Laurentide Aviation flight school in Les Cèdres under new ownership
PHOTO BY JAMES PARRY
Under clear blue skies, 81-year-old Hudson resident Terry McConnon makes one more visit to Canada's oldest commercial flight school, Laurentide Aviation in Les Cèdres, which he has just sold after two decades of ownership.
Canada's oldest commercial flight school, Laurentide Aviation in Les Cèdres, is under new direction following confirmation this week that Hudsonite, Terry McConnon, owner for the past 20 years, has sold it lock, stock, and aircraft to ALM Par Avion based in Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloeil, Mascouche, Quebec.
With a current fleet of seven Cessnas and two Grummans available for lessons, a state-of-the-art mechanical services department for pilots who have already earned their wings, and year-round facilities for private aircraft owners, the school - which was founded in 1946 by Jack Scholefield - has since graduated over 15,000 students, many of whom have gone on to fly with Air Canada and other major international carriers.
For Irish-born 81 year-old McConnon, who immigrated to Canada when he was 18 and who has been flying for as long as he can remember, it has been a week of mixed emotions.
“Aviation has been my life,” he told The Journal in an exclusive interview. “It has been good to me. And owning this school and seeing so many new pilots, men and women, take to the skies has been a dream come true.”
Added McConnon, a former RCAF Major Retired Pilot following 23 years of service, “But there comes a time when age inevitably catches up with you and you realize that you just don't want to have the constant pressure anymore. And so I'm passing on the torch to people who really share my love of aviation and know what the business is all about.”
To do full justice to McConnon's flying career would take a book, including his years as a commercial and bush pilot in the Arctic. But one of his most memorable experiences without a doubt was when he was serving with the 401 Squadron in Westmount in the 1960s and received a written invitation from the US Government office in Plattsburgh offering him paid helicopter training with a promotion in Florida.
Laughed McConnon, “The next thing I know I'm being shipped to Saigon piloting Forward Air Controller Cessna Bird Dog observation aircraft and Bell helicopters over Vietnam. Heck, to be perfectly honest, before that I didn't even know there was a war going on over there.”
PHOTO BY JAMES PARRY
Outgoing flight school owner Terry McConnon with one of the two Grummans, this one being fine-tuned in the mechanical services hangar, that are available to students at Laurentide Aviation.
Nine months later, he returned to Canada thrilled with the experience but a little worse for wear. Explained McConnon, “There was a bit of a schmozzle one day, not sure what happened, but as we were flying over the countryside, I suddenly felt an impact and was frothing at the mouth and coughing up blood. Turns out I had a collapsed lung and a piece of metal in my back. And that was the end of my little Vietnam adventure!”
His love of flying continued, however, and before taking it over he was an instructor with Laurentide Aviation sharing his knowledge and expertise with students aged from 15 to over 50. He still has a valid Commercial Pilot license and promises to be a regular back at Les Cèdres airport soaring the skies. And determined to be the oldest commercial pilot in all of Canada, if he is not already.