Bush Pilot in the Family

It all began decades ago. My brother Jacques was an 18-year-old living in Alma, a small town in Quebec. He phoned me in Montreal to see if l could get him a good price on a plane ticket to Europe. I found him a round-trip to Paris, and the following day he left intending to stay for three weeks. He came back three years later, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He was going to be a bush pilot. Jacques took the courses he needed and spent several years flying in Northern Quebec, then came to the Northwest Territories to fly with Air Dogrib out of Rae-Edzo. He moved to Fort Simpson, where he’s worked ever since with Simpson Air. My mother was astonished by Jacques¬∑career for she was afraid to fly. When she and my father went to Europe in 1963, they went by boat. My brother had been a pilot for years. and my mother still had never been in a plane. Every week he used to ask her when he could take her on her first flight. Finally, one day she said: “Phone Jacques. I am ready for my first flight.” He was there in minutes. It was a wonderful, smooth flight, over the town, over our house, over Lac St. Jean. My mother loved it.

Jacques loves the North; he’s flown everywhere, in all seasons and all kinds of weather. He knows the lakes by name. He meets people from all over the world – geologists, anthropologists, prospectors, and people like you and me. If you fly with him, you’ll learn about rocks, mountains, rivers, mines. He loves Nahanni Park and goes there daily in summer. When I wanted to travel the river, Jacques said, “No problem.” He gathered up a raft, life vests and everything else we needed and we flew into Rabbitkettle Lake. When I saw where we were going to land, I was afraid. A big Twin Otter on that small gravel bar! Jacques just laughed at me. Later we flew farther west, to the Ragged Range — black granite mountains with white glaciers. “If the devil exists.” Jacques said, “that’s where he lives”. Flying with Jacques is a pleasure and a great lesson on the North.

By Genevieve Harvey

Categories: Editorials

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