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DEGREES OF SUCCESS: Nangmalik Qanatsiaq is soaring into a career as a pilot

Nangmalik Qanatsiaq has set the flight path for his career in the cockpit of a plane.
“It’s been my childhood dream to become a pilot,” says Nangmalik Qanatsiaq, who is devoting a year of his life to earn his pilot’s licence at a Manitoba flight school. Photo courtesy of Nangmalik Qanatsiaq

Nangmalik Qanatsiaq has set the flight path for his career in the cockpit of a plane.

“I feel calm. I feel at peace, like I’m actually doing what I’ve dreamed of my whole life, so it brings me a sense of pride and accomplishment,” he said.

Qanatsiaq, an Arviat resident, is enrolled at Harv’s Air flight school in Steinbach, Man.

He started his training in early January.

He sent an application to the school last July and received an acceptance letter a week later. It’s a good time to be getting into the industry, he said, because it’s gearing up again after a couple of years of drastic cutbacks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to getting a plane airborne and safely landing it again, Qanatsiaq and his classmates are learning about the parts of the aircraft and basic maintenance, the use of panel instruments, the theory of flight and meteorology.

Weather, including visibility or lack thereof, can present a life-or-death factor in deciding whether to attempt a trip.

“You have to understand what your limits are and have a ‘go or no go’ position to fly,” he said of the focus on safety.

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Qanatsiaq’s initial flights in the two-seater Cessna 152 trainer are with an instructor at his side, performing stalls and spins at an altitude of close to 600 metres. Solo flights will come later.

“I’m feeling a lot more confident than I did at the beginning,” he said.

His fascination with flying has existed as long as he can remember.

“It’s been my childhood dream to become a pilot,” he said. “Every time we went down south for trips, I’ve always been interested in flying.”

His ability to his follow his passion was made easier through financial support from the Kivalliq Inuit Association and the territorial government’s Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students (FANS) program.

Having lived in Nunavut essentially all of his life, adjusting to the south has been made easier by residing in Steinbach with its “small-town vibe,” said Qanatsiaq.

“It’s almost similar to a community in Nunavut. It’s a little bit bigger,” he said of the town of almost 18,000 residents.

It will take a year for Qanatsiaq to achieve his requisite ratings and his pilot’s licence. In the meantime, he’ll get a two-week break in the summer to return home to visit family and friends.

When his training is complete, he aspires to fly in Nunavut for an airline or piloting medevac flights.

“Whichever opportunity is open,” he said, adding that he hopes to inspire others to consider the same career path. “Not a lot of Inuit are in the aviation business.”

About the Author: Derek Neary

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