Ken Yates: Wings Above the Bay

There is no sport equal to that which aviators enjoy while being carried through the air on great white wings.~ Wilbur Wright, 1905

The exhilaration as you first lift off the ground.  The liberating feeling of everything earthbound falling away into the distance.  The beauty of seeing the patchwork of earths colours laid out like a quilt beneath you.  Such is the magic of flying.

It’s what draws people like Ken Yates to learn to fly.  If you turn your eyes skyward you may actually see him from time to time flying over our beautiful Georgian Bay area.  In fact, we’ve published a handful of his pictures from his last couple of fly-overs in our Photo Gallery.

Yatess fascination with flight ignited in the mid-sixties.  He was about 6 years of age and his mom had recently been hired as a part-time passenger agent with Air Canada. The family was treated to a 40-minute ride around Toronto in a Vickers Viscount.

I was thrilled with the experience,says Yates, and spent most the time glued to the window, almost to the exclusion of my father.  I think thats when the switch really clicked about airplanes.  My younger sister, however, wasn‘t quite so impressed.he chuckled.

That desire stuck with him and intensified as he grew.  I remember joining Air Cadets at age 13 with the idea of getting a flying scholarship.  I eventually got my Private Pilot License (PPL) in North Bay while I was going to college.

Eventually, Yates garnered employment for himself with what would become a multi-decade career with Air Canada.  I spent 36 years in airline maintenance.  Ten of those years were on the ramp, doing the have-tomaintenance between flights”, Yates explains.  Working in line maintenance, whether in the hangar or on the ramp, gave me the chance to get my hands on the hardware.  I was qualified for engine run-up and taxi.

My last job was that of Fleet Coordinator in Maintenance Operations Control (MOC)he continues.  One of MOCs jobs is to ensure technical dispatch.  In other words, to ensure that the airplane is serviceable for flight.  If it was not, then to identify and marshal the resources of parts, manpower, and/or facilities to get it fixed, wherever the airplane happened to be in the world.

Yates, who has been “sitting” on his Commercial Pilot License (CPL) since 1982, says it took retirement for him to finally be able to make the time to complete his Instructor Rating.  “Instructor Ground School ran two nights a week for 14 weeks, finishing at the end of February, 2017” he explains. “Then I began the required minimum 30 hours flight training in May when the weather started to break. I successfully completed my flight test in December 2017.


So how does one go about getting a Pilot License?I ask.

The most obvious route is to go to an accredited flight school.  The minimum age for a Student Permit is 14. That allows you to fly solo for your own training,Yates continues.  The minimum requirements for a PPL are age 17, 40 hours of ground school, 17 hours of dual flight training, 12 hours solo practice, and 45 total hours of flight training.  I have never heard of anyone finishing with just the minimums.  Those times have to include a 150 nautical mile cross-country trip with two stops.

And what about the cost?

“Realistically, we are talking about $12,000-$14,000 for a PPL.  There is no glossing over it.  It is a very large commitment of time and money.  When you are finished, the sense of achievement you feel holding that license, and knowing that you are a part of only a tiny fraction of one percent of the population that can fly an airplane, makes it worth every penny and ounce of effort.he concludes.  And the demographic is even more exclusive for girls and women.  Only about 5-6% of pilots are female.

The first prerequisite for an Instructor Rating is to have a CPLsays Yates. You have to have a CPL in order to get any remuneration from flying an airplane.  An Instructor Rating is often, although not always, the first stop for someone pursuing a commercial aviation career.

I really love being able to show people the exhilaration and wonder of flight.

Ken works out of the Brampton Flying Club in west Caledon.  To book a lesson contact him at or by phone at 905-838-1400.
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Patti Foley is an east coast native, passionate about writing, digital publishing, photography, and family. She moved to Wasaga Beach from Caledon several years ago, along with her hubby Len. Inspired by the Georgian Bay area, in 2021 Patti launched, a sister publication for her website

Member of the Canadian Association of Journalists

Facebook: @JSGeorgianBay

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