Soaring high: Turin's Journey from electrician to pilot

Commercial pilot student joins family history in aviation.

SASKATCHEWAN — Aviation runs in Samantha Turin’s family. Her father, grandfather, aunt and uncle all had careers in the aviation industry and now Turin is pursuing her Commercial Pilot diploma at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. At age 16, Turin went on a discovery flight that changed her life. “Ever since that day, I wanted to be a pilot. I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Turin. Although she had dreams to fly, life took her in a different direction.

Born and raised in British Columbia, Turin began her career as an electrician. In 2020, she moved to Alberta and then to Saskatoon a year later picking up temporary jobs along the way. “I fully planned to go back to electrical school but one day I decided I didn’t want to be an electrician,” she says. “I wanted to be a pilot.” The sudden career change was overwhelming but exciting.

Her mom was surprised by the news. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I burst into tears. It was pretty exciting,” says Kathy Haslett, Turin’s mom. She was particularly thrilled to see her daughter following her passion in the family business. “We come from quite a flying family,” says Haslett. “My eldest sister had her private pilot’s license and almost cried when I told her Samantha was going into the commercial pilot program. She said finally someone was following in our dad’s footsteps.” Turin’s grandfather, Gordon Haslett, was well-known in the aviation industry. He started flying in 1919 as a bush pilot and worked his way up quickly, flying for Trans-Canada Air Lines, now known as Air Canada. He also became a flight instructor based out of Winnipeg and was a chief pilot in Vancouver for several years before retiring.

Turin’s father John also spent most of his 40-year career in the aviation industry with Canadian Pacific Air Lines (CP Air) and Air Canada supporting ground operations from the ramp. He had his commercial and private pilot licenses but never had the opportunity to fly with either company. Sadly, Turin’s father passed away when she was just seven years old but his passion for aviation influenced her early in life. She remembers growing up with a small model plane and picture of a CP Air airplane in their house. “I always wanted to be a pilot. I finally built up the courage to do it,” says Turin.

Turin has completed the first two semesters of the Commercial Pilot program and is now on a work term in the air traffic control tower. “I’m really excited for the work term. I’ve never been in the tower before, I just flew by it,” she says. Turin also notes how fantastic her experience has been at Sask Polytech and how important having access to the flight simulator is. “I love that we have a simulator that we can use anytime. I wouldn’t be able to train as much if I had to pay for each flight training session,” she says.

The state-of-the-art flight simulator offers students a risk-free flying experience in real-life scenarios. “The simulator is a game-changer. It offers a full cockpit experience with real controls. Students can feel the speed and wind resistance,” says program head Reed Willison. “Technology is rapidly changing the industry and this simulator is important for us to keep up with advances to ensure our students are well prepared when they enter the field.”

Turin also appreciates how accessible, responsive and helpful her instructors are. “They put their entire hearts into the program and are with you every step of the way.” The program prepares students to fly with ground training and flying experience at a flight school. Simulation time and flight training are essential to building up to solo flights. Turin gets goosebumps thinking about her first solo flight.

“I hadn’t flown in two weeks. We went up for flight training for an hour and a half and it was just terrible. I was so rusty.” Despite the rough day, Turin decided to go for her first solo flight. Alone in the plane, her thoughts were racing. Due to winds, she was forced to use a runway she had never practiced on and lined up for the wrong runway but she wasn’t about to let nerves get in her way. Turin turned around, taxied the proper way and took off, “I started tearing up and was like ‘no, not today.’” She regrouped, did her circuit, came back around and landed the plane. “It was probably the best landing I’ve ever done,” she says. “I had to make sure my hand was off the button so I wasn’t screaming into everyone’s ear. I started fist pumping. It was great, it was awesome!” Turin’s excitement and love for flying is undeniable and she has big plans for her future. “I’d like to fly float planes for a bit but Air Canada is the ultimate goal,” she says.

Turin’s mother, family and friends are incredibly proud of her for following her dreams. When asked about how Turin’s father would feel about the career path she’s chosen, Haslett says, “He would be beside himself in tears. He would be absolutely ecstatic and so proud of Samantha.”

— Submitted by Saskatchewan Polytechnique Media Relations


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