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Catherine Press

Chinook Helicopters is based in British Columbia, outside Vancouver, and we are recognized as a world leader in aviation training. We are the most established flight school in Canada and have grown to be the largest in the country. Safety is our priority, as is exceeding customer service and support expectations.

Tell us about yourself?

My inspiration was my father, a float plane pilot who owned his own company. Growing up, I recall always being at an airport with him. I soloed at 16 and achieved both my airplane and helicopter licenses on my 17th birthday. I continued into the aviation business and, at 27, became the first female rated to instruct on helicopters in Canada. Today, I actively fly both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, as a Transport Canada pilot examiner and as well as a flight instructor. I have thoroughly enjoyed the pursuit of pilot, teacher and business owner for over 40 years.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Upon reflection, I recognize that being open, honest and helpful in past relationships continues to create many future opportunities. Conversely, relationships that are not supportive need to be managed or eliminated if they are not taking the business forward on its laid-out trajectory. I would also remind myself not to worry as much and to trust the decisions I make.

Chinook Helicopters

What problem does your business solve?

We train people how to fly both airplanes and helicopters. We work with people with no previous experience to get them job-ready. We have a staff of experienced aviation professionals and provide some of the widest course offerings in Canada. Today, we find aviation facing an unprecedented pilot shortage, and we are working closely with aviation operators locally and internationally to solve their pilot training needs while also facilitating aircraft sales and maintenance for our clients.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

I was originally inspired to be in business to support my family. I love the day-to-day challenges it provides and the great feeling when you have successfully supported someone to follow their path and helped them get to where they want to be. We are actively developing the next generation of aviation leaders. I also recognize our business has helped to improve the safety performance of pilots who have completed our programs!

Chinook Helicopters

What is your magic sauce?

We put a lot of importance on people –  the right people! With comments like, I was once asked what I liked about my job, and I think the expectation was that I would respond that I loved the views, landing on rivers, lakes, and remote areas. Instead, I simply said the best part of my job is PEOPLE!

Two of the things that have really supported our growth and continue to do so are our adopting sustainability by using newer aircraft platforms where we can and being open to industry changes, from the simulation equipment we have integrated into our programs to the buildings and aircraft that support our training.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

We plan to keep doing a really great job of what we are already doing! For future growth, we are experimenting with VR simulation techniques as well as drone technology.

We want to expand our presence in international markets with training, aircraft sales, and service contracts.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

COVID-19 obviously gave us some huge challenges. During that time, I developed my own saying, “It’s not what happens…. It is what we do about it”. This saying still helps us move forward, knowing that we need to start somewhere. It might have to be altered along the way, and that is okay!

We also continue to be challenged with the amount of legislation and regulations that are in our industry. Our largest challenge right now is simply the unprecedented lack of skilled labour, especially for pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers. This is the primary obstacle that is holding us back from expanding.

How can people get involved?

Aviation has always had a certain mystique, and it can sometimes be challenging to actually know where to start. We have incredibly knowledgeable staff ready for anyone wanting to get started in this industry. Give us a call at 604 855-1100 or connect through the contact form on the website