A Convair 5800 fueled and ready for takeoff.
Coming into 2018, the Kelowna Flightcraft pilots were optimistic. They had just elected and trained new Master Executive Council (MEC) officers, attended their first Canada Board meeting in the spring, and were busy working on their contract with Solar Air Cargo. The renewal of the Solar Air Cargo contract would allow Kelowna Flightcraft pilots to continue with their flight operations after previously losing their long-standing cross-country Purolator contract.
However, the airline received some unfortunate news: Solar Air Cargo would cancel its contract with Kelowna in August 2018. The cancellation of the contract meant that the pilots would no longer be flying the DC-10s in their fleet, leading to approximately 30 layoffs.
“We’ve faced many challenges in what has been a turbulent year, including pilot layoffs,” said Capt. Don Urban, the pilot group’s current acting MEC chair. “With such low numbers in our ranks, we’ve had a difficult time with volunteer recruitment.”
Following the layoffs, some of the pilots were fortunate to quickly land new jobs. Other Canadian ALPA pilot groups took internal steps to look at ways to assist, and the Association continued to offer any and all of its available resources.
Urban noted that one of these resources is pilot assistance, which is dedicated to promoting pilot well-being. The work of Dr. Brendon Adams, who consults with both labour and management groups concerning occupational medicine, disability, and substance abuse, and pilot assistance programs—which provide confidential guidance and assistance to pilots having difficulty in any aspect of their professional or personal life that may affect job performance or professionalism—has been incredibly beneficial to the pilots of Kelowna Flightcraft who’ve faced their share of challenges over the years.
Heading into 2019, Kelowna Flightcraft is left with a dozen pilots who currently have a contract to fly a limited freight schedule using Convair 580s on the B.C. Feeder Network for Purolator until April 2020. This flying consists primarily of regular air freight cargo, including packages, with trips as far north as Prince George, B.C., and across the B.C. interior. The type of flying that Kelowna pilots perform requires unique piloting skills in order to deal with the constant challenges of adverse weather conditions and mountain flying.
“We remain committed to completing our B.C. Feeder Network contract flying,” Urban noted. “We hope for a continued working relationship with Purolator Courier into the future. Despite the ups and downs of the last few years, we’ll always demonstrate our professionalism with the utmost dedication to safety and efficiency.”
Looking ahead, Kelowna Flightcraft’s business development team continues to pursue new opportunities, and the pilot group remains optimistic that new flying opportunities are on the horizon.