MRU set for takeoff with province’s Strategic Aviation Advisory Council

Two Mount Royal University Aviation students sitting in the cockpit of an airplane.

Students in MRU’s Aviation program graduate as highly trained pilots with 200 hours of flight time.

A new Strategic Aviation Advisory Council (SAAC) will advise the provincial government on how the aviation and aerospace sector can boost economic growth in Alberta.

The council, announced Aug. 21, was appointed to provide expert advice on ways to bolster the aviation and aerospace sectors in order to increase economic development opportunities, expand markets and create jobs.

Airport and airline passenger travel declined significantly in Alberta and around the world due to the pandemic. A strong, broad-based aviation industry is critical to Alberta’s economic recovery and success.

The SAAC will focus on setting a stage for a strong recovery and for future aviation and aerospace development through research, analysis and consultation with key stakeholders.

The council will make recommendations to the government on how to improve the aviation and aerospace industries, including: pilot training, air cargo services, aerospace research and development, agriculture, emergency medical and fire response, and tourism.

Eight newly appointed council members have experience in aviation, tourism, business and economic development and will recommend strategies to bolster Alberta’s aviation industry.

One of those members is Dr. Elizabeth Evans, PhD, the interim provost and vice-president academic at Mount Royal University and the accountable executive for the MRU Aviation Diploma program. She is also the regional director for the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub.

“As we emerge from the pandemic and the aviation sector takes flight, pilots will continue to be in high demand," Evans says. “Mount Royal is proud to be a long-standing part of Alberta’s aviation sector and we look forward to working with this council to further the industry in our province. It speaks to the strength of the MRU program, the vital role of education in advancing the sector and its importance to the future economy of Alberta.”

A new Strategic Aviation Advisory Council will advise the provincial government on the future of the industry in Alberta.

The council will help inform government plans to support new economic development opportunities, job creation and market expansion.

“The aviation sector is a vital part of Alberta’s economic recovery plan, and we are setting the stage for future aviation and aerospace development,” said Rajan Sawhney, Alberta’s Minister of Transportation.

MRU’s program teaches aviation and business theory while building connections between students and MRU’s airline partners such as Jazz, WestJet, Porter, AirSprint and Sunwing. These partnerships provide students with direct access to mentorship, experiential learning and interview possibilities.

Students graduate as highly trained pilots, with a minimum of 200 hours of flying time. While the pandemic was a major challenge for the industry, demand for pilots is expected to rise again as people are able to travel more freely. MRU grads are sought after in the airline industry and prior to the pandemic there was a 100 per cent employment rate for students who enter the second year of the program.

“Alberta has a long history of aviation excellence, from bush pilots pioneering our status as a ‘gateway to the North’ to the Second World War’s British Commonwealth Flight Training Plan’s training of over 130,000 aviators and current operations at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake.

“SAAC will build on the wings of a proud aviation legacy and set Alberta on a flight path forward to meet the new challenges faced in a diverse and challenging industry,” said MLA Richard Gotfried, who will chair the new council, and introduced its enabling legislation as a private member’s bill (Bill 201). He worked as district sales manager for Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. for 15 years and was vice-president of corporate and community engagement with Calgary Economic Development between 2011 and 2013.

Other members of the Strategic Aviation Advisory Council appointees include:

  • Brian Andrus is the board secretary of the Alberta Aviation Council. He serves as a board member for 700 (City of Edmonton) Wing Royal Canadian Air Force Association.
  • Lynda Holden is the associate dean for aviation and technology at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAlT). She has 13 years of aviation experience working as an aircraft maintenance engineer in southern Alberta and 14 years supporting the aviation programs at SAlT.
  • Justin Jimmy is a capacity development manager with the First Nations Financial Management Board, which helps First Nations governments and organizations achieve financial management certification and develop strong governance processes. He is currently a trustee on a First Nation investment trust and a committee member for the Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee.
  • Kendra Kincade is an air traffic controller with NAV CANADA. She was appointed an honorary colonel of 417 Combat Support Squadron, 4 Wing Cold Lake in October 2018 and is the founder and CEO of Elevate Aviation, where she spends her time advocating and working to promote the world of aviation to women.
  • Ferio Pugliese is the senior vice-president of people and culture for Parkland Corporation. He has previously served as a senior vice-president with Air Canada and an executive with WestJet and WestJet Encore, WestJet’s regional airline.
  • David Wheeler is president and CEO of Wheeler Support Services Inc., an aerospace and defence consulting company. He is a retired major-general and former fighter pilot with more than 33 years of leadership and command experience with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Discover the skies through Mount Royal’s Aviation Diploma program.

Aug. 25, 2021 ― Peter Glenn

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