It was a clear afternoon in Mission, British Columbia, when Walter Gyger climbed into his friend's Cessna 172. He’d spent his childhood constructing model airplanes and dreaming of stepping into the pilot's seat of a real one. The two lifted off, the ground dropping smoothly away, and soared on into the evening, finally touching down on Vancouver Island. That experience spurred Walter on to seek out his pilot license. Years later, after taking classes at Trade Winds Aviation, he bought the company. Walter now works with a team of FAA-certified flight instructors to give budding pilots that same push he received to pursue the dream of flying and pilot certification.
Trade Winds' two-runway airport and adjacent training area sit surrounded by ridges splashed with watercolor blotches of green, which pilots-in-training survey from wide cockpit windows as they follow the official Cessna training program. Students set their own pace as they progress through lessons in cross-country flight, night flying, and navigation, all augmented by online training, practical flight sessions, and heckling from birds. When not guiding pupils through the valley's consistently clear skies, the staff help maintain Trade Winds' fleet of Cessna and Remos aircraft, many of which have features such as satellite radio, autopilot, GPS maps, and spare commas for absent-minded skywriters.