Find out more about how our students succeed at the Edmonton Flying Club & beyond! Each student’s flight-training journey is unique.
1.WHO AM I AND WHERE AM I NOW?
I am a born and bred Alberta boy and lived in St. Albert from childhood until 2008. Currently, and since January 2013, I live in Hong Kong and work for Cathay Pacific as a Relief Command Qualified First Officer on the Airbus 350 and 330. I started flying at the age of 20 in 2005, undertaking the Grant MacEwan College (now University) Aviation Management Studies Program, and completed my PPL, CPL, and Multi-IFR at EFC. I finished my training in 2007 at EFC. Whilst I was training, I managed to get a job as a dispatcher at EFC and then eventually became Chief of Dispatch and Line. I then discovered and attracted a company called SkyWords to base their operations out of EFC at CYXD and was hired as their surveillance pilot. In early 2008, I left Canada to finish my Bachelor of Business degree in Australia and after converting my license I worked as a sky dive pilot in a beautiful slice of the world called the Sunshine Coast. In 2012, I was hired by Cathay Pacific and after a training program in Adelaide, Australia, I relocated to Hong Kong in early 2013 where I remain to this day.
Shameless plug – if you want to follow my career, find me on Instagram at adam.aeroplane
2. WHY DID I CHOOSE EFC?
I chose EFC because after some investigation with the competing flight schools in the area, I thought it was the best choice. EFC had a large fleet and adequate office, briefing and classroom space. The aircraft were well maintained by both maintenance and dispatch and line. The costs for the EFC rentals and programs were competitive. The last, best part about EFC was the people. Back in 2005, as I am sure it remains today, EFC hired high calibre people, not only when it came to awesome instructors, but also in dispatch, maintenance, and the office. EFC also had a great community atmosphere where employees, students and members did not just interact when it came to flying, but also acted as a genuine club or community for fly-ins, hangar hockey, BBQs, and opportunities to fly with many people in a number of club and private planes.
3. HOW DID EFC HELP MY CAREER?
EFC gave me all the tools I needed to be successful to get through my licensing. I was provided with great instruction from all of my instructors through all of the ups and downs, and was provided with all of the resources I need to learn and be successful. EFC gave me opportunities to work at the club itself, to network with many in the industry and to jump start my career by bringing in other opportunities, like SkyWords. I’m now operating one of the largest and most advanced airliners in the world, and I know I couldn’t have done it without the great start I received from EFC.
4. WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AT EFC?
To be honest, there are too many to name, so I’ll just list a few:
- My 300nm X-country to Seattle, WA, via Golden, Kelowna, and Vancouver
- Joining a friend on their 300nm X-country to Idaho, via Montana
- Hour building in all sorts of EFC aircraft with countless friends, pilots, and co workers in Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan
- Early mornings in the summer working on the ramp before the club opened, pulling the planes out of the hangar in the quiet morning sun
- Late winter nights stacking the hangar – like an intricate game of Tetris
- Hangar Rash – hangar floor hockey tournaments
- BBQs – including EFC 80th Anniversary and annual Wings Banquets
- Mountain Endorsement and Night Rating
- Ferrying aircraft for the club back from Springbank using my shiny new IR
- Competing in the Webster Memorial
5.IF YOU HAD TO GIVE ADVICE TO SOMEONE STARTING OUT WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
The best advice I can give starting out is no matter what to persevere and keep trying. There are going to be all sorts of ups and downs ranging from passing a license or rating; to being unable master a technique as fast as you thought; to the cost of entering this profession (or hobby); to job opportunities and subsequent job losses – and then more job opportunities. Aviation is truly a fickle industry, but it is also incredibly rewarding. I have had so many amazing experiences and met so many great people that I could never regret the path I’ve taken in my life. I’ve also been incredibly lucky, but personally a lot of that luck depends on perseverance, so keep trying, and when times get tough, don’t give up. A mistake or error just means you are on your way to perfecting whatever you are trying to accomplish. You only fail when you stop trying.
Finally, be open to where this path takes you. I had never planned to become an airline pilot or ever live in Asia. I would have been more than content to work in corporate/executive aviation based in Canada, but here I am and I wouldn’t think twice about giving it back.
1. Who am I and where am I now?
1. Who am I and where am I now?
1.Who Am I And Where Am I Now?
My name is Austen McDonald, and I am a Designer/Flight Validation Pilot at JetPro Consultants Inc and a Q400 First Officer with Jazz Aviation LP in YVR.
Everyone’s path in aviation is different and mine is no exception. I have wanted to fly since I could say the word airplane, but I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 14. At the time, this meant that a career as a pilot was prohibited. Despite this, I still wanted to pursue flying as a profession. I was able to get a PPL, Night, IFR, and Multi-Engine rating but the CPL was out of reach due to some antiquated Transport Canada Medical rules about Type 1 Diabetes.
While appealing Transport Canada’s stance on diabetes and flying, I completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the UofA while working as a RNAV Approach Designer with the family business. I was fortunately able to build a lot of my time in the companies Piper Seneca III flying coast to coast flight checking approaches in some challenging and remote areas of the country!
After a few years of advocacy, case studies, and meetings in Ottawa, Transport Canada changed their regulations to give individuals with well controlled Diabetes the opportunity to obtain a commercial medical certificate. Subsequently, I became the first person with pre-existing Type 1 Diabetes to receive a commercial pilots license in the world!
I was hired by Jazz Aviation LP in 2019 and continue to design and flight check approaches on the side.
2. Why Did I Choose EFC?
I had great recommendations from family friends about the fleet, instructors, and facilities at EFC! Unfortunately, I never got to experience flying out of YXD but I did get to see and experience what a new airport looks like while at the same time flying the unique DA20 to get my Recreational Pilots License back in 2014!
3. How Did EFC Help My Career?
EFC helped fuel that fire known as “the flying bug” as I was still on the fence about wanting to try and make flying my professional career. My instructor, Brad Keats, was extremely patient and understanding in dealing with the struggles I had with Transport Canada getting my initial medical certificates. EFCs tried and true program built the strong foundation that I used to launch my career from.
4. What Is Your Most Memorable Experience At EFC?
Must be my first solo and the water bucket treatment after I landed! It was the middle of July, so the water bucket was a nice cool off. Years later I came across the same airplane (G-FEFZ) flying in Moncton. I still have the first solo t-shirt but years (and in-flight snacks) later I’ve “out-grown” it.
5. If You Had To Give Advice To Someone Starting Out What Would You Say?
- Patience and consistency! Not everyone’s training or career path is the same nor should it be, but what you can control is how you approach your training and outlook you have going into it.
- Make as many friends as possible – you never know when they might be able to help you get a job!
- Participate in club social events – one of my biggest regrets was not going to the club BBQs or club nights throughout the years! Great way to network, make new friends, talk about airplane. What more could you want?!
- Most importantly – never stop learning!