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SCN sponsors Stevens to get his pilot’s licence

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It takes a certain amount of commitment and dedication to become an aircraft pilot of any kind. For Curtis Stevens, it started out with a dream of becoming a helicopter pilot and he made it happen.
“I used to work on the Bi-Pole site when it started up until it was finished,” said Stevens. “I did seasonal work with them for five years and the one year they called me back, they assigned me to a water truck job and a specific site. It just so happened that every day I was driving to where all the helicopters were and I became fascinated with them.
“A good personal friend of mine, Mike, lives in B.C. and he took me up for my first helicopter ride in a Bell 212. I just became addicted to being in a helicopter and wanted to learn to fly one.”
Stevens went to B.C. to go to school to get his helicopter pilot’s licence with the help of his local band sponsoring him. The course was short but very intense with a lot of requirements that candidates must complete in order to pass.
“I received a referral from Mike to attend Chinook Helicopters in Abbotsford, B.C.", said Stevens. "He actually attended that school three years ago. I had to complete a Category 1 Medical before I could be accepted. It’s the number one school in Canada and ranked somewhere between one and three in the world. They were nicknamed the Harvard of Helicopter Schools.
“I took six months of schooling to get my Commercial Helicopter Pilot Licence. It’s a pretty intense and expensive course, you literally have to pay for every little thing. I was fortunate that my band, Sapotaweyak Cree Nation (SCN), sponsored me for my education and training in this field.
“I was the only Indigenous pilot in the course," he continued. "I did meet another pilot who is Indigenous and completed the course two years before I did. I feel really good about this accomplishment and hope to be an inspiration to other Indigenous people. To be very honest, aviation school isn’t easy. It’s very hard and the amount of studying you have to do in such a small amount of time is overwhelming.”
The program requires 100 hours of flight training; 55 hours of flying with an instructor; 35 hours of being a pilot in command which is flying solo; 80 hours of class time.
Along with this criterion, students also need to achieve a minimum of 60 percent on the written exam and complete a flight test in order to pass.
The costs associated with airtime and flying are the bulk of the tuition costs. They range depending on what type of aircraft you choose to fly and the prices range from $57,000 to $100,000.
“All my flying hours have been logged in British Columbia,” said Stevens. “I’ve learned to fly all in throughout the mountains and that has given me a lot of diverse experience because the wind changes so often in that area. In the mountains, there are constant variables such as up and downdrafts that can make flying there more challenging.
“The most challenging place I had to fly into was Hope, B.C., because of the way the mountains are formed the way the community is shaped; it was definitely a learning experience. I do prefer to fly in the mountains despite all of that.”
Stevens is now actively looking for employment in the industry. He’s not afraid to work his way up and learn all the aspects there are to flying helicopters from the ground up. Stevens’ dream hasn’t just stopped at obtaining his helicopter pilot’s licence; he also has big plans and hopes for the future.
“I received a referral from the school’s owner, Cathy Press, to Custom Helicopters in Winnipeg for a position with that company," he said. "I will be travelling down to the city and checking out the facility and formally applying with the company. Right now I’m in the classification of a low-time pilot because I have logged in 101 hours. I may have to start off working on the ground crew and learning more about the operations. As I log in more time I will be flying but I prefer to work my way up and learn all aspects of the job before I start consistently flying.
“My dream is to log in 400 hours of flying so the government will consider me for a position to fly water bombers. I’ve always wanted to do fire fighting work with my pilot’s license; it’s an end goal for me.”
“I believe a person can do anything they set their mind to,” concluded Stevens. “I honestly believe that now that I’ve done it. This has been a dream of mine for quite some time now. My greatest inspiration throughout all of this has been my children. I’m a single dad and I want to show and give them the life I never had.”