Air Canada. The pair remain close friends almost 20 years later, and the impact Shaw had on Arthur was immense.
“He helped me get into the aviation program at MRU and guided me along the way in my career,” Arthur says.
Following graduation in 2003, Arthur joined the military and trained to become a helicopter pilot. He flew missions in Afghanistan that resupplied soldiers with food and ammunition, inserted troops on targets and evacuated casualties to the hospital.
“It was nice to get to a point in my career where I could put my training to use and do a meaningful mission. The military does a good job preparing you for all the risk of being in a war zone,” Arthur says.
When his contract with the military was complete Arthur flew helicopters from St. John’s, N.L. to oil rigs located 400 km offshore. Arthur would often transport workers to the drilling platforms, and other times he’d make the two and a half hour journey to bring parts necessary for repairs.
“I realized you don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference.”
“I flew in some pretty challenging environments out in the North Atlantic,” Arthur says. “Sometimes the fog was so bad that I’d be flying an approach 150 feet over the water, but I wouldn’t be able to see the water or the boat, so I’d have to make the two hour flight back to St. John’s. That’s a long time to sit in the cockpit.”
While he was in St. John's, Arthur reflected on his work experiences and how fortunate he was to have Shaw as his mentor. Ultimately, it drove Arthur to connect with MRU’s Harry G. Schaefer Mentorship Program, setting him up to help guide the next generation of MRU students.
“I got teamed up with Brendan Martin in his first year of the aviation program. We were on opposite ends of the country but we would talk on the phone. We also met up at the Aviation Expo in Toronto, where we got to meet chief pilots of all the major airlines,” Arthur says. “It was so rewarding to help out and give back where I could to the next generation of pilots.”
Arthur has since moved back to Calgary and flies private jets for AirSprint while also acting as MRU’s aviation safety manager, a field in which he has nearly a decade’s worth of experience.
Beyond giving back to his alma mater as a mentor and an employee, Arthur recently created a new scholarship for MRU aviation students.
“I realized you don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference,” says Arthur. “You can start something grassroots and bring together a group of people to, essentially, crowdfund something that’s meaningful to all of them.”
If just 50 people donate $5 per month — less money than a monthly Netflix or iTunes subscription — there will be enough to fund a decent scholarship every year. But of course, Arthur has set his sights higher than that and hopes to raise $50,000 to celebrate the program’s 50th anniversary, coming up in 2020. He also hopes to see alumni from other programs adopt the same model.
He says, “It’d be really cool if each program — whether it’s journalism or nursing or English — had some kind of alumni scholarship so alumni can stay connected with the school and give back a little bit.”
For now, Arthur is focused on bringing the aviation industry together to help students soar.
“I’m hoping it will take off!”
You can donate to the aviation scholarship fund here. If you have questions about the fund, call 403.440.7700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only 20 per cent of Mount Royal's aviation students receive financial support through scholarships and bursaries. And the cost of both academics and flight training continues to rise.
As well, the aviation industry needs more pilots. Over the next 20 years, over 100,000 trained pilots are needed in North America. Mount Royal can help fill this gap.
Learn how to fly.
Oct. 9, 2018 — Julie Macdonald