http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/04 ... ilots.html
Albert Isaacs provided lessons in calm to a generation of Toronto pilots
Cool-under-fire pilot, who faced midair crises with aplomb, passed his skills on in school. He died on Feb. 21 at age 72. Albert Isaacs was a veteran pilot who taught the majority of Porter Airlines' pilots.
George Haim Special to the Star
Sun Apr 05 2015
Albert Isaacs was a veteran pilot who taught the majority of Porter Airlines' pilots.
If you fly with Porter Airlines, there’s a greater than 50 per cent chance the man who taught your captain how to fly your airplane was Albert Isaacs.
“Fire is for cooking and ice is for drinks,” he often told students in his Downsview classroom, making sure they remembered two big dangers of flying.
Another danger is a loose engine, something Isaacs experienced firsthand when he took a teenager for a ride in a small plane in the early 1980s. Isaacs landed the plane safely in a field near Markham’s Buttonville Airport, but only after he carefully avoided smashing through a fence.
About a dozen years earlier, Isaacs was among six Guyana Airways pilots to receive an award for bravery from the Guyanese prime minister for their role in stopping an uprising in the southwestern part of the country.
The pilot who never retired from teaching because he loved his job died of pancreatic cancer on Feb. 21 at age 72. Isaacs stopped working only after receiving his cancer diagnosis last August.
“He was like the Energizer bunny,” said Jeff Dusang, a pilot at Porter who teaches part-time at FlightSafety Canada, the company for which Isaacs worked. “He was very calm, very patient. Students could relate to him.”
“He was even-keeled all the time,” said David Killin, a test pilot at Bombardier Aerospace who used to work at FlightSafety. “He never seemed to have a bad day.”
Isaacs worked at FlightSafety for over 20 years, often lecturing for eight or nine hours a day in ground school. “I don’t know how the heck he did it” for so many years, said Colet Acham, a training captain at Porter.
Isaacs’ students already had their commercial pilots’ licences. He taught these pilots about a specific aircraft in a classroom setting for almost two weeks, after which they trained in a simulator. Pilots from around the world attended his classes.
Acham said Isaacs was one of the few people qualified to teach pilots how to fly all four versions of the Dash 8 — the 100, 200, 300, and 400. The 400 is also known as the Q400 and is the aircraft flown by Porter. According to Acham, Isaacs had memorized every single intricate difference between the four models.
In addition to teaching, Isaacs also had a love for science and astronomy. He had a powerful telescope with which he taught his son and daughter how to identify objects in the night sky. He once spent a week at a space camp in Huntsville, Alabama, where he learned what it’s like to train as an astronaut.
Albert Eustace Isaacs, known as Zick to his friends and family, was born in 1942 in what was then known as British Guiana. After graduating from an aviation school in Florida in 1967, he went to work for Guyana Airlines as a co-pilot flying passengers within Guyana and around the Caribbean.
In January 1969, less than three years after gaining independence from Great Britain, Guyana was hit by what became known as the Rupununi Uprising. Five police officers and one civilian were killed in an attack by ranchers on the police station in the town of Lethem, an 85-minute flight from the capital, Georgetown. With no air force, the Guyanese government commandeered three Guyana Airways DC-3s — most of the airline’s fleet — to ferry troops and supplies from Georgetown to an airstrip outside Lethem. As co-pilot, Isaacs participated in these missions.
Roland DaSilva, Guyana Airways’s chief pilot at the time, said the planes landing in Lethem were attacked by gunfire on their approach, though none were hit.
Albert Isaacs appears fourth from the left, beside Roland DaSilva, fifth from the left, who was chief pilot of Guyana Airlines. In 1970, Isaacs and DaSilva were in Canada to pick up a plane - a DHC4 Caribou - which they flew back to Guyana. According to DaSilva, the Caribou (shown in the photo) was a gift to Guyana from the Canadian International Development Agency.
In 1975, upon the birth of their second child, Isaacs and his wife, Judy, decided to move to Canada in search of a better life. Isaacs joined De Havilland Canada shortly thereafter as a test pilot. He started working at FlightSafety in the early 1990s.
Isaacs loved spreading his knowledge about aviation, and he loved interacting with youth. In the early 1980s, Barbadian teenager Dirk DaSilva was spending his summer vacation in Toronto and wanted to learn more about small planes. A Toronto relative of DaSilva’s introduced him to Isaacs, who agreed to take him for a ride in a four seat Cessna 172 based at Buttonville Airport.
Isaacs showed DaSilva how takeoffs and landings are done. A few minutes after the third takeoff, the plane started shaking violently. When Isaacs reduced engine power, the vibrations calmed. When he increased power, the vibrations increased.
Isaacs declared an emergency. Buttonville Airport’s runway was cleared, but Isaacs didn’t think he could turn the plane around. “That’s where we’re landing,” he told DaSilva, pointing straight ahead to a field being plowed by a farmer.
On final approach, the plane barely made it over a fence. The landing on the grassy field was very rough and the plane stopped just short of a hedge. Isaacs was calm throughout this incident, said DaSilva, giving the experience an almost routine flavour.
Judy Isaacs said the federal transport authorities were impressed by how her husband had safely brought the plane down. It turned out the metal piece holding the engine to the plane had loosened and was close to falling off.
Isaacs leaves behind his wife, his two children, and three grandchildren.