The value of the Webster Memorial Trophy
By Wayne Foy
Aug. 19, 2013, Ottawa - In 1932, the first Webster Memorial Trophy Competition was launched to commemorate the memory of a young aviator, John C. Webster, who had suffered a tragic fatality in an aviation accident. That event occurred decades ago and yet the competition persists here and now in a completely different age of aviation.
By Wayne Foy
Back then, the competition was important in a young and struggling aviation environment, as general aviation depended heavily on fly-ins, rallies and competitions to sustain the excitement and an interest in the “sport.” It was also important to publicize this wonderful and thrilling activity of flying to an often suspicious and unknowledgeable public in order to help aviation grow, especially that associated with pleasure flying and light aircraft.
But it is now more than 80 years later and the question must be asked. In the current modern age of aviation is the Webster competition still important?
Over recent years as the competition grew in scope and exposure, more pilots became interested in competing and many of those actually undertook additional training in their attempt to become a finalist. Most finalists returned to their instructors to receive extra training as well pursue a chance to win the title of top amateur pilot in Canada. During the national portion of the competition, they were tested meticulously on their flying skills and knowledge along with being exposed to situations they previously were unfamiliar with. All this contributed to a greater increase in skill and knowledge and therefore enhanced aviation safety, a point recognized by Transport Canada Flight Training Standards inspectors.
In 2013, NAV CANADA has introduced a new exam to be given to the Webster finalists based on pilot/controller standardization of communications. NAV CANADA has recognized a disconnect creeping in recently and is using Webster as one avenue of addressing the situation. It is hoped that the exam will be expanded next year to include all Webster competitors. Once again, the competition is working in concert with one of its staunch supporters to enhance aviation safety.
A review of the Webster website reveals some 40 aviation companies and organizations from across Canada and the United States that support the program. Reviewing this list not only shows that a major Canadian airline, Air Canada, supports the competition as a sponsor, but many other airlines, manufacturers, pilot groups and highly-respected commercial operations are involved as well. What it all means is more professional aviation leaders and associated companies care deeply for what happens in general aviation.
Not all competitors wish to go on to careers in aviation, but most do and for those who become finalists, opportunities that otherwise would be extremely difficult to achieve become available to them. They get a chance to meet their future employers and many are often guided and mentored in subsequent years as they build their experience towards their goals.
Webster finalists receive instant national recognition for their accomplishments and go home from Webster week with life-long memories. For some, they will also receive additional financial assistance towards their training. A Webster alumni group exists and through social media many maintain contact with those they competed against and those they have become associated with via the Webster family. Many will help others in their careers from within this Webster fraternity/sorority and as well, those who instruct will encourage others to compete to better their flying confidence and abilities.
The Webster Trophy itself is on permanent display at the Canada Aviation & Space Museum in Ottawa and it signifies all those years of general aviation activity in Canada. It’s a national treasure that highlights a critical Canadian industry.
So, is the Webster memorial Trophy Competition important after 80-plus years? Yes. Yes it is!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Wings salutes this year's finalists who will be honoured at a special awards dinner this Saturday in Winnipeg. Congratulations to Andrew Copps (B.C., Coastal Pacific Aviation); Meagan Vacheresse (Alta., Wetaskiwin Air Services); Cole Janostin (Sask., Millenium Aviation); Michael Klein (Man., Harv's Air); Yurey Wu (Western Ont., Waterloo-Wellington Flight Centre); Stuart Loney (Central Ont., Brampton Flight Centre); Takashi Hirose (Eastern Ont., Ottawa Flying Club/Algonquin College); Veit Mathias (Que., Cargair); and Owen Armstrong (Atlantic, Gander Flight Training).