Webster Memorial Trophy Competition honours young aviators

The famous Webster Memorial Trophy Competition has concluded for 2016.

The week-long competition took place again at Brampton Flight Centre in Ontario (for the seventh time), a huge supporter of the program and one of its biggest sponsors.

Mark Crha stands with the Webster Trophy.
Mark Crha, representing the Eastern Ontario region, from Seneca College, is the 2016 Webster Trophy winner.
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This year Brampton even supplied most of the meals for the participants. The closing gala was held at the Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport hotel on Sept. 24. The dinner was attended by numerous Webster Trophy alumni, as well as sponsors and supporters.

Dr. John Webster created the Webster Memorial Trophy Competition in 1932 in memory of his son John, who was killed in an accident during an aerobatic competition in 1931. The trophy recognizes excellence in Canadian youth in aviation.

Webster is not only part of Canadian aviation history, it is an important step for the competitors as they progress through their aviation careers. The competition involves not only flying skills, but academics, and a special written exam is created by Nav Canada for the competitors.

Webster competitors must not have flown for hire or reward within the past five years, although there is no restriction on the amount of flight experience the applicants may have acquired, and no licence type restrictions. About 100 applicants apply from across Canada each year and compete in one of nine provincial regions in order to become one of the nine national finalists.

One of the trophy winners from the days of the original competition, retired Capt Don Fisher, was happy to be in attendance this year. Winner of the 1951 Webster Trophy, connections made led him to a lifelong career in aviation. Fisher was also instrumental in rejuvenating the Webster competition after it lapsed for a number of years.

After the 2016 winner received his many high-value prizes, including headsets and awards, Fisher presented him with the coveted Webster Trophy Medallion, cast in bronze.

Webster Trophy runner up Michael Bryson is presented with the Eunice Carter Memorial Award.
Webster Trophy runner up Michael Bryson is presented with the Eunice Carter Memorial Award. Andy Cline Photo

“All I got was a pen,” Fisher joked.

However, when all of the Webster alumni were called to the stage he was presented with a memorial plaque for his support of the program.

Sponsors

An impressive list of more than 40 sponsors from all quarters were a sign of how well supported the Webster competition is. Many provided services, material and financial support, and numerous furnished prizes and grants for the event. Notable were Aerographics (design), the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA), Association Quebecoise du Transport Aerien (AQTA), Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Flight Safety, KF Aerospace, the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and Transport Canada.

Prizes for all nine provincial finalists were generously provided by: CAE (heavy simulator sessions), the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, College of Professional Pilots of Canada ($100 grant and annual membership), MHM Publishing (Skies magazine subscriptions) and Resource Management Online courses.

One of the most sought after prizes were Breitling aviation watches. Of course, the largest sponsor was Air Canada, which not only provided air travel for the finalists from across Canada, but also the logistics of moving the competition freight.

The airline also furnished travel passes for the winner and a guaranteed interview with one of its affiliates. Air Canada funds the entire event, providing a budget to the administrators. Air Canada affiliates Jazz and rouge also participate, with Jazz providing a hangar tour of a Bombardier CRJ for the competitors.

The competitors

The nine nominees represent nine geographical area in Canada:

  • Jared Shury—British Columbia, University of the Fraser Valley, Coastal Pacific Aviation;
  • Reuben Vermeulen—Alberta, Prairie College (Mission Aviation);
  • Timothy Penner—Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Mitchinson Flight Centre;
  • Michael Bryson—Manitoba, Harv’s Air;
  • Maxine Brignell—Western Ontario, Sault College;
  • Adrian Worek—Central Ontario, Brampton Flight Centre;
  • Mark Crha—Eastern Ontario, Seneca College;
  • Samuel Beaulieu—Quebec, Lachute Aviation;
  • Mark Nardei—Atlantic Canada, Moncton Flight College, Seneca College.

The 2016 Webster finalists have completed between 160 and 700 hours of flight time, and collectively amassed about 2,500 hours. Five hold private pilot licences and four hold commercial licences. Most are night rated, three have instrument flight rules (IFR) ratings, one is multi-engine rated and one is checked out on seaplanes.

Webster Trophy administrators Amy and Wayne Foy are presented with gifts celebrating their retirement after 10 years. Andy Cline Photo
Webster Trophy administrators Amy and Wayne Foy are presented with gifts celebrating their retirement after 10 years. Andy Cline Photo

Two completed initial flight training through the Air Cadet Flying Scholarship Program, and both have glider licences. All of the national finalists are well-versed in flight, accumulating aviation certificates and diplomas from Canadian aviation colleges.

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Several have university-level education, including a civil engineer, one with a bachelor of science in Aviation Environmental Science, and one completing a bachelor of business administration degree.

The winners

Maxine Brignell represented Western Ontario and won the 2016 Nav Canada award, a special pilot knowledge written exam prepared specially for the Webster Trophy competitors, scoring an impressive 93 per cent. As the sole female competitor, she was also awarded a Northern Lights Award $500 grant.

Prizes for the winner and runner up included: Bob Bradford framed art prints, Sennheiser headsets and higher-end Breitling watches than the other seven received.

The Webster Trophy runner up was Michael Bryson, representing Manitoba. He was brought up in an aviation family. His grandfather was a squadron commander flying bombers. His father, brother and sister work in the aviation industry and his mother, sister and brother hold pilot licences.

Bryson will soon graduate with a civil engineering degree and has numerous pilot qualifications.  He has traveled extensively to Australia, China, Hong Kong, China, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and the United States. Bryson received the Eunice Carter Memorial Trophy.

The 2016 Webster Memorial Trophy winner was Mark Crha, representing Eastern Ontario.

Crha’s father is an aeronautical engineer who managed to get him aboard glider and aeroplane flights while he was young. In air cadets he accumulated an impressive collection of flying awards during glider and power training.

He attended Rocket Town in Huntsville, Alabama and is now at Seneca College working toward his commercial pilot’s licence. The winner received an impressive prize selection. Significant grants were awarded from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), ATAC and Flight Safety. Crha also received a $1,000 grant toward his flight training from ACPA and a $2,000 grant toward IFR training from Moncton Flight College. Brampton Flight Centre offered him a job as a flight instructor.

The Webster Trophy team

The team behind the Webster Trophy competition is very experienced and involved in aviation. A panel of judges from across the industry look at the individual’s backgrounds and skills and are flight examiners.

One of the flight examiners, Capt Brian Shury, was winner of the 1982 Trophy. Amy and Wayne Foy are the main administrators behind the Webster Trophy Competition, and have sadly decided to step down after 10 years on the job.

In a bittersweet end to the evening, they were deeply thanked by the 2016 competitors, who gave them chocolates and a teddy bear. They were also honoured for their tireless dedication and organizational skills with two Air Canada worldwide passes and a large Bob Bradford print. They were both emotional as they thanked everyone. The Foys leave a well-run legacy in the capable hands of Brenda Reid.

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