Earning their wings
More and more Deh Cho residents are becoming pilots

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson ( May 26/00) - Some people have a fear of flying, while others enjoy the experience so much they decide to become a pilot.

In the Deh Cho, Fort Simpson's Guy Norwegian and fiancee Tiiu Cli are among the latter. Laurie Sibbeston, also of Fort Simpson, is pursuing her pilot's licence, and Merle Carpenter, of Fort Liard, recently earned his wings.

"It's a dream come true. It's a lot of fun. I'd recommend it to anybody," Norwegian said of his air time while acquiring his licence.

He and Cli spent two-and-half months in Fort Smith late last summer taking flight instruction.

"The most difficult part was probably finding the money," he said. "It's expensive ... but I've always wanted to do it since I was a kid.

"I remember when we used to live in Jean Marie, we used to watch the planes come flying in and if somebody had to go to Simpson I'd catch a ride there."

Since he's acquired his licence, he's been a passenger a few times with some more experienced local pilots, but hasn't logged any more hours for himself. This fall, he plans to attend Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alta., to obtain his commercial licence after a couple more years of school.

Cli said she will write her final exam when the time is right. She added that she started the process with no prior knowledge of flying and actually had a fear of performing spins and spirals, which are part of mandatory flight manoeuvres to acquire certification.

"It was a completely different language and world," she said, adding that she can't convey the exhilaration of flying in words. "You'll have to go and see for yourself."

Fort Liard's Merle Carpenter earned his private licence in February after his intermittent training in Vancouver, B.C., over an eight-month span.

"It's a sense of accomplishment, a sense of power, I suppose," he said. "To be up there making this machine perform how it's supposed to, it's a confidence builder."

The actual mechanics of flying are quite simple but the book work is another story, he said.

"If you don't keep up, you're hooped," he said.

Like Norwegian, Carpenter is planning to obtain his commercial licence. A private licence calls for a minimum of 45 hours of flight time, while a commercial licence requires 200 hours in the air and another written exam.

Carpenter's younger brother also happens to be in the process of getting his private licence in Edmonton. He plans to make a career of flying in the North, Merle said.

"I think the North needs more pilots," he said.