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50 years flew by Sudbury Aviation

Time flies by at Sudbury Aviation. This Saturday, the business, located in Azilda, will celebrate its 50th anniversary at the Lively Golf and Country Club. Current owner/operator Marg Watson Hyland couldn't be happier.
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Owner Marg Watson Hyland and veteran pilot Mel Laidlaw find their work exiting. A party is planned this Saturday to celebrate the company's milestone.

Time flies by at Sudbury Aviation. This Saturday, the business, located in Azilda, will celebrate its 50th anniversary at the Lively Golf and Country Club.

Current owner/operator Marg Watson Hyland couldn't be happier.

"It's a big day in our life and we are going to celebrate," said Watson Hyland. "We're encouraging all pilots to come out and share the experience and share a few stories as well.

There will be live entertainment, food and a slide show."

The party will start at 8 pm.

Sudbury Aviation was incorporated March 26, 1956 and has grown to be one of the most successful and long-standing charter air services in the north.

Watson Hyland has owned the company since March 1, 1981. In her 25 years, the business has increased its sales from $125,000 in 1981 to more than $600,000 a year.

It has also grown from six outpost, fly-in fishing and hunting camps to 16 sites across Northern Ontario.

It was a smooth transition for Watson Hyland to get into flying for a living.

"I was always fishing and hunting with my family from Sault Ste. Marie," said Watson Hyland.

"I moved to Sudbury in 1972, and a friend arrived in a Cessna 172, took me for a ride and I was hooked.

"I came back and took flight training lessons and worked at Ramsey Air Ways for a year. In 1980, a portion of Sudbury Aviation was for sale, so I put together a plan, my load was approved and here I am today."

Sudbury Aviation has four employees and operates five aircraft - two Cessna 172 planes, one Cessna 185 and two DHC-2 Beaver aircraft.

"It's been 25 very happy and successful years for me," said Watson Hyland. "It's still a strong and sustainable business. Tourism is here to stay. It's not hard to attract people who want to be outdoors. We've never had a crash and strive to be a safe company. The years just seem to fly by when you enjoy your job like I do."

Sudbury Aviation typically flies between 500 to 700 people to remote lakes in search of big fish and game, with the majority of people coming from southern Ontario and the border states of the United States.

Sudbury Aviation has been the starting point for many promising flying careers thanks to the flight training portion of the company.

"We've trained 350 to 400 pilots from this area over the years," said Watson Hyland. "Many young pilots have passed through our doors on the way to eventually fly with airline transport licenses. The flight school has been going for 50 years and we graduate eight to 12 students per year. I'm proud to be a stepping stone for so many young people. I am happy they stay in touch as well."

Chief pilot, Mel Laidlaw, has been with the company for 44 years.

The veteran pilot has logged 25,759.4 hours of flight time during his years of service. Laidlaw did the flying for Wings over the North, the movie that plays at Science North. He also did the flying for the Ontario section of Portraits of Canada that was produced by the Walt Disney Corporation.

Laidlaw, 68, still finds his work fun.

"Flying is nice," said Laidlaw. "It's great to be up there in the sky flying in the morning. It's a wonderful experience every time."

Flying has changed dramatically since the first harrowing days of Laidlaw's career.

"When I first started flying, there were no weather reports. It's all changed with radar and satellite images. Before, a lot of times, we had to land and spend a night away from our home base because the weather was bad. The new weather reports are very accurate, helpful and one of the big changes in flying for the better."

Watson Hyland has no intentions of quitting soon.

"I have the best job in the world," said Watson Hyland. "Why would I stop? There's never a boring second and we're always meeting new people. We seldom have a weekend off because we're flying the people who have weekends off but we don't mind...It's a blast."

Sudbury Aviation also gives back to the community as they have supported the walleye hatcheries in Chelmsford and Azilda, as well as, sponsoring a hockey team from Valley East.

 




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