Mike Aldersey, the Port McNeill base manager for West Coast Helicopters has been awarded the prestigious Agar/Stringer Award by the Helicopter Association of Canada. (Submitted photo)

Mike Aldersey, the Port McNeill base manager for West Coast Helicopters has been awarded the prestigious Agar/Stringer Award by the Helicopter Association of Canada. (Submitted photo)

Vancouver Island pilot reaches lofty heights in the helicopter industry

Port McNeill-based Mike Aldersey wins 2o2o Agar/Stringer Award given out to select few Canadians

At West Coast Helicopters’ office in Port McNeill, Mike Aldersey and his team are excited.

Aldersey has been named as the recipient of the Agar/Stringer Award – a coveted award bestowed by the Helicopter Association of Canada to select few Canadians for their outstanding contribution to the industry.

In his 42-year long career, Aldersey holds an impeccable record of over 30,000 accident-free-hours as pilot in command. But that didn’t stop him from being “shocked” when he found out he was getting an award.

“I didn’t even know I was nominated,” said the 65-year-old pilot, who lives in Courtenay when he is not at his Port McNeill office. “The past recipients of this award are some pretty impressive people in the Canadian helicopter industry so I feel quite humbled and quite proud to be considered to be in that league.”

RELATED: Island couple married on remote mountaintop, socially distanced and digitally connected

RELATED: Volunteer heli-clean sweeps North Vancouver Island beach

But even for an industry giant like Aldersey, excitement comes along with existential troubles that online conventions bring along. As he prepared to accept his award — which was presented virtually on Dec. 1 — he had a few lingering questions.

“How are they going to do this online? Will they just announce my name? Do they expect a speech from me? I don’t know.” Either way, the 65-year-old kept a speech ready, just in case.

Aldersey grew up with aircrafts zooming overhead in Trenton, Ontario. Living near an air force base was a strong influence on him as a 10-year-old boy. Even then, Aldersey knew that he wanted to fly in a bush environment as opposed to airline routes. And he got his wish. Aldersey has flown for air ambulance services, forest firefighting across the country, logging industry operations, tourism charters and heli-skiing adrenaline junkies.

He’s been a part of many exciting journeys, including wildlife surveys in the high Arctic, rescue missions, and medical evacuations among others.

But forest firefighting is an experience that has been the closest to his heart.

“Supporting the forest firefighting industry is one aspect that I have quite enjoyed in my career,” he said.

That’s also because he can put to good use his specialty in vertical referencing – also called long line work, which includes slinging loaded 50- 100-foot length long lines from place to place.

Mike Aldersey moved to Vancouver Island with his wife Paula and three children in 1993.

In 1978 he got his helicopter license from Canadore College in North Bay, Ont., and since then he has had the opportunity to work across provinces.

But that also meant remote locations and 16 years of being away from home for almost 240 days a year.

His wife Paula was “extremely supportive,” and Aldersey makes it clear that without her, they wouldn’t have gotten far in his career at all.

Their family of five moved to Vancouver Island in 1993 and since then Aldersey has been the Port McNeill base manager with West Coast Helicopters. “I was able to spend more time with my family.”

Now, apart from being home, B.C.’s coast has become the most soothing sight from up above for Aldersey. With bases in Port McNeill, Campbell River, Nanaimo and Bella Coola, he gets to see a lot of the coastline.

“I never get tired of the B.C. coast. It’s pretty spectacular and although it’s my daily routine, I still have to pinch myself sometimes.”

Along with mind-blowing hawk-eye views from the sky, his career also gifted him some of the most “interesting experiences.”

Aldersey has had the opportunity to meet and work with various people who do different types of profound work.

“With this type of work – helicopter support– you’re transporting a lot of different industries and people. And it’s like my career, I mean, I’m involved in many many other different careers,” he said.

“That’s the beauty of it! It’s a fairly exciting job because you get to see and experience a lot of different jobs along with your own.”

A lot has changed in the past 42 years – Aldersey is a grandfather to five, his favourite chopper Hughes 500 is now an MD 500D and the helicopter industry reflects the passage of time too.

But even then the adrenaline rush that floods him when he powers his MD 500D for a take-off is still the same. And that’s a feeling that Aldersey is not yet ready to hang up.

“Flying has been my passion for 42 years, I still quite enjoy it and I don’t have plans on retiring anytime soon, he said. “We’ll see how much longer I can keep up it.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

AwardsFirefighters helicoptervancouverisland

Just Posted

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
RDN Transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Jimmy Fallon joked that a woman’s 4.5-star review of a Langford jail is “the most Canadian thing you could do” in The Tonight Show Jan. 21. (Screenshot/YouTube)
VIDEO: Jimmy Fallon jokes Canadian jails are basically hotels following woman’s 4.5-star review

Woman gave handwritten card to police following stay in Langford cells

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance at Saanich staff meeting

Sidney firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy rushed to emergency 3 times after ingesting drugs in Vancouver Island public spaces

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

A fire broke out near the Willow Point Bottle Depot early on Jan. 22. Photo courtesy Ashley Laycock
Two injured in early-morning fire in Campbell River

Sailboat fire also attended by Campbell River fire crews

A worker covers up racist graffiti along the West Shore Parkway. (Courtesy of Anna Young)
RCMP investigating racist graffiti spotted off West Shore Parkway

Hateful vandalism is rare, says Langford bylaw enforcement

Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team and Victoria police executed a high-risk warrant arrest on Jan. 22. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police arrest man wanted on multiple warrants

Warrants include drug trafficking, theft and possession of firearms

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

Most Read