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The Sky is the Limit: Two Alumni Aviation Stories

May 18, 2021 | Institution / General, News

OTTERBURNE, MB – Providence’s Aviation program began more than 35 years ago in partnership with Harv’s Air in Steinbach, MB. Together, we’ve been graduating aviation students with certificates, diplomas, and full degrees. Providence is one of the few Canadian universities to offer a three-year and four-year Bachelor of Arts in Aviation. Our graduates have found work in many areas – some as flight instructors and others as private, commercial, military, medevac or missionary pilots. Here are two alumni stories:

ALLYSON BROWN earned her two-year diploma in Aviation in 2003. Her first contact with Providence was a Youth Encounter weekend on our Otterburne campus where she stayed in residence and connected with current university students including a few in the Aviation program. She was already interested in becoming a pilot when she first heard about the program. Providence seemed like a great fit since it was in the same province where she grew up, and it satisfied her desire to attend a Christian university.

“Providence has a fantastic Aviation program, and I found the perfect balance between flight instruction and solid Bible teaching. I loved the Christian environment and made lifelong friends.”

Following her diploma, Allyson worked in a dispatch position at Harv’s Air and, at the same time, completed her instructor rating. At 19 years old, she was qualified to teach other students most of whom were older than her. During her two and a half years at Harv’s Air, even though she was busy with a lot of hours flying, she worked her way up to a supervising instructor role.

She then got a job at Keystone Air Service, co-piloting one of their aircraft, doing charter flights and taking passengers on summer trips to fishing lodges. When a position became available as captain on a smaller aircraft, she worked for seven months flying to reserves in Northern Manitoba and Northern Ontario.

Allyson then moved on to a medevac position flying for Keewatin Air. She was based in Churchill, MB and flew to all the northern communities along the west coast of the Hudson Bay right up to Repulse Bay which is on the Arctic Circle. This was where she gained some of her most interesting work experience with a lot of stories working with nurses and medical teams in urgent situations. After a year, she was promoted as Captain of a larger 19-seat aircraft and was based out of Winnipeg, flying a scheduled passenger service to the same communities in the Arctic.

In late 2009, she accepted a position with Porter Airlines in Toronto. Porter opened a base in Ottawa in 2012 and she moved there. In 2018, she became a Training Captain. She is now flying with new hires, and training co-pilots who are upgrading their skills so they can become captains. She enjoys the challenge of being back in a training role once again.

 “Providence influenced my faith journey by solidifying it. I learned so much. Not just what I believed about God and the Bible, but also why I believed it. The professors were excellent in allowing us to ask questions, even tough ones.”

For Allyson, some of the courses that stand out to this day were the late Professor Wendy Peterson’s course on different religions, cults, and sects as well as John McNeil’s ‘World Religions’ class. These courses help her have respectful conversations with people she meets all around the world who have different beliefs. She still sometimes refers to her textbook from Wendy Peterson’s class. She went on to say, “Also, Cameron McKenzie’s ‘Old Testament’ class was fantastic and Kara Mandryk’s courses were so good, just to name a few.”

Ultimately, as a co-pilot with Christ, Allyson’s journey continues on and new adventures await her. Each day, she can hardly wait to get back in the air flying.


RYAN BERT-VIDAL (BA Aviation 2006) grew up as a missionary kid in Nicaragua and Honduras and was always interested in flying. When he learned about Providence from an ad in a missions magazine, and realized he could attend a Christian university and still study aviation as a program, his dreams took flight.

Living in dorm and studying in the University College changed Ryan’s life. Spending hours in the residence sub-lounge talking, laughing, and having fun with friends had a long-term impact on him. His relationships at Providence helped shape and mold him. His spiritual growth came in the form of being in a safe space to ask questions, break down presuppositions and build back my faith as a new and important aspect of who I am.”

The most valuable experience for Ryan was a 10-day trip flying from Steinbach, MB to the outskirts of Los Angeles, CA. This trip was filled with diverse and sometimes difficult flying conditions that required complex problem solving, but there was also great camaraderie with the rest of the students and flight instructor.

Allyson Brown was one of Ryan’s flight instructors, and like her, he wanted to make flying his career. After graduating with his degree, he too became a flight instructor at Harv’s Air to Providence students. However, due to health reasons, he had to stop instruction and, for several years, he worked in jobs that were adjacent to his goal. In 2011, he returned to flight training and completed his multi-engine and multi-engine instrument ratings.

In January 2014, he began looking for airport operation jobs and, by August, he and his wife, Melissa, who he met at Providence, moved to Saskatoon where he started as an Airport Duty Manager at Skyxe Saskatoon Airport. When hired, the duty manager program was in development and Ryan (in collaboration with a co-worker) led, developed and delivered the program for the airport. In this role, he is responsible for the everyday operations of the airport which involves understanding and maintaining situational awareness of the airport system in terms of customer service, regulatory compliance, safety, security, and operational integrity. The Duty Manager team is on site 24/7, ready to respond to any need at the airport.

Ryan says, “Through the Providence Aviation program, I learned an important skill set beyond flying an airplane to Transport Canada’s standards. I learned to research thoroughly and think critically about things I was passionate about, whether it was aviation, Christianity, or the Church.”

While he does not fly an airplane as a career, he says he “pilots the airport safely during winter operations, construction and adverse weather conditions to ensure customers are able to get to their destination safely.”  

“Providence gave me the dream of aviation as a career, then it gave me the path to follow. Providence also prepared me for the detour I did not foresee,” explains Ryan, “and as a result I have landed in the career that is best for me.”