Arviat’s Kelly Owlijoot was thinking about his future with some time on his hands while out wolf hunting, when he suddenly realized that future may rest considerably higher off of the ground than his current method of transportation.

Kelly Owlijoot of Arviat enters his helicopter for his third flight lesson on his way to becoming a helicopter pilot earlier this month.
Photo courtesy Kelly Owlijoot

Owlijoot said he started seriously thinking about becoming a helicopter pilot while out on the land this past year.

He said he had a lot of time to think about it while riding all day and, during one trip, he made the decision to start looking into it seriously.

I began looking for funding and I was approved for a sponsorship from the Kivalliq Inuit Association and FANS (Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students), and that’s when it really started this past summer,” said Owlijoot.

I’m taking the instruction through a company called Prairie Helicopters based in Gimli, Man. That’s where the Gimli glider landed on that Mayday TV show.

Justin Seniuk is my instructor’s name. He’s been with me for more than a week now and it’s been going well.”

As of this past Sunday, Owlijoot has been up in the helicopter three times with Seniuk.

He said he was a little surprised when he was given the controls during his very first time up with his instructor.

When he first told me now you’re going to fly, I told him no I’m not,” laughed Owlijoot.

Then he showed me how to just move the controls a little bit because they’re very sensitive. One slight little move and a helicopter moves right away. And if you move one of the controls, you have to move the other two, as well.”

Owlijoot said it was breathtaking to see the land laid out below him during his first couple of times up.

He said one little area that was really nice to see from the air is kind of a lagoon-type area with houses near the water with the Icelandic name of Saglivik.

I started right after the Thanksgiving Monday and the course runs until the end of April, but, depending on how much I have to isolate with travelling, it might take a little longer than that.

My confidence level is increasing with every flight up. My instructor always tells me to keep my hands on the steering stick because there’s controls for both sides of the seats, the passenger and the pilot seats, so when he does a manoeuvre that I’m not sure about he lets me follow his movements.

I’ve been on the controls myself now too and that’s pretty cool.”

Owlijoot said once he’s finished his training he wants to work with one of the companies operating in the Kivalliq area, hopefully Prairie Helicopters or Custom Helicopters, which do a lot of work in the North.

He said he also wouldn’t mind working with one of the mines.

The main reason I wanted to take this course was so that I might be involved in one of the wildlife surveys constantly taking place.

Maybe I could get to take part in some of the caribou surveys and get to fly out among the big herds and look for the collared ones.

That was my main thought at the time, and that’s what got me up there flying.”

Owlijoot said he has the full support of his family in becoming a helicopter pilot.

He said that support means a lot to him as he works towards achieving his goal.

Maybe when I first told my family about it they were a little surprised and shocked, but they totally support me and they’re very happy for me.

It’s nice to have that support behind me.

At first I was a little scared and nervous but I expected that going in. When you’re scared of something in life, it’s not that it’s really trying to scare you, it’s just that first step. That’s the big hurdle and you just have to overcome that.

I have absolutely no second thoughts about the path I’ve chosen. I’m not as nervous now and I’m going to just keep on flying now.”

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