Central Albertan Sherry Cooper, chief flight instructor for Sky Wings Aviation Academy in Springbrook, flew home from Vancouver’s Air Transport Association of Canada’s Annual General Meeting & Convention earlier this month as the first female chief flight instructor to receive the David Charles Abramson Memorial (DCAM) Flight Instructor Safety Award.
Cooper is the second woman and the third western Canadian to receive the award since its creation in 2003.
The award represents a unique opportunity for the Air Transportation Association of Canada to recognize the important role flight training specialists play in making the business of flying safer.
Transport Canada’s Director General of Civil Aviation Martin J. Eley states on the award’s web site, “It is essential that we take the time to recognize exemplary flight instructors who demonstrate exceptional leadership in aviation safety and truly represent our industry’s cornerstone.”
The award is a way for parents Jane and Rikki Abramson to honour their son David, who was a dedicated flight instructor but who lost his life during a routine training flight due to improper maintenance procedures.
Cooper was awarded a trophy, as well as an engraved aviator’s watch from Hamilton Watches after giving an acceptance speech in front of her family, industry peers, and colleagues.
Applicants for the award must have shown a firm belief in promoting safety and excellence in aviation education, which Cooper said she has made her life’s work for the last 30 years.
“Most people have a strong sense of self preservation, but they don’t necessarily have the benefit of experience to know early on when things are about to go off the rails,” said Cooper. “So my job is to watch for those risk factors and ensure students know what those risk factors can be and help them find a way to make good decisions.”
She added Sky Wings Aviation Academy is at a unique advantage when teaching students due to their location within Alberta, being close to the mountains as well as a variety of other diverse climates and landscape conditions. This means her students get a broad scope of training to better prepare them for anything that fate may throw at them.
Cooper said she was contacted by Jane and told she would be the next recipient of the DCAM award.
“I was driving to the gym and was on Highway 2A when I got the call from Jane and I had to pull over because I couldn’t see the lines anymore,” said Cooper. “It was a very emotional day and after I got off the phone the first person I called was my own flight instructor to thank him for all he’s done.”
Cooper, who has been a flight instructor for nearly 30 years, had applied for the award a number of months before receiving it, with the application process involving a lengthy essay, recommendations from past students, as well as a recommendation letter from the CEO of Sky Wings Aviation Academy.
“It’s been a great experience for me and when you receive this type of recognition for your life’s work, you start to realize how all of the little things you do every day make such a big impact and that how big of impact you are able to make is determined by how hard you are willing to work,” said Cooper. “Regardless of the situation that is thrown at you, you have to stick to your integrity and if you can do that then people do notice, even if it takes a while.”