In this Community Spotlight feature, we're heading to the cold of Canada to feature @flyingwithdebby, a charter King Air pilot based in Winnipeg. We were intrigued by Debby's shots on Instagram of King Air in heavy winter conditions; showcasing the amazing versatility of the aircraft.
We spoke with Debby to learn a bit more about her and what she does, and of course, her connection to King Air.
Debby's passion for flight began at a young age - the small town in which she grew up had a flight school in it.
"As a child, I would often see Cessnas flying around, and this made me interested in airplanes," said Debby. "Looking through my childhood photo album you'd even find pictures of me building planes out of Lego. My middle school science teacher taught a unit on aviation. After learning about lift, our class went on a field trip to the flight school for plane rides. That was my first experience in a small plane."
Winnipeg, MB CYWG
Later down the road, Debby found herself bored with her university classes. Looking to try something new, she ended up taking a discovery flight at the local flight school and was quickly hooked.
"I enjoyed it so much I was determined to make a career out of it. As a pilot there's lots of information you need to know: such as air law, weather, airplane systems, and emergency procedures. Learning to fly wasn't always easy, but getting through a challenge made it rewarding."
Debby obtained her private pilot's license and began working on getting into the industry. Her first job was as a dockhand/office personnel during the summer for a float plane operator in Northern Manitoba. By the next winter, she had completed her commercial pilot's license and began flying Cessna 185 and 206 on floats in Flin Flon.
Gillam, MB CYGX
It was at Flin Flon that Debby would first be introduced to the King Air. Clients would take private charter flights from Winnipeg to the Flin Flon airport. They would then travel to hunting/fishing lodges by float plane (oftentimes flown by Debby).
Debby would spend two summers flying in Flin Flon before deciding to get her MIFR to fly commercially year round.
"I went to Cornwall Aviation for these ratings and finished in 2 weeks - their program was very efficient! I then moved to Thompson, MB where I flew as a First Officer on a King Air 100, 200, and Beech 99 as well as some floats still."
Jenpeg, MB CZJG
After spending two years at Thompson, MB, Debby would move to Winnipeg, MB - where she would get her first captain PPC on a King Air 100. She'd continue to work till she obtained her current position as a training captain on a King Air 200 and King Air 350 for private air charter service Fast Air. Debby finds the work fulfilling:
"In private aviation, you’re flying a specific group from point A to point B – and sometimes playing a small part in their mission. I appreciate the trips where I feel like we’re making a difference in someone’s life. Some trips we get to do are: flying clients to special events, flying engineers to build water treatment plants and medical facilities in Northern communities, transporting medical staff, forest fire crews, or workers to operate hydro dams. (Fast Air’s sister company, Vanguard Air Care, also does medevac operations with King Air 200s)."
Toronto, ON CYTZ
Debby mentioned to us a few of the particular challenges she faces flying in the Canada region:
- Short gravel runways (3000 feet and less - thankfully King Air has great short field performance)
- Gravel ops include: sweeping gravel underneath props before starting, cautious when taxiing (not stopping, wide turns, no reverse below 60 KTS etc.), ice vanes - to avoid prop chips and ingesting gravel
- Contaminated runways (ice/snow)
- Check runway reports before flight / use brake de-ice
- Sometimes there are no weather reports or services at the airports
- Check weather before flight
- G1000 has NEXRAD, so we can get updated weather in flight for the surrounding area
- Very cold temperatures in winter
- When no hangar is available, winter ops include: engine Tanis heaters, engine tents, interior heater for avionics
York Landing, MB CZAC
Debby noted a couple other benefits of utilizing the King Air:
- Pressurized, certified for flight in IFR conditions, anti/de-ice features for flying in icing conditions
- King Airs in the fleet are equipped with Garmin G1000 and Halo 250/275 (up gross weight)
- Ability to perform operations that larger aircraft cannot due to the excellent short field performance
"Working in the North, I had many experiences that developed my decision-making skills," noted Debby. "You must take extra precautions when you're flying somewhere remote on a lake without a dock - or a short unpaved runway. Most of the flying in the North, consists of flying guests to fishing/hunting lodges, and transporting people and cargo where there are no roads. I'm grateful for all the experiences I had, as they let me see Canada in ways many haven't."
Winnipeg, MB CYWG
Chicago, IL KPWK
Debby has had some very memorable flights. She once flew 300 baby chicks to Island Lake, MB to help with food security for the isolated community. She's had to fit 9 set of antlers in a real-life Tetris game in the back of the King Air when transporting caribou hunters. She has traveled as far north as Cambridge Bay, NU, which is in the Arctic Circle.
"I’m grateful to all the instructors and mentors that have taught me along the way," said Debby. "That’s why I enjoy doing training on the King Air as well – I hope I can help someone make a step forward in their career, the way others have for me."
"Being a pilot has been fun. You get to travel to new places, fly different airplanes and meet new people. There's always more things to learn which keeps it interesting. I've been flying for 9 years, and I'm still enjoying it. I'm excited to see what the future will bring, for me the sky is no longer the limit."
You can follow Debby on Instagram where she documents her travels with photos and videos. Her username is @flyingwithdebby.
Toronto, ON CYTZ
Author/additional photo edits: Scott Cooper (King Air Communications Specialist)
Photographs and info/quotes: @flyingwithdebby (Debby)