Flying over the West Coast in a seaplane is just one part of Kaelyn Bonner’s childhood that ignites her love of flying. Now in Grade 11 at Oak Bay High, she is one of the students flying to southern Vancouver Island as part of the Aviation and Design program.
Okay, high school is much cooler than when I was a student. Here are two OB aviation students doing their pre-flight inspection before flying their plane to Qualicum and back. #Wow that’s cool #wheelsup @sd61schools @SD61Careers @OBpulse @BCPVPA pic.twitter.com/1ELrF6k4Zi
— Tom Aerts (he/him) (@TomAerts61) March 17, 2022
Based at Mount Douglas Secondary School since 2015, the program is open to all students in the Greater Victoria School District. The goal is to provide pathways of interest and show the variety of options available in a field, explained Lindsay Johnson, district administrator responsible for careers.
Some young people want to become engineers, others are interested in mechanics and pilots.
This year there are high school students from Esquimalt, Spectrum and Victoria in the program, peers with a common interest. Bonner says she wouldn’t have met otherwise. Being away from their home community and classmates for a semester was difficult at first, but as the group got more involved, working and learning together every day as a cohort, they became like a family, she said.
The program explores all aspects of aviation through partnerships with other community groups and businesses. For example, students learn to fabricate through a partnership with renowned builder Viking Air in North Saanich. It is not uncommon for students to get a job after completing the program.
First, the cohort is fully immersed in ground school at the Victoria Flying Club at Victoria International Airport, then they complete a discovery flight alongside local pilots. Students board in pairs, taking turns co-piloting a round-trip flight to Qualicum Beach.
“I loved every second of it. I loved flying and doing it myself,” Bonner said.
Johnson and Bonner praise instructor John Sumner, whom Bonner also hails as a supporter of women in aviation. She and her Oak Bay High classmate, Katherine Lee, are two of five girls in the 16-year-old class.
“I hope more women and girls get into aviation because it’s a really cool career. Everyone I’ve met has been so supportive,” Bonner said.
The air is a bit of a family calling Bonner. His mother had a flight license before she could legally drive. And her parents are receptive tour operators who introduce the region to guests from all over the world, leading to that first seaplane flight she remembers fondly. At 10, she knew being a pilot was something she wanted to do by 20 – whether it turned into a career or not.
She is a bit of a planner.
“My ultimate goal, my dream, is to get my seaplane licence. The first step is to get your private pilot license,” Bonner said.
But another key part of his plan is a business degree, partly a response to a lecturer who came into the class.
He told them his commercial piloting didn’t meet his monetary needs, so he quit, went into accounting, and started his own small plane business. “He was always chasing his dream while making his money,” Bonner said.
She plans to pursue a business degree at the University of Victoria.
Today is the most exciting day of the year for our #Aviation Program students – Discovery Flight Day @FlyVFC!
This plane has two @sd61schools students heading to Qualicum Beach.
We are proud of the dedication these students have shown throughout the program. #sd61learn pic.twitter.com/NmedoRTA1m
– SD61 Career Programs (@SD61Careers) March 16, 2022
EducationGreater VictoriaGreater Victoria School Districtoak bay