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Leading Edge: Webster stars take a bow

For Kevin Aalders, capturing the 2011 Webster Memorial Trophy as Canada’s top amateur pilot is more than simply the culmination of a wonderful journey.


September 26, 2011
Stacy Bradshaw

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For Kevin Aalders, capturing the 2011 Webster Memorial Trophy as Canada’s top amateur pilot is more than simply the culmination of a wonderful journey. It’s a testament to the fact good things really do happen if you believe in your dreams and do whatever it takes to make them happen.

Aalders’ accomplishment, and that of the other regional winners, serves notice to cynical members of aviation’s upper establishment who curse the arrival of the self-absorbed Gen-X/Gen-Y youth movement. Just how keen are these kids? After talking at length with most of them, I can report great news: there really are members of this generation with the right skills – and, more importantly, the right attitudes – to add value to any aviation organization.

“It’s wild, I really don’t know what to say,” the calm, introspective 29-year-old told Wings shortly after capturing the coveted award. “It’s great, because I’ve really worked hard to get here.”

The 2011 Webster trophy ceremony, which took place Aug. 20 at the Delta Quebec Hotel in Quebec City, was the culmination of a fantastic week of competition and learning for the nine regional finalists. This year’s contingent was selected from a pool of 105 applicants, the largest in the competition’s history. The event was hosted by Grondair in St. Frederic, Que.

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Aalders, who currently flies out of Edmonton’s Centennial Flying Club, beat out eight regional finalists for the honour. Justin Mailman, regional finalist from the Atlantic region flying out of the Moncton Flight Centre, captured the Eunice Carter Memorial trophy as runner-up. Other regional finalists included:

  • British Columbia: Michael Wieclawek,
  • Pacific Flying Club (Delta, B.C.);
  • Saskatchewan: Lindsay Bowers, Regina
  • Flying Club;
  • Manitoba: Cody Neill, Harv’s Air;
  • Western Ontario: Matthew Duplan, Waterloo-Wellington Flying Club;
  • Central Ontario: Oliver Darroch, Spectrum Airways;
  • Eastern Ontario: Joshua Shea, Ottawa Flying Club;
  • Quebec: Mathieu Beaumier, Lachute Aviation.

The John C. Webster Memorial Trophy Competition is fast becoming a highly sought after award in Canadian aviation circles. It was established in 1932 by the late Dr. J.C. Webster of Shediac, N.B., who wished to perpetuate the memory of his son, John. John Webster lost his life in an aircraft accident in St. Hubert, Que., while practising to represent Canada in an aerobatic flying competition – The Trans-Canada Air Pageant.
It’s wonderful to see a growing list of aviation firms and organizations are strongly supporting the event, which is sponsored by Air Canada – Flight Operations.

For Aalders, the path to a career in aviation wasn’t immediately obvious. His first passion was mechanical engineering, and that became career No. 1. But following a trip to Victoria in 2007 and watching float planes land in Victoria Harbour, he knew he wanted to pursue aviation as a career. In truth, though, the fascination with flight had always been there.

“I love tinkering with engines, I love taking stuff apart and seeing how it works,” he says. “One day, my Mom found me with a piece of siding running down our septic tank hill trying to catch air with it. But it wasn’t like I wanted to fly airplanes, I was just fascinated by what machines could do – and what humans could do with them.”

So, now, after years of hard work, armed with his private and commercial pilot’s licences, a third of the way through his instructor rating – and a 2011 Webster Trophy to boot – Aalders is ready to soar. The first stop – teaching others the wonders of flight.

“Even before I was a finalist, Centennial has wanted me to come on board . . . and if the economy holds, I’ll take it. Ideally, I’d fly anything and everything. But I don’t think there’s enough years in one’s life to do it.”

Forging a path with a calculated, logical approach, appreciating all the stops along the way. It’s a very mature outlook, one you’d expect from Canada’s top amateur pilot. Wings congratulates Aalders, and all the regional winners, on their tremendous achievements.


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