“I was diagnosed three and a half years ago.”

This Movember, North-Wright Airways’ facial hair face-off against Northwestern Air Lease comes with a personal link for one of the NWT airlines’ bosses.

Pilots, mechanics, and management alike are competing to raise awareness and money for men’s health – and prove which airline can grow the better moustache.

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Norman Wells-based North-Wright challenged Fort Smith’s Northwestern because the companies are evenly matched in size and already partner on the territory’s first aviation school.

Jim Heidema, the chief operating officer of Northwestern, readily accepted.

“This topic is near and dear to my heart,” he explained. “I have a personal connection because I’ve had prostate cancer.

“I was fortunate. I was caught where it was just on the surface of the prostate and it hadn’t consumed the prostate and hadn’t travelled anywhere else.

“But if men ignore this thing, and it becomes aggressive and travels through their system, then they die from it.”

‘A taboo’

Heidema says regardless of the time of year, he makes a point to have conversations about men’s health.

“It’s sort of a taboo topic … I think we need to bring that to the surface and have some conversations around it,” he told Cabin Radio.

“A lot of people who work for us are in their twenties; they’re still in the invincible period,” he said, adding he feels it’s important to raise awareness with that age group because “according to the specialist, if you’re a man, at some point you’re going to have prostate problems.”

But in the over-40 crowd, he said, “certainly there’s a conversation going on.”

High hopes

Susan Wright, from North-Wright Airways, hopes the moustaches lead to conversations about the meaning behind them.

“It’s a visual reminder of the importance for men to talk to each other and for men to be involved in their own health,” she said.

“I think everyone has high hopes for their moustaches. Hopefully you’ll be seeing pilots with very awkward-looking moustaches to start and then, towards the end, hopefully they’ll have full-blown moustaches.”

She clarified a common misconception that Movember isn’t just about awareness of prostate and testicular cancer; it also starts conversations about men’s mental health and suicide prevention.

“The biggest one for our company … is the discussion over mental health,” she said, noting the cold and dark winters can be tough for people.

The two airlines are competing to raise the most money, which will be donated to the Movember Foundation.

At the time of writing, with Movember only just under way, both teams had raised $100.

The two will post links to their teams’ “mo spaces” on their Facebook pages.