Calm Air's first Inuk pilot takes to the skies

After growing up in float planes with his father, Jeremy Maley always knew he'd be a pilot. However, he didn't realize that he'd become a local celebrity in the process, after he became the first Inuk pilot for Nunavut regional airline Calm Air.

21-year-old Jeremy Maley grew up flying in float planes with his father

Jeremy Maley, right, stands in front of a Calm Air plane in Arviat, Nunavut, with fellow Inuk pilot Joe Savikataaq Jr. Maley is the first ever Inuk pilot to fly for Calm Air, an airline that services the Kivalliq region, where he was born and raised. (Submitted by Joe Savikataaq Jr.)

For Jeremy Maley, flying is in his DNA.

Growing up in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Jeremy often sat next to his pilot father Shawn Maley as he took to the skies in a float plane. Moving to Yellowknife as a teenager, he prepared to blaze his own trail in the industry, ultimately going to school in Kelowna to become a pilot himself.

"When things got tough, I'd go up in the float plane, and it was just awesome," he said.

"I just thought having a career flying wouldn't feel like a job to me. That was the goal."

A young Jeremy poses in front of a float plane. (Submitted by Shawn Maley)

Jeremy, now 21, never doubted that he'd be a pilot. However, what did surprise him was the reaction when he got his first job behind the controls: becoming a first officer for Calm Air, and, in the process, the first ever Inuk pilot to fly for the regional airline.

Now flying runs from his hometown to other communities in Nunavut's Kivalliq region, Jeremy has become a local celebrity. He's approached by proud locals at every stop, and youth asking how to follow in his footsteps.

"I thought I'd slip under the radar a bit," he said, "but [the reaction has] been overwhelming.

"But getting to see everyone's reaction, and all the happy faces are really nice. So I like it."

Shawn, who still flies in Yellowknife, says that he's "really proud" of his son.

"He's made a big jump, breaking that barrier," he said. "People in the area are really excited at the prospect of having a local Northern kid there."

A young Jeremy at the controls of a Cessna 185 with his father, Shawn Maley. 'When things got tough, I'd go up in the float plane, and it was just awesome,' he said.

'They have somebody they can aspire to'

Calm Air president Gary Bell says that he's proud of Jeremy's success, and says he hopes he becomes an inspiration to others in the region to get involved in the industry. 

"Whether it's [Rankin Inlet resident and first Inuk NHL player] Jordin Tootoo or Jeremy Maley, now you get young people that can aspire to do it, because they can see, hey, look, it is possible," said Bell. "That guy did it. So can I."

Now you get young people that can aspire to do it because they can see, hey, look, it is possible.- Gary Bell, President, Calm Air

With the airline industry facing a looming pilot shortage, many companies like Calm Air are looking to innovate when it comes to hiring. Bell encouraged Nunavummiut who wanted to get involved in the industry to contact his company, saying that they would work with dedicated people to help them reach their goals.

However, he was quick to point out that Jeremy "did it on his own," going through the gruelling process of obtaining his credentials with the support of his father and mother, Chantal Taylor, and then approaching the airline.

"It's Jeremy and his family that did that on their own," he said. "We're just a lucky beneficiary."

Jeremy poses for a photo with his grandmother, Alma Graves, during a recent stop in Rankin Inlet. He says that he's approached by locals at every stop in Nunavut, including youth who ask him how they can follow in his footsteps. (Submitted by Alma Graves)

Calm Air, along with its parent company, Exchange Income Corporation, say that they're preparing to announce a new program to help local residents get their start in the industry. 

"We want to make it easier for the next group of Jeremy's," said Bell.

For Jeremy's part, he says that he hopes he's the first of many Inuk pilots for the airline.

"I'm hoping it encourages more young guys to go out there and do it if they want to," he said. "Stick with it. You're going to have some challenges ... I wanted to go home sometimes, but when everything came and went, I was definitely glad I stayed. 

"It's been awesome. I wouldn't change it."


Garrett Hinchey

Managing Editor, CBC North

Garrett Hinchey is a Métis journalist based in his hometown of Yellowknife, where has worked since 2014. He has worked at CBC North as a social media presenter, copy editor, multimedia reporter, and senior assignment producer. He has been CBC North's managing editor since June 2021.