WestJet, MRU team up to give aviation students a lift with pilot mentors, expensive simulators

A new partnership announced Monday between WestJet and the aviation program at Mount Royal University designed to allow student careers to take off.

Deal between university and WestJet announced on Monday designed to get prospective pilots working

An agreement between WestJet and the Mount Royal University aviation program will allow students access to pilot mentors and pricey simulators. (Mike Symington/CBC)

A new partnership announced Monday between WestJet and the aviation program at Mount Royal University aims to ensure student careers take off.

The deal will give MRU students access to WestJet's expertise and resources, with the airline's pilots acting as mentors.

"Because we are in Calgary, it's great to have our first partnership signed with a local institution that is so well respected internationally as well as locally," said Scott Wilson, vice-president of operations for WestJet.

"It's what really allows us to open up our campus here and have a much closer relationship than we could with almost any other institution."

Having graduated from the MRU aviation program 15 years ago, WestJet pilot Matt Colistro says a partnership like the one announced Monday would have helped him navigate the industry.

"The hardest thing about graduating from Mount Royal College was to know where to go, what to do, and how to get to a professional airline," he said.

WestJet pilot Matt Colistro says students will benefit greatly from the agreement between the airline and Mount Royal University. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Wilson says the airline will also give students access to its state of the art technology — something they wouldn't otherwise have.

"When you look at a Level D, a full flight simulator worth $15 million, that's a big barrier to entry for a lot of colleges or training institutions," he said. "We're allowed to open the doors that way, invite those students in and give them experience that really does elevate them and move them quicker along in their careers."

Enrolment in MRU's aviation program — which is still mourning the tragic death of two instructors in a crash earlier this year — is at an all-time high, said Dean Elizabeth Evans.

"The aviation industry is a unique industry that has such a great sense of it's own community that they really understand how to come together," she said. "And I think that the young people that are interested in careers understand what the industry is about."

With files from Mike Symington