Meet Shannon Thompson, part of the new breed of Canadian float-plane pilots.
She and other women are breaking stereotypes, stepping into a role once dominated by true-grit type of guys. And Thompson says she has had no trouble fitting into that role.
“You hear of Alaskan bush pilots who brag about saving the day; of getting their plane through a tough situation,” she said with a smile at the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow last week. “But I don’t want to be the one telling those stories. That means something has gone wrong.
“Luckily, we haven’t had any trouble. We fly fishermen into some remote lakes, but we’ve never had any problems.”
Thompson, 30, spent the weekend representing Laurie River Lodge in northern Manitoba at the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow at Bartle Hall.
Accessible only by float plane, the resort is in the heart of some of Canada’s finest walleye, northern pile and lake trout fishing. Thompson flies customers into the lodge and also brings them to more than 20 lakes and three river systems.
The water is her landing strip. She transports fishermen to the base lodge, which features comfortable cabins, American plan dining and guided fishing trips. But what Laurie River Lodge is really known for is its fly-in trips to many of the small lakes in northern Manitoba.
“I hear a lot of good fish stories when I pick people up ,” Thompson said.
For her, it’s a perfect work setting. The beauty and serenity of the region is her kind of place.
“I couldn’t be the kind of pilot who has to wear a tie and suit every day,” she said. “I’m more comfortable working out in the wilderness.
“When you come out to the dock early in the morning and hear the loons and see wildlife, that’s where I’m at home.”
Thompson comes from a family of pilots. She grew up in British Columbia, where her grandfather, three uncles and her mother and father flew planes.
“My grandfather built a plane,” she said. “That was his toy.
“He took people for sightseeing tours and just loved being in the air.”
Thompson followed suit and started by doing sightseeing tours on British Columbia’s coast. But she moved inland to Manitoba to work for Laurie River Lodge last year and she has never regretted the move.
Though she gets little time to fish, she is happy being around fishermen.
“I was a little worried about how fishermen would react to having a young woman as a pilot,” she said. “But that hasn’t been a problem at all. “