The man who became the first aboriginal person to earn their pilot’s licence in the territory was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame Thursday.
Frederick James Carmichael, a Gwich’in pilot from Inuvik and a true pioneer of Northern aviation, received the honour during a ceremony in Ottawa.
Three other Canadian pilots were also recognized as part of the induction ceremony at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
After earning his pilot’s licence in 1955, Carmichael spent over 60 years in Northern aviation working as a pilot, entrepreneur and search and rescue volunteer.
He also started two aviation companies over the course of his career – Reindeer Air Service Ltd. and Western Arctic Air Ltd.
“Fred Carmichael exemplifies the hard work and resiliency Northerners are known for,” said NWT Premier Bob McLeod in a statement.
“For more than six decades, Carmichael has spent his time in the cockpit of bush planes, moving residents and goods in and out of many of our remote Northern communities.”
Carmichael bought his first plane within a year of earning his pilot’s licence and would often head out on early voyages with nothing but a map and compass.
Recognized for mentorship
Carmichael was also recognized Thursday for his mentorship of younger aboriginal youth.
“Mr. Carmichael served as a mentor and employer to many Northerners,” said McLeod.
“He encouraged the people he grew up with to become partners in Northern aviation and strongly believed in creating employment opportunities for fellow Northerners.
“His desire to help the people of the North and inspire young entrepreneurs has been one of his greatest motivating factors.”
Some of Carmichael’s other lifetime achievements include being made a member of the Order of Canada in 2010 and serving as an honorary lifetime member of the Northern Air Transport Association.
Even though Carmichael is enjoying retirement these days, he still has his commercial pilot’s licence and a private plane.