By: Liam Berti
If graduating with a 3.97 grade point average and scoring perfect on his ground school exams wasn’t impressive enough, then winning the Webster Memorial Trophy Competition as the best amateur pilot in Canada has proven Takashi Hirose to be an aviation prodigy.
Hirose, who graduated from Algonquin’s aviation management program less than a month ago, was chosen as the superior pilot among nine regional finalists from across the country on August 24.
After rigorous flight, simulator and written testing, it was clear that Hirose was the deserved winner of this year’s illustrious title.
“When Takashi went up against the finalists, he was going up against the best in the country. These guys are the cream of the crop,” said Wayne Foy, Webster aviation technical assistant and competition judge. “His skills and abilities certainly put him in the right position as a regional finalist, so he came out on top. He earned it and deserved it.”
While most amateur pilots can only dream of adding his awards and accolades to their resume, the 29-year-old Hirose insists his recent designation is a mere speck on the radar.
“I was very happy right after I won,” Hirose said with a smile on his face. “Winning does show that my training so far up until this point is right on track. So yes, I am happy.”
“But there’s still plenty of room to grow.”
It is this type of humble acknowledgement that reflects Hirose’s approach to his trade. Until he reaches his goal of flying with a commercial airline company, there is always more to practice, more to study and more to absorb about the aviation industry.
“It became very clear from early on that Taka was extremely hard working,” said Andrew Simpson, chief flying instructor at the Ottawa Flying Club where Hirose has flown since 2011. “One of his first assignments for us was to create a schedule of when he was going to fly, eat, travel, all that kind of stuff. He scheduled four hours of sleep a night because the rest of the time he would either be studying, flying, exercising or preparing.
“He goes so far in-depth with his flight training and he wants to know everything, do everything and make sure everything is absolutely perfect.”
Hirose’s meticulous approach to flying was exemplified by him flying to Winnipeg, Man., two days prior to the contest to familiarize himself with the unknown airspace as well as learn the new aircraft that was used in the Webster competition, all at his own expense.
But now that Hirose has won the award and graduated, the job search begins. While most recent graduates seek almost any job where they can gain experience and boost their flying hours, Hirose has already been offered a myriad of opportunities thanks to winning the Webster.
“In the aviation industry, being a Webster competitor alone is looked highly upon,” said Simpson. “Being a regional finalist can go on your resume and almost guarantee you a job, but being a Webster winner is huge. He has so many opportunities going forward and this can go straight to the top of the resume.”
Most notably, Air Georgian and the Ottawa Flying Club have reached out to Hirose with future job offers.
Numerous key members of the aviation industry attended the competition to witness Hirose take home the title. Distinct industry figured such as senior management from Air Canada, snowbirds demonstration team pilots and several past Webster winners were in attendance to honour the contestants.
“When the finalists go to the awards banquet they get to meet the senior executives from major airlines, giving them the chance to sit down and talk with these gentlemen,” said Foy. “These winning individuals get all of these opportunities thrown at them and you just can’t buy that.”
“I’ve never really had the chance to meet those kind of big company pilots, especially the senior ones,” Hirose explained. “At Algonquin you meet a lot of student pilots, but it was definitely a great experience, being able to talk to these guys that work with the big companies.”
Hirose began studying at Algonquin in 2011 after leaving Japan to seek an aviation diploma program that would build a solid foundation for the skills needed to land a job in the airline industry.
But with an endless amount opportunity now ahead of him, Hirose plans to approach the rest of his aviation career the same way he has up until now.
“Sometimes I get overwhelmed, but I always make a commitment to my list of priorities,” said Hirose. “So my style is just to always work hard towards that high standard and only then take a look at the results of that work.”