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Oliver Owen’s desire to make transportation better for First Nation communities landed him the Manitoba Aviation Council’s Pioneer of Flight Award. Founder and owner of Amik Aviation, Owen was the first person to use the Cessna 208 Caravan Amphibian, a utility orientated aircraft, for scheduled commercial transportation service in Canada. This fuel efficient, quiet, reliable machine is ideally suited for northern Manitoba’s remote communities, many of which are located along lakes and waterways. Manitoba Aviation Council (MAC) presented Owen with their most prestigious award: the 2019 Pioneer of Flight, for his accomplishment.
Established in 2006, the Pioneer of Flight award celebrates the careers of men and women whose drive and determination have had a significant impact on Manitoba Aviation. Over the years it has been presented to many notable Manitobans such as Arnold Morberg (Calm Air International), James A. Richardson (Western Canadian Airways, Canadian Airways), and Tom Lamb (Lambair) among others.
“Oliver is a strong, determined person with a clear vision and an inherent understanding of the needs of his area of operation and customers,” said James C. Campbell, a member of the Manitoba Aviation Council. His vision has positively influenced not only the communities he serves but has inspired others and had an impact on airport operations at St. Andrews Airport.
Recognized at MAC’s annual gala dinner in April, Owen humbly accepted the award: “I began my aviation career path 41 years ago, and it means a lot to me to be recognized.” The road hasn’t been easy, but Mr. Owen’s vision and courage saw him through many obstacles and challenging times. The actual award for the Pioneer of Flight is customized for its recipient; Oliver’s is a hardwood model of his first caravan amphibian.
Born in Little Grand Rapids, and having spent much of his childhood growing up in Pauingassi, Owen saw first-hand the transportation obstacles remote northern communities faced. “Oliver’s only motivation, has been to make air travel a little more convenient for his home communities,” said Valerie, Owen’s wife.
His use of the Caravan Amphibian was the impetus that effected real change. Communities that once had little access to transportation or inter-community travel now had a reliable and affordable option.
“Oliver has made quite an improvement in travel needs in the First Nation area and is always making improvements to his service. He is a very inspirational man,” said Harold Crow, past chief of Pauingassi and once long-term council member at Little Grand Rapids. Crow also credits Owen’s ability to speak Ojibway, and hire First Nation people who also speak it, as making a huge difference for the elders that fly with him.
Today, Owen can look back on his accomplishments with pride. Amik Aviation is an independently owned and operated First Nation airline that provides a much-needed link to northern communities. His wife, Valerie, children and extended family assist him with the business. His continual perseverance in pursuit of his dream to fly paved the way for his many notable accomplishments in the industry, including that of a pioneer in Manitoba’s aviation industry.