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Commercial aviation partners mark quarter-century of giving wing to pilots’ dreams
Okanagan College Media Release

As Okanagan College and Southern Interior Flight Centre – with a host of alumni – celebrate 25 years of a successful partnership teaching commercial pilots, the program is starting the new semester with a new facility in Carson Air’s new hangar at the Kelowna International Airport.Rhea MacKay WestJet Sept 2015

And the public is invited to come out and learn more about the two-year diploma program, Southern Interior Flight Centre and tour Carson Air’s facility on Sept. 19 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Southern Interior Flight Centre is a division of Carson Air.)

“We have a superb partnership with Southern Interior Flight Centre, one that began many years ago and will continue on well into the future,” explains Dr. Andrew Hay, Okanagan College’s Vice President Education.

“A great many pilots began successful careers with us as a result of our unique partnership with SIFC and we are confident that together we will continue to play a vital role for the aviation industry.”

One of those proud graduates is Captain Rhea MacKay, who flies for WestJet and occasionally helps out at SIFC teaching human factors courses. She started in 1994 and graduated in 1996.

“I absolutely wouldn’t trade it,” she says of her career. “It has afforded me many opportunities for development, but most importantly, it has let me do what I love most – fly. And I get to do it for a living with a great company.”

MacKay and SIFC’s Flight School Director Marc Vanderaegen will also both tell you that there is increasing demand for commercial pilots as the industry grows and as a generation of baby-boomer pilots retire.

“The list of companies that our graduates are flying for is growing all the time,” says Vanderaegen.

Last year, Boeing estimated that over the next 20 years there will be a global need of 533,000 pilots.

“This is another example of how Okanagan College – with a respected private partner in this instance – is helping address skills shortages,” explains Hay.

The open house will feature tours of the facility, a chance to look at a variety of planes, and see the simulators that SIFC uses as it trains pilots. A short ceremony will start at 11 a.m. For details on how to find the hangar and where to park for the open house, visit