Top News

Your Stories: A return to gliding for Truro resident followed a 22-year hiatus

Gliding instructor Shelley Kwik-Mitchell, left, is shown with four students who recently earned their glider pilot licences.
Gliding instructor Shelley Kwik-Mitchell, left, is shown with four students who recently earned their glider pilot licences. - Contributed
TRURO, N.S. —

The Shelley Kwik-Mitchell story begins in Antigonish. As a teenager, in 1985, Kwik-Mitchell became involved with the 875 Antigonish Lions Squadron Air Cadets.
“I earned my wings as a glider pilot through the Atlantic Region Gliding School,” Kwik-Mitchell recalled. “In 1986 I received my private pilot’s licence.”
By the age of 18 Kwik-Mitchell was in a leadership role; this led to her receiving her instructor’s licence. She instructed for seven summers before enrolling at Hensen College, a subsidiary of Dalhousie University where she received a certificate in information technology education.
It was during October 1998 she married Dave Mitchell of Truro. An outstanding golfer, Mitchell won numerous golf championships, including the Truro Golf Club championship on three occasions as well as the Apex Golf Championship. In 2003, the former golf pro at the Brookfield Golf and Country Club along with his wife, made the move to the Philippines where Mitchell continued winning golf championships.
As Mitchell became a golf instructor and later a director of golf course maintenance in the Philippines, his wife was also focused.
“A lot of my training in cadet organization prepared me for what would be quite a career change,” Kwik-Mitchell said. “I became involved in leadership development programs. The Philippines were kind of lacking in that area so I took on the responsibility to train leaders in the area of becoming leaders themselves.”
Following 14 years in the Philippines, mostly in Manila, the couple returned to Truro in late 2017. After a 22-year hiatus from the Air Cadet gliding program, Kwik-Mitchell still had a burning desire to return to what had been an early-life passion.
“To get the opportunity to return to the Air Cadet gliding program I joined the 77 Arrowhead Squadron as a volunteer in September 2018,” Kwik-Mitchell said. “I taught ground school and I was a regular in weekly training at the Debert Cadet Training Flying Centre. The 77 Arrowhead Squadron is heavily involved in community programs, so was I.”
Kwik-Mitchell took a three-week glider pilot instructor’s course to prove she still qualified to teach. It was an intense training course, the toughest she had ever endured.  
“It was unbelievably intense – here I was a female senior, a 50-year-old, in a class of 18- to 22-two-year-olds. You have no idea, I still get goose bumps just thinking about it. I like to tell people you can live your passion at any age if you put your mind to it.”
Kwik-Mitchell described the intense course as being a life highlight. 
“I’m sure these young pilots wondered what in the world is this old lady doing here. I had moved my career to leadership development during our time in the Philippines; it had become full time. I was fully immersed in training development but training cadets to become glider pilots, this was where my heart really was. I wanted to get back to that. I wanted to shape new leaders, our future leaders.”
Kwik-Mitchell passed the three-week glider pilot instructor’s course in 2018 and was assigned four glider students from across Canada earlier this year.
“I had seven weeks to develop them so they could be glider pilots. It was absolutely fulfilling, I’m very proud. These young people are going to build our communities and make them stronger. During those seven weeks they were focused on training, development, studying and their flying skills, not only to pass the Transport Canada exam but also to pass a flight test to prove they deserve their wings.”
On Friday, Aug. 16 the wings parade took place at the Debert air field for the students who had earned their glider pilot’s licence.
“There were 42 students on parade,” Kwik-Mitchell said. “Four of those were my students who had earned their wings through a lot of hard work, study and determination. I’m so proud of these students and what they achieved.”
Kwik-Mitchell explained that for students to pass their flight test they had to do precise turns, be able to flight manage, do a spin recovery, a spiral recovery and be able to take off and land, part of what’s known as a circuit, all done without an engine.
“I cried tears of happiness; I was so proud of these young students, all 16 year-olds,” Kwik-Mitchell said.

Lyle Carter’s column appears every second week in the Truro News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.

Recent Stories