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NWT’s aviation school gets a name, to its namesake’s chagrin

A file photo of Northwestern Air Lease's Cessna 206 in 2018. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A Northwestern Air Lease Cessna 206 in 2018. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Fort Smith’s new flight school officially has a name: the Terry Harrold School of Aviation.

The only person not excited about the new name appears to be the namesake himself.

“I wish they’d waited until I was dead, that would have been better,” deadpanned the 84-year-old pilot and president of Northwestern Air Lease.

“I’m not that keen on it.”



Harrold started Northwestern Air in 1965 as a charter company and still flies passengers daily on scheduled flights.

Northwestern hopes using Harrold’s name will attract people to the flight school, which is set to get off the ground this March.

Jim Heidema, the chief operating officer of the airline and the new flight school’s administrator, said the name is not only meant to honour the company Harrold started and his long career, but also the ways in which the entire Harrold family has given back to the community.

“I just think it’s such an honour to have someone like that leading the school in name if not in operations, because he’s an example of a career that doesn’t end,” said Heidema.



“He’s an exceptional pilot.”

Aviation career meeting planned

Northwestern and other northern airlines have struggled in recent years as larger airlines poach their pilots to replace retiring baby boomers.

In June, Heidema told Cabin Radio projections forecast more than half a million pilots will be needed worldwide in the next two decades.

In response, Northwestern has been looking at training northerners to become pilots since last summer.

The hope is, Harrold said, they will be “more apt to stay in the North.”

Later this week, the company will meet more than 40 people who have so far expressed interest in a career in aviation.

Following that meeting, Northwestern will hold an open house on Thursday, February 7 at 8pm at SALT College [Pentecostal Sub-Arctic Leadership Training College], where Heidema says representatives will go over the career, the requirements, and what the career path looks like for any others who are interested.

The private pilot’s licence ground school will begin in March, with flight operations taking off in April.

If all goes as planned, an accompanying two-year aviation management diploma program will begin through SALT College this September.