Canadian flight school rolling out special package for aspiring Caribbean aviators

Based on the success of Saban pilots and Spectrum Airways Flight Training and Career College alumni Jozua and Avant Baker, this Canadian flight school based in Burlington, Ontario, is in the process of rolling out a special package to cater to the needs of Caribbean students.

Called “Opportunity to the Skies”, this special package includes support with Canadian immigration, registering with Canadian social insurance and opening a local bank account, as well as the option of discounted housing and meal plans at the school’s facilities at Ontario’s Parry Sound Airport. Additionally, Caribbean students will receive a welcome gift of textbooks, winter clothing and flight headsets.

Saban flight student Kimson Guerrier (left) and his mother Mercilia Saint Juste-Guerrier (right), with Saban flight student Micaiah Liburd (second left, crouching) and his parents Eunelda Liburd (third left) and Pastor Vernon Liburd (second right) at Spectrum Airways Flight Training and Career College in Canada.

Caribbean students are also enrolled in the school’s two-year Advanced Commercial Pilot Licence (ACPL) programme. With a listed price tag of Canadian $66,917, the ACPL course is approximately 28% cheaper than the self-paced course found on its official website.

“We have less resources on the small islands. I wanted to make flight training accessible for others on the small islands, because the more access and the more ways you can create for them, the easier it will be,” said Spectrum Airways Caribbean Development and Liaison Officer and Saba Police Chief Wingrove Baker, who joined the school’s team and helped develop this package after witnessing the challenges his sons Jozua and Avant faced in pursuing a career in aviation.

“Because there’s no scholarship [for aviation in the Dutch Caribbean – Ed.], I asked the school: Would you guys be willing to cater a bit more to the needs of the children coming from the Caribbean?” he said.

Speaking to The Daily Herald on Sunday, Wingrove was particularly pleased with the school now offering student accommodation options at one of its training facilities.

According to him, being based on the school’s premises will eliminate much of the additional cost involved with flight training abroad. “Unless it is a big international or regional airport, [most flying schools in Canada are located] very much out of the way. There’s not much public transportation going to those airports. So, one of the biggest financial burdens that students face is having to get to and from school using Uber or Lyft,” he said.

“Through conversations with Wingrove, one of the talking points we had was just the accessibility of flight training to Caribbean students,” said Spectrum Airways General Manager John Gioseffi. “Disposable income on the islands, and different things like that, is not like [it is] in other areas [of the world]. So, we tried to create a package that was a bit more price-conscious and set it up so that everything is included for the student to try ease into that transition when they come to Canada.”

“It’s all very streamlined now,” said Carolyn Kovachik, co-owner of Spectrum Airways, which is still a family-owned and -operated business. “We’ve been able to take what [Wingrove’s learned] and utilise that to help others going forward. I think that that’s a huge thing to be able to offer.”

In November, a delegation of three Spectrum Airways representatives, including a senior flight instructor, will visit St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Anguilla to promote their special package for Caribbean students and explore opportunities for partnerships with governments and local airlines.

According to Kovachik, the visit will adopt a three-pronged approach. The first step will be information sessions for prospective students. One of these will be held at The Captain’s Rib Shack in Simpson Bay, which is owned by pilot Dino Arrundell.

The second step will be discussions with government officials about providing financial aid for local aspiring aviators.

Finally, the delegation is trying to meet with local airlines, such as Windward Islands Airways International Winair. These discussions will centre around potential “pathway programmes”, said Kovachik. In these programmes, airlines would sponsor students in exchange for a commitment to work at the airline for a fixed amount of time.

Currently, Spectrum Airways has two Caribbean students enrolled in its training programme. They are Sabans Kimson Guerrier and Micaiah Liburd. A third Saban student – Edward Zaegers – is set to enrol next month.

Alumni Jozua and Avant have been flying as first officers for Winair since September 2022.

There is a global shortage of pilots and this trend is only expected to get worse. According to aviation industry news website, there will be an estimated 60,000 pilot vacancies by 2032.

The Daily Herald.

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