Students at Fort Smith’s flight school can now get help from SFA

Fort Smith’s flight school is another step closer to making a career in aviation possible for future pilots across the North.

On Friday, the Terry Harrold School of Aviation’s parent company, Northwestern Air Lease, announced its application to offer a two-year aviation management program had been approved by the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment.

“This means if you want to become a commercial pilot, Student Financial Assistance [known as SFA] will fund part of the total cost of the two-year program,” the airline explained in a Facebook post.


A commercial licence ordinarily costs tens of thousands of dollars. The flight school’s partnering with SALT College in Fort Smith and seal of approval from the territorial government provides additional funding opportunities for aspiring pilots to meet that sum.

Pilots in the diploma program learn about business and customer service in addition to flying planes, the aviation school’s website explains. Diploma students also have the opportunity to take electives such as first aid, survival, floats, skis, off-strip landing, and bush flying.

Pilots not taking the diploma can still acquire a private or commercial licence at the flight school.

Northwestern began planning the aviation school in late spring 2018 to help combat an exodus of northern pilots to southern commercial airlines as baby boomers retire.

“We want to attract Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from the North [to the aviation school] in hopes that we can slow down the revolving door,” said James Heidema, the company’s chief operating officer and flight school administrator, at the time.


The school received certification from Transport Canada this April.