ALPA Promotes Airline Piloting Profession at Canada’s Abbotsford Airshow

By John Perkinson, Senior Staff Writer
ALPA pilot volunteers staff the Association’s booth at this year’s Abbotsford International Airshow.

ALPA pilot volunteers were at the 61st annual Abbotsford International Airshow on August 11–13, engaging with flying enthusiasts as part of the Association’s ongoing aviation industry outreach efforts. This was the first year that ALPA officially attended this event. Eighteen members from Air Canada, Cargojet, FedEx Express, Flair, Jazz Aviation, Morningstar Air Express, and Wasaya staffed a booth in the facility’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Zone, sharing their experiences and answering questions from the estimated 100,000 attendees, many of whom wanted to know more about what it’s like to fly for a living.

Held the second Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in August at Abbotsford International Airport in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada’s largest air show features aerobatic and formation flying, static displays, and a host of activities designed to advance air transportation.

To accommodate this year’s crowd, ALPA pilots staffed an information table while also assisting event attendees with the Association’s Redbird Jay Velocity flight simulator.

“Seeing all those young, eager minds waiting in line for their turn to fly the simulator was refreshing,” said F/O Prithvi Bharadwaj (Wasaya), his pilot group’s Master Executive Council vice chair and a member of ALPA’s Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion Committee. Bharadwaj, who was in captain upgrade training as Air Line Pilot went to press, added, “Talking to budding pilots and student pilots, pointing them in the right direction to help start their careers, was also very satisfying.”

F/O Luc Arsenault (Jazz Aviation), a former English instructor, echoed Bharadwaj’s sentiments, indicating that he also enjoyed interacting with the many young people at the booth. “It was really special for me to be able to combine the fun of teaching elementary-, middle-, and high-school-aged kids with my passion for aviation.” Highlighting the “lots of laughs, lots of big smiles,” he witnessed in the simulator area, Arsenault commented, “I’m really looking forward to attending this event next year.”

Capt. Rod Lypchuk (Jazz Aviation), ALPA Canada’s vice president and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association executive vice-president for the Caribbean and North America, noted that Abbotsford is a great opportunity to engage with those interested in learning more about the airline piloting profession while reminding the public that flying is the safest mode of transportation in the world. “In addition to the many students and their families who stopped by the booth with questions, there were also a lot of people over the age of 35 looking at piloting as a career,” Lypchuk remarked.

One of the headliners performing at this year’s show was F/O Melissa Burns (Alaska), who staged gravity-defying aerobatics with Abbotsford’s nearby Mount Baker as her backdrop. In her Zivko Edge 540, a high-performance, single-engine aircraft, Burns flew in the Friday-night program as well as the shows on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Burns was one of the youngest women to make the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team at 22 years old. In addition to her flying skills, she’s also a skydiver and former women’s World BASE Race champion wingsuit racer.

ALPA’s presence at Abbotsford was spearheaded by the Association’s Professional Development Group (PDG) Education Committee to support the union’s strategic plan to promote the profession and inspire the next generation of aviators. Coordinating the union’s onsite activities was Capt. Kandy Bernskoetter (FedEx Express), the PDG Membership Committee chair.

The Abbotsford International Airshow is the product of a partnership in 1962 between the Abbotsford Flying Club and the Abbotsford Rotary Club, established to promote the local airport. A decade later, it was designated Canada’s national air show by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Through the support of volunteers, sponsors, and spectators alike, the Abbotsford Airshow has grown to generate more than CAD$6 million in annual economic activity for the Fraser Valley region, while contributing more than CAD$100,000 in donations to local charities, community groups, and youth organizations each year.

Get Involved

During the next year, ALPA Canada and the Professional Development Group’s Education Committee plan to work together to develop a more extensive outreach program to help Canadian students, members of the military, and others transition to the airline flight deck.

Learn more about the Association’s Education Committee.

If you’re interested in volunteering at upcoming events in Canada and talking with aspiring pilots about what it’s like to be an airline pilot, contact ALPA’s Education Committee.

This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

Read the latest Air Line Pilot (PDF)