All it took was one flight to Africa in a small airplane in 2001 to steer Teara Fraser’s life in a new direction.
She is the president and owner of Kisik Aerial Survey, the Richmond-based and 100-per-cent Aboriginal-owned supplier of aerial survey work that was recently the recipient of a British Columbia Achievement Foundation BC Aboriginal Business Award for outstanding achievement.
Fraser started the company in 2009 after her aerial epiphany years prior.
“I went there for travel and had never spent any time in a small plane before,” said Fraser, 41, who had previously worked in administration and human resources. “I never travelled much at all, I was in my late 20s and hadn’t quite done what I was looking for yet.”
“When I was in the plane I thought, ‘this is the coolest thing I’ve been a part of.’ I felt something move inside and decided this was indeed what I wanted to do, although it was later in life, and many challenges followed.”
She started training immediately after returning to Canada and acquired her private pilot license within a few months, and then her commercial license shortly afterwards.
Fraser’s initial dream, like many other pilots,’ was to command a big commercial plane.
But while completing her required flight hours she discovered another passion.
“I flew photo (aerial survey) while building flight time for a few seasons and enjoyed it very much — the challenge of it, the dynamics of it,” she said, adding her primary clients for large format high-resolution overhead 3-D imagery are universities, utility companies and the government.
Born in Hay River, N.W.T. and raised in Quesnel, she moved to the Lower Mainland when she was 19.
Fraser said she is proud of her Métis and Cree heritage, and was honoured to be recognized for the Aboriginal business award.
“I tried to start an Aboriginal Pilots’ Association, and then I realized there were none,” said Fraser, laughing.
Female pilots alone already represent a very small percentage of all Canadian pilots without adding ethnicity into the equation she added, although she is trying to change that.
Fraser regularly attends postsecondary career information days and also presents at the high school and elementary school level telling young people that the traditional image of what a pilot looks like is changing.
“One of the reasons I do as much work in the community as I do is because if I had an exposure to flying as a youth, I might have found my path earlier.”