Mike Andrews says flying a plane in Qualicum Beach beats everywhere else in his books.
Andrews started up a flight school next to the Qualicum Beach airport in December 2019. Before that, he was in Campbell River with the same company, Sealand Flight. When they decided to expand, Andrews took the opportunity.
“Most of the Island is inaccessible by car or foot, and so my passengers and students and I are consistently getting to explore places that most people will never see,” he said. “We’re lucky to have extremely remote areas and also extremely busy cities practically right next door to our little airport here, so the flying experience becomes very diverse. Learning to fly on a mountainous coast is the most rewarding training environment for students and most scenic for flightseeing passengers. In my opinion, it really is the most extraordinary place to fly all in all.”
Andrews says he would encourage anyone interested in flying to come try it out — there’s no one type of person who it works for.
He also points to the demand in the profession as a reason to take a lesson and see if it might be for you.
“Even googling the words ‘pilot shortage’, you can see the kind of demand that currently exists and is developing in the aviation profession,” he said. “Being a pilot is the kind of job where you get to do what you love every day, as your office is thousands of feet above the ground. If you ask any pilot, they’re likely to say that they’re happiest while they’re flying.”
To get the full experience, I took the equivalent to a first flight lesson. He started by talking me through what the flight would look like and then showed me the aircraft.
Parked on the runway under semi-clear skies, the late ’70s four-seater is the sole vessel used for lessons. After doing a thorough safety check of the exterior and gas levels, we climbed into the plane.
I taxied down the runway a bit and was able to do a left turn after a few tries. Rather than using the steering wheel, that’s just for when you’re in the air, you use two pedals controlled by your feet.
Andrews handled the takeoff and we headed over Qualicum Beach. Once we had finished ascending, I took over flying for awhile. It felt surprisingly natural to pull the steering towards me a bit, angling the nose higher. It was completely surreal, but felt like second nature.
Andrews took over again and we dropped down a couple of hundred feet to fly over Rathtrevor Beach — people in raincoats looked like little red dots on the sand and you could really take in the scope of low tide.
I’m not one for rollercoasters or sky diving, but I’d definitely try flying again. I’d have to agree with Andrews — there’s no one type of person who it suits.
For more information, head to sealandflight.com. The company offers lessons, sightseeing as well as charter flights.