New aviation advisory council ready to take off

Minister Sawhney meets with members of the new Strategic Aviation Advisory Council. L-R: Brian Andrus, Dr. Elizabeth Evans, MLA Richard Gotfried, and Kendra Kincade.

The eight newly appointed council members have experience in aviation, tourism, business and economic development and will recommend strategies to bolster Alberta’s aviation industry.

“Congratulations to all the members appointed to the newly created Strategic Aviation Advisory Council. The aviation sector is a vital part of Alberta’s economic recovery plan, and we are setting the stage for future aviation and aerospace development. The council will help inform government plans to support new economic development opportunities, job creation and market expansion.”

Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Transportation

The advisory council will make recommendations on infrastructure and aviation-related programs such as pilot training, air cargo services, aerospace research and development, as well as aviation services to support agriculture and emergency medical and fire response.

“Alberta has a long history of aviation excellence from bush pilots pioneering our status as “gateway to the North” to the Second World War’s British Commonwealth Flight Training Plan’s training of over 130,000 aviators, and current operations at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake. SAAC will build on the wings of a proud aviation legacy and set Alberta on a flight path forward to meet the new challenges faced in a diverse and challenging industry. The aviation and aerospace industries are more than just planes in the air, and are critical to our emerging knowledge-based economy, sectoral innovation and future investment and job creation. SAAC will provide strategic leadership and seek out global opportunities to advance Alberta’s interests. I am thrilled to have been appointed to chair this important initiative, and to lead a team of industry experts.”

MLA Richard Gotfried, chair, Strategic Aviation Advisory Council

“Aviation has a bright future in Alberta. With WestJet and Flair Airlines headquartered here, our innovation in drones and unmanned flight, and our strong advantages as a continental logistics hub, we are poised for tremendous growth. The Strategic Aviation Advisory Council will take these strengths and build on them, proving that when it comes to Alberta, the sky is not the limit, it’s where we get started.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation

Quick facts

  • Alberta airport and airline passenger traffic declined significantly due to COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
    • In 2020, about two-thirds fewer passengers went through the Calgary International Airport and Edmonton International Airport when compared to 2019.
  • Alberta’s aerospace and defence sector ranges from air transportation to remotely piloted aircraft systems, also known as drones.
  • Members of the advisory council, with the exception of MLA Gotfried, will be paid based on government’s Committee Remuneration Order in Council for members of public agencies.


The Strategic Aviation Advisory Council appointees include:

  • Richard Gotfried, MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek, who introduced the council’s enabling legislation as a private member’s bill (Bill 201). He worked as district sales manager for Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. for 15 years and was vice-president of corporate and community engagement with Calgary Economic Development between 2011 and 2013.
  • Brian Andrus is the board secretary of the Alberta Aviation Council. He serves as a board member for 700 (City of Edmonton) Wing Royal Canadian Air Force Association.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Evans is the interim-provost and vice-president academic at Mount Royal University (MRU) and the accountable executive for the MRU Aviation Program. She is the regional director for the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub.
  • Lynda Holden is the associate dean for Aviation and Technology at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAlT). She has 13 years of aviation experience working as an aircraft maintenance engineer in southern Alberta and 14 years supporting the aviation programs at SAlT.
  • Justin Jimmy is a capacity development manager with the First Nations Financial Management Board, which helps First Nation governments and organizations achieve financial management certification and develop strong governance processes. He is currently a trustee on a First Nation investment trust and a committee member for Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee.
  • Kendra Kincade is an air traffic controller with NAV CANADA. She was appointed an Honorary Colonel of 417 Combat Support Squadron, 4 Wing Cold Lake in October 2018 and is the founder and CEO of Elevate Aviation, where she spends her time advocating and working to promote the world of aviation to women.
  • Ferio Pugliese is the senior vice-president of people and culture for Parkland Corporation. He has previously served as a senior vice-president with Air Canada and an executive with WestJet and WestJet Encore, WestJet’s regional airline.
  • David Wheeler is president and CEO of Wheeler Support Services Inc., an aerospace and defence consulting company. He is a retired major-general and former fighter pilot with more than 33 years of leadership and command experience with the Canadian Armed Forces.