One of the companies behind Air Canada Express is flying top executives to Yellowknife as it tries to beat a looming global shortage of qualified pilots.
Based in Toronto and Calgary, Air Georgian already employs around 250 pilots and operates various routes on behalf of the Air Canada Express brand.
Air Georgian vice-presidents John Tory and Troy Stephens will hold a public meet-and-greet at Yellowknife's Monkey Tree pub from 3:30pm on Monday, with a view to persuading some of the city's pilots and airline staff to consider making the switch.
"If you’re speaking globally, there's projected to be a shortage of pilots in the hundreds of thousands by 2035," Tory told Cabin Radio as he prepared to fly north.
"Most airlines and regional carriers in Canada are running shortages. You’ll hear stories in other parts of the world where airlines are grounding flights or, in extreme cases, ceasing operations. In Canada, we aren’t at that point quite yet – but airlines in Canada are employing strategies like getting right out into communities, explaining our business face-to-face, and allowing pilots to see our management team up-close as a way to maintain that lead on the pilot shortage.
"At this point it’s not critical and dire. But it could get that way if there’s not a change in our pilot supply."
'Heart of aviation'
Tory says Air Georgian picked Yellowknife for its concentration of younger pilots earning their wings in the varied and challenging skies of the Canadian sub-arctic.
"Yellowknife is a thriving heart of aviation for Canada," said Tory. "There are a lot of great pilots from Yellowknife and the area, either raised there or who go there to further their aviation career and experience the amazing flying and people.
"We are coming up there as an airline who needs to recruit talent constantly, in order to make sure our name is known and pilots are aware there is an opportunity to join our team.
"Yellowknife is a place where a more junior pilot may have gone a few years ago to advance their flying career, and may now be asking themselves what’s next.
"As a candidate for employment, you’re seeing incredible movement, access to opportunities, companies who want to recruit you. We want to make sure we are visible to them so when those people think about where to invest themselves next, they pick a business like Air Georgian that will invest in them and get them on a career track to flying for or working at Air Canada."
Tory and Stephens expect to be at the Monkey Tree until at least 7pm.
Air Georgian does not currently operate flights to or from Yellowknife under the Air Canada Express banner. However, the odds are many NWT residents will have flown on their services before without knowing it.
In Alberta, Air Georgian provides feeder flights for Air Canada to Calgary from locations like Red Deer and Medicine Hat. In Ontario, Air Georgian handles Air Canada Express flights out of Toronto to a range of eastern US destinations, Montreal, Kingston, and Sarnia.