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aviation school

Okanagan Aviation has announced the opening of a satellite flight training school to be based at Pemberton Airport. Stephen Drinkwater, company owner and manager, said, "We’ve had a great response from area residents. The community is supportive, and we expect to be very busy throughout the summer and fall." Okanagan Aviation currently operates a flight training unit and charter service in Vernon, B.C. "The Whistler-Pemberton market is challenging in that it does not have the population base that is usually associated with a successful flying school," Drinkwater said. "However, those who make this area their home have a variety of lifestyles and backgrounds. Many residents choose the Whistler/Pemberton area because of their love of the outdoors, and because of the tremendous variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. For many of them, learning to fly offers another opportunity for adventure as well as the means to further enjoy the outdoors." Drinkwater also cited the wide variety and availability of short-term, furnished accommodation, especially during the summer and fall, as an attraction for out-of-town students. Drinkwater noted that a couple of flight schools have operated satellite facilities at Pemberton in the past, but didn’t stay. "These schools came in only after enough students had fully paid for their training in advance, and then stayed only for the summer. This sent a message to the local market that they didn’t believe in the markets potential enough to make a full commitment. We do, and intend to operate year round on a permanent basis." As part of their marketing strategy, Okanagan Aviation will be making it as convenient as possible for Whistler residents to obtain their training by offering the private ground school in Whistler village. Drinkwater added: "We’ve already had enough inquiries for commercial training to justify a commercial ground school, which will probably start in the early fall, after the private ground school has finished. "We are also planning to develop a Mountain Checkout course, targeting the tourist on vacation in Whistler." Pemberton Airport has a paved 4,000-foot runway. Okanagan Aviation will be basing a Cessna 172 at the airport, with plans for a second 172 depending on demand. Recreational, private, and commercial training will be offered, as well as sightseeing, charter and aircraft rental. Okanagan Aviation can be contacted locally at 938-3811, or toll free at 1-877-FLY-OKAV.