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Long-serving pilot retires
But Colin Munro doesn't rule out the occasional flight after working in region full time for 14 years

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 11, 2014

It was fitting that his last flight before retirement as a pilot with Great Slave Helicopters was a flight with the Water Survey of Canada, said Colin Munro.

NNSL photo/graphic

Colin Munro pilots a helicopter during a grocery sling over the Liard River last month. - Shane Magee/NNSL photo

Other than his flights with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the survey - which has water monitoring sites in various rivers - was one of his first flights when he came to this area.

"It was one of my first flights, and it was my last," Munro said during an interview last week about his retirement.

His last day as the Fort Simpson base manager was Nov. 30, two days after his final flight with the company.

"It's been a fun journey," Munro said of his 45 years in the helicopter flying business.

However, as the fun turned more to a feeling of work, he said it was time to take a break and retire.

Munro originally came to the village in 1998 as part of a crew fighting forest fires.

He returned to Yellowknife and suggested the company should keep the base open longer throughout the year.

At that time there was another helicopter company working in the region, but he believed there was still enough business to keep them busy with a longer operating season.

He came back the next summer again on a forest fire contract.

When the contract was over, he again returned to the city and said the same thing about keeping a helicopter base open here.

This time he was given the go-ahead and told that he'd run it.

"Oh jeez, what did I do? Opened my mouth and inserted my foot," Munro now recalls thinking after that conversation.

Since 2000, he's been here full time and the base is now kept open all year round.

Some of the clients he's flown to various sites around the region include the Water Survey of Canada, Enbridge and Parks Canada.

He said he got a thrill every time he flew out to Nahanni National Park Reserve.

The park is one of his favourite parts about the time he's spent in the region.

"I can't say enough about it," he said.

The number of flying hours has steadily increased.

"It's been busy," he said, pausing. "Fun," he adds with a slight smile.

His flying days have roots back to 1969 when he joined a company called Sky Rotors west of Ottawa as an apprentice engineer.

He decided he'd become a pilot engineer, which means he was trained to maintain his own aircraft.

His first task after completing training was to fly a Bell 47G4A helicopter from outside Ottawa up to Baffin Island.

He spent 10 days flying it North and spent the summer on the island, he recalls.

In the first few weeks of retirement, he's tackling a list of jobs at the Janor Guest House and The Willows Inn, businesses he owns with his wife, Leah Keats.

Will the Nov. 28 flight with Great Slave be his final flight?

He's not sure.

"We'll see," he said, still wearing a Great Slave Helicopters hat.

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