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Waypoint: All in the family

In the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Wings, we saluted different generations of aviation families


March 22, 2012
By Rob Seaman

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In the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Wings, we saluted different generations of aviation families, and explored the influence some multigenerational relationships have had on the aviation industry. We received much positive feedback – so much so, we felt compelled to highlight a few more industrious aviation families, specifically with a GTA connection.

Leavens-63  
Irv was definitely a trendsetter, employing the most experienced people, using the latest aircraft and maintaining them to top standards. PHOTO: Leavens Aviation


 

As with many aspects of aviation, pilots tend to take centre stage but not all “father” influences have produced top high fliers. The engineering, design, support and AME sectors have had their share of multigenerational influences as well. Take Bill Arsenault, vice-president and co-founder of the Mid-Canada Mod Center, for instance. In business since 1997, the firm has become well known in North America for its avionics expertise, industry-first mods and STCs. Bill grew up around airplanes, while his father, Tony, was very well respected for his service and support work.

Tony Arsenault had one of those early three-digit AME licences. He started in Quebec at Nordair, then went to Canadair, and then looked after an executive Convair 580. Later in his career, he was one of the first hired at Execaire in Montreal. From there, he went to Toronto to work for Kenting Aviation and Skycharter. After Skycharter, Tony spent two years in Africa and then returned to work at Austin Airways in Timmins. He started his own overhaul company and earned what was then known as a “B” licence – with a list of endorsements a mile long.

At Toronto’s Skycharter, another father/son combination have made their mark: Richard and Irving Shoicet. Richard now runs the show at this popular FBO since his father’s passing a few years ago. Under his leadership, the FBO and hangars so long associated with the north end GA side of YYZ have undergone upgrades and improvements.

Skycharter was founded in 1968 by Richard’s father, entrepreneur and airline transport pilot Irv Shoichet. Irv was definitely a trendsetter. By employing the most experienced people, using the latest aircraft and maintaining them to top standards, the Skycharter fleet became the largest privately owned fleet in Canada at the time, numbering 11 executive jet aircraft. Irv had marketing savvy; all of the aircraft and hangars were clearly identified with clean, bright, white paint and orange banding and distinctive company logo. While this may seem common today, such was not the case when Irv was getting started.

No review of aviation pioneers in the Toronto area would be complete without mentioning Wayne and Carl Millard. The Millard name is linked to the careers of many pilots and engineers who earned their stripes flying one of Carl’s dated fleet of cargo and sometimes, passenger transports.

Today, Wayne Millard continues the family legacy. Since their exit and tear down of the iconic old facilities at the north end of YYZ, Wayne has built a new facility at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. He is setting up the new Millard Air hangar as a heavy commercial aircraft maintenance facility and plans to attract business to the Canadian market from the U.S and around the world, developing a niche for this at YKF.

Another name not to be missed is that of Leavens – Jeff in particular, who succeeded his uncle John. Leavens Aviation was established in 1927 and over the past 84 years, has been an air carrier, an aircraft manufacturer and more recently a parts supplier and engine overhauler. Sadly, in June 2011, Jeff, Lea Anne, Heather and Bruce Leavens – the last family members involved with the business – announced the closing of their dynasty and avocation.

One last name is that of my family. I am a third-generation aviation family man. Both my grandfathers were carpenters and both worked in aviation – in the case of my maternal grandfather, it was a career choice that started with the Bristol Box Kite and concluded with Concorde. My father and mother also worked in the business and met when they were both at Bristol Aircraft. My father – an aircraft engineer in those days – also worked at Gloucester Aircraft. When we immigrated to Canada in 1958, he started with de Havilland. He later left aviation to pursue other engineering interests but remained an avid glider pilot and instructor for many years.

So for me, too, being around aircraft and involved with them has always been a natural part of life. I’m obviously in some very fine company, and it’s an honour to be part of the diverse aviation workforce in Canada – one rich in family connections.


Rob Seaman is a Wings writer and columnist.