Do you remember Career Day at your school? Maybe it included some guest speakers or a room filled with information booths showcasing different job options.
That was not the experience for Omer Iqbal.
“This is a first for us,” pilot Chris Kampen said. “It’s been a really neat experience.”
This week, the Grade 11 student was given a private tour of the Canadian North facility, hopped onboard the plane and even flew a flight simulator.
“He actually got to fly it, took it off and he actually landed it,” Kampen said with a smile, “Didn’t crash once.”
Before the special Career Day experience, Omer had never even been in a plane.
“Omer has never been allowed to fly because of his medical conditions,” his educational assistant Anita Buker Boone explained. “When the opportunity came up for him to pick his career assignment…He goes through the entire list and he researches them all…Last year it took him four days to research them all.”
This time, Omer narrowed it down a bit more quickly.
“Right away he wanted to fly.”
So, on Tuesday night, the 16-year-old got his chance.
“He reminded me a lot of myself starting out,” Kampen said. “He was smiling ear-to-ear every time I looked at him but he was very intently watching, running the controls.”
The flight simulator recreates all the physical and visual experiences of flying, including G force, turns and climbing elevation.
“It is identical to the real thing,” Kampen said.
Canadian North is one of many companies that participate in this full-day Career Day program with J. Percy Page High School. The employment blitz sent 800 students to various businesses – including BioWare, NAIT, Edmonton Police Service – for a first-hand glimpse at the workplace.
Kampen says he likely got just as much out of the day as Omer did, if not more.
“It was an amazing experience for me to be able to provide something like that to a kid. I’ve wanted to fly ever since I was a little kid. So to be able to see how excited he was.. even the nervous energy he had… I feed off it too.
“It’s really exciting for me to be a part of that.”
Make no mistake, it was pretty meaningful for Omer too.
“I want to be a pilot,” he said through his iPad. Omer has a tracheotomy and uses a text-to-speech function on an iPad to communicate.
“It felt like I was flying in real life,” he said. “I love the huge simulator. It’s so cool. I flew all the way to Vancouver Canada.”
Manning the controls, Omer was just a regular teen.
“While we were in there, you didn’t see the disability,” Kampen said.
Buker Boone has worked with Omer since he was in kindergarten. She says getting inside a plane was a big deal for him.
“He’s never even been on an airplane. He tells me all the time: he goes to the airport, he says goodbye to his family when they fly away, he’s there to greet people when they come back, but he’s never even seen the inside of an airplane.”
She said the hands-on Career Day is one thing, but Canadian North took it one step further.
“Just to see him get these opportunities and to see how much it helps fulfil him and grow, it’s just wonderful.”
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