Okanagan College (OC) student Harmeet Garg is at his happiest when he is in the air flying. And it shows – an international student from Bathinda, India, Harmeet achieved national recognition when he won the prestigious Webster Trophy as Canada’s Top General Aviation Pilot earlier this year.
“This award is motivation to work even harder towards my career and achieve higher feats,” said Harmeet. “As I am nearing graduation from OC, I’m looking towards future job opportunities in aviation and the specific line of flying I want to go into. There are so many options thanks to my education and training, and I’m very excited.”
Harmeet is in his final year of his Commercial Aviation Diploma at Okanagan College, a program that is graduating close to 20 new pilots into the aviation industry each year, thanks to a partnership between OC, the Southern Interior Flight Centre (SIFC), the Kelowna International Airport and members of the airline industry.
“Harmeet is an exceptional student and for him to win this prestigious Webster Trophy Competition is a credit to him and to the instructors at the Southern Interior Flight Centre,” said Neil Fassina, President, Okanagan College. “This is what we strive for at Okanagan College – partnerships that provide students with the right learning opportunities so they can enter the workforce. We are training a new generation of professionals across OC, through online and in-class instruction and experiential learning with industry partners.”
The Commercial Aviation Diploma program prepares graduates for careers as pilots with charter companies, regional carriers, private companies, or major airlines. Courses and hands-on flying experience take place at the airport while virtual flying lessons take place in the Redbird Simulator, located at OC’s Kelowna campus.
Aviation industry partners play a key role in preparing students for the workforce and finding employment opportunities for students in the Commercial Aviation program. Carson Air provides instructor training, Porter Airlines offers mentorship and awards, WestJet and Encore provide student ambassador opportunities while the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program assists graduating pilots who want a career with a national airline.
OC also offers a Commercial Helicopters Pilot Certificate in another partnership, with Okanagan Mountain Helicopters.
“We are extremely proud of our partnership with Okanagan College and with members of the airline industry and the Kelowna International Airport,” said Scott Campbell, manager of the Southern Interior Flight Centre. “To see Harmeet win this prestigious trophy is a testament to his abilities, to the skill of our instructors and to all of our partners, who help make this flight school a success.”
Harmeet topped six finalists from across Canada in the long-running Webster Memorial Trophy Competition, with the finals being held at the Southern Interior Flight Centre in Kelowna this summer. Held annually since its inception in 1932, the Webster competition is committed to testing applicants on the fundamental skills that are expected of a Private Pilot License holder.
“Seeing local students recognized nationally, through this partnership between the Southern Interior Flight Centre, the Kelowna International Airport, Okanagan College and members of the airline industry, is a major success story,” said Airport Director Sam Samaddar of the Kelowna International Airport. “As the airport looks to future expansion to keep up with increasing demand, we know we need to keep training the aviation business workforce of the future and this partnership is preparing students to step into rewarding careers in the aviation industry.”
As part of the award, Harmeet was gifted with a replica of the prestigious Webster Award, designed by famed Canadian sculptor R. Tait McKenzie, for one year. The award will be displayed at the Kelowna International Airport to honour the partnership that allows students like Harmeet to “soar to new heights” in the aviation field.