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Veteran General Manager helps the Brantford Flight Centre Soar

Community ProfileVeteran General Manager helps the Brantford Flight Centre Soar

For over 25 years, Shawn Broughton has been an integral part of the growth of the Brantford Flight Centre.

However, it all started when he and his parents visited the Brantford Airport to find out more about how the young Broughton could start flying.

“I’ve been interested in aviation my whole life [and] when I was younger I had looked at ways of becoming a pilot…with all these big schools in the States…it all seemed very inaccessible to do to me [until I read] an article in a magazine…that if you want to be a pilot…go to your local airport [and] get to know some people; offer to wash airplanes, cut grass, do anything you can in exchange for some money towards flight lessons. And so that’s what I did,” Broughton said. “My parents drove me out to the [Brantford Municipal Airport] around 1996. I had no idea there was an airport around here [and] that flight training had been going on here since 1929. I spoke to the manager at the time and started doing part-time [work], then co-op, and then started full-time. I have been here 26 years now and became GM in 2018.”

Shawn Broughton, the Flight Centre’s General Manager, is pictured here with Lucas Gillyatt, AME Apprentice, in Niagara Falls at the Opportunity Knocks conference and spoke with Indigenous students from across the region about the process of becoming a pilot. Photo courtesy the Brantford Flight Centre.

During the three decades that Broughton has been with the Brantford Flight Centre, he has learned a great deal about its history and development.

Broughton explained, “We started in April 1929, but my understanding is that some activities started earlier; back in 1928…We would be within the top three or four of the oldest schools in the country and [several] schools started in 1929 at about the same time, across Canada.”

“The Flying Club was involved in a number of things. We have held the contract to manage the [Brantford Municipal Airport] for the City of Brantford since 1945. But the Flying Club also has an aircraft maintenance organization where we maintain private commercial aircraft. We have charter operations where we fly people [in the region] and most of our charter operations are aerial inspections of utilities and wildlife counts. But our bread and butter is our flight training. We do a lot of it,” Broughton said.

Shawn Broughton has been an integral part of the Brantford Flight Centre for over 25 years, moving through the ranks and holding the General Manager position for the last several years. Photo courtesy the Brantford Flight Centre.

However, Broughton noted how the Brantford Flight Centre continues to gain momentum within the community as more people are discovering the option to learn how to fly right here locally.

“Something that surprises a lot of people today is just how accessible [flying] is. There’s definitely a cost to it, but people don’t know that this is right in their backyard, that they can pop out to the airport and pick away at it and have a pilot’s license within a year. One of our big things, especially this time of year, is we sell a lot of gift certificates [for flight training.] Basically, there are two parts to the license, there is the theoretical side of it, in which you attend ground school; you learn meteorology, the general theory of flight, navigation, and air law…and that’s done at the same time that we’re also doing flight training,” explained Broughton. “We have a flight training syllabus that starts with the basics [and] goes through emergency procedures, some of the advanced flying specialty techniques….You have to pass a written test and a flight test to hold the license. And then once that’s done, there are all sorts of ratings that you can add to your license rating: to fly at night, to fly above the clouds; to fly multi-engine aircraft. With a commercial license, you can live up to flight instructor ratings, and become an instructor.”

The Brantford Flight Centre hosts various events including the popular Airport Sunset Wine and Cheese Nights. Photo courtesy the Brantford Flight Centre.

The Brantford Flight Centre, which is home to the Brantford Flying Club, continues to draw people to its training because of its personal touch.

“What really sets us apart is our culture here [and] that we are not a mill…there are schools out there that are cranking out pilots as fast as they can…but we provide more of a personalized one-on-one, kind of a training situation where we get to know each student individually and work with them to find how they learn best,” stated Broughton.

The Brantford Flight Centre continues to support Hope Air, an initiative that provides a lifeline for residents in remote communities, ensuring they can get to vital medical appointments that would be difficult and costly to access. Photo courtesy the Brantford Flight Centre.

Along with flight training, the Brantford Flight Centre has been involved in areas that have included aerial inspections, wildlife projects, and film productions, as Brought explained.

“We’ve been doing aerial inspection for over 40 years now and have contracts to inspect all the lines around here. People often see a low-flying airplane and assume it’s just somebody out for a flight. But every single week, we’re out there, inspecting utilities and pipelines [as well as] evidence of erosion or flooding, that could affect people’s safety,” Broughton continued. “And then the wildlife services another big one. We’ve got a waterfowl survey coming [soon], where we will fly [close to] the shorelines…counting birds [and] identifying the different types of ducks and waterfowl.  All that data goes to support all kinds of work across North America.”

The Flight Centre has many alumni which includes successful pilots. Air Canada Captain Mike Thornton, who was an employee with the TFC/BFC, became a Flight Instructor before heading off to train as a commercial pilot. Photo courtesy Mike Thornton.

Along with the Brantford Flight Centre being involved with many key projects, it has also been part of special initiatives including Hope Air.

“Our current president, Ed Johnston [has been] part of an organization called Hope Air which connects people with medical appointments that need to get there by air. They may not qualify for an air ambulance type of flight. But if somebody needs to get to a cancer treatment, and maybe they’re up on a reserve or [a] remote community, and so these volunteer pilots…fly up there, take them to their appointment [and] the organization sets them up in a hotel or whatever they need for the appointment. And then it flies them home again. It’s an amazing volunteer organization [where they are] putting their personal aircraft to use for such a great cause,” said Broughton.  

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