Nunavik town celebrates a high-flying hometown hero
Inukjuamiut throw surprise party for Air Inuit's newest captain, Melissa Haney
As Air Inuit pilot Melissa Haney taxied her Dash 8 after landing in Inukjuak Sept. 19, she thought there was an unusually large group of passengers waiting in the airport terminal.
Haney figured Inukjuamiut must be gathered to wait for someone important arriving on her flight.
They were. It was her.
Haney entered the Inukjuak terminal to the applause and cheers of dozens of people who’d come out to celebrate their hometown hero.
The long-time Air Inuit pilot—one of only two Inuk women at the Nunavik airline—made captain on the Dash 8 this past summer, the first Inuk woman to do so.
“Many of my family members were there, a lots of friends that I have got to know over the years,” Haney said. “It was great!”
Although Haney is now based in southern Quebec, she spent part of her childhood in Inukjuak, the hometown of her late father. Many of her relatives live in the community along with people she’s connected with since she started flying up Nunavik’s Hudson coast.
Inukjuamiut greeted Haney with homemade signs, decorations and an Air Inuit-themed cake that read: “Inukjuamiut are honoured and proud of you Captain Haney.”
Residents crowded in around Haney, snapping photos and offering gifts.
“She was really surprised,” said Inukjuak resident Caroline Oweetaluktuk, who took photos of the event.
Haney started working at Air Inuit in 2001, when she was hired as a flight attendant.
Two years later, she started flight training in Cornwall, Ont., and enrolled in ground school with Air Inuit the following year.
Haney is now married to another Dash 8 captain who flies for Air Inuit.
The surprise event, organized by Rhoda Kokiapik, was delayed by a few weeks due, in typical Nunavik fashion, to bad weather that cancelled Haney’s previous scheduled flights into the community.