Legendary 76-year-old Inuk bush pilot hits aviation milestone with 40,000 flight hours
Legendary Inuk bush pilot Johnny May Sr. has reached a milestone in flight that few pilots have reached in their careers, having recently surpassed 40,000 flight hours.
And the 76-year-old from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, said he plans to continue.
“Keep flying for as long as I can because I like it a lot,” he said.
May has been flying for 59 years and is best known as the first Inuit pilot in eastern Canada. He posted his recent theft feat on Facebook and received many congratulatory messages.
“It was cool,” he said.
May obtained her pilot’s license in 1962 and, thanks to her company, Johnny May’s Air Charters, has flown countless customers.
These days, he said, he pilots caribou hunters.
“I’ve flown a lot of it, and then I go to exploration camps. So it’s kind of a mixed flight, with different clients every day,” he said.
Over the years, he has also evacuated scores of people between Inuit villages and southern hospitals, as well as search and rescue missions.
He is credited with saving many lives.
“I have found a lot of lost people over the years and when you find them it’s fine. It’s a great satisfaction,” he said.
He said he found a helicopter once, he thinks it was in 1972, which had been lost for a month and a half.
“He was still alive, [so I] brought him back to Kuujjuaq. So occasions like that gave me a lot of pleasure, ”he said, adding that he also had a lot of sad stories.
The National Film Board of Canada co-produced a documentary on May’s life titled Johnny May’s Wings in 2013.
Annual Christmas candy drop in Kuujjuaq
May, who is Governor General Mary Simon’s brother, is also well known for the annual Christmas candy distribution in Kuujjuaq.
Every Christmas year, from 1965 to 2019, he flew his plane over the community and dropped candy, toys and clothes for children and other residents.
A children’s book on the annual event was published in 2015. In 2017, a short cartoon titled Le Grand Bonbon du Nord based on the book was produced by the CBC.
“When [my grandchildren] see that, I’m very happy to watch them watch it like a cartoon, “he said.” So yeah, a lot of good fun. “