Scott McIntosh, Fort Langley Air
Interviewed December 7, 2018
By Julia McCaig
Kristin and Geoff Jarvis donated a unique and valuable gift to our Fall Bash fundraiser — a private tour of the southern BC Coast, departing from the Salish Sea, traveling over the Coastal Range (and the glaciers and volcanoes of Garibaldi Provincial Park) to the ultimate destination, Princess Louisa Provincial Marine Park, accessible only by water.
The lucky winners Brent O’Malley and Susan Swift, owners of Bowen Island Sea Kayaking, will get to experience the life of a West Coast seaplane pilot from inside one of Canada’s most iconic bush planes, the DHC-2 Beaver, before dining on a picnic assembled by alumnus and Chopped Canada Jr contestant Hudson Stiver.
This single donation raised $5,000 for our Student Financial Aid fund and the Jarvis Family encouraged me to satisfy my curiosity about why Scott McIntosh, Owner of Fort Langley Air, decided to partner in this generous gift.
What is your tie to IPS?
Scott first heard about IPS from his sister, Kristin Jarvis, who worked as our Communications Director from 2014 – 2017 and whose daughter Oceana is now in Grade 6. “Kristin plays a pivotal role in our family-owned business, and guides our communications, marketing and engagement strategy. She is a promotions juggernaut. When she and Oceana told us about the fundraiser, they showed me how it was a fit. How could I say no?” he jokes.
“On top of that, our digital content and social media strategist is John Stiver (whose son Hudson graduated from IPS in 2017 and whose daughter Wiley is currently in grade 7.) John and Kristin really believe in the school and we have shared values about how important the right support is for kids at this age.”
Tell me about your views on social responsibility
“Yes, community initiatives – it’s so difficult to actually settle on which cause to support. The way we’ve done it historically is we chose a charity that is aligned with our values and beliefs. We think giving all kinds of kids a chance is a natural fit to grow our community and our economy.
“At the end of the day, what matters most to me is the safety and happiness of my family, and a big part of that for my kids is finding the right educational fit for them. Independent schools are doing important work. My wife is very connected to Brentwood where she attended high school. We have one child heading to Shawnigan Lake School for grade 8 next year, and then our oldest is in grade 10 in a public high school. We live in a community of friends and neighbours of every financial background. This year we are lucky enough to be able to afford Shawnigan, and I think every kid that is driven to be part of a community deserves the best chance. I really could have used a school like IPS or Shawnigan as a kid and we would never have been able to afford it. I am impressed with schools that commit to economic diversity and financial aid.
“And, what comes around goes around. Kids who get help to follow their passion at a school that cares about them, hopefully turn into adults with that same global consciousness.”
What makes a semi-retired entrepreneur buy a float plane company?
Scott is an entrepreneur, a self-made risk taker, who comes from a family of pilots — both his father and grandfather were bush pilots. But he didn’t necessarily think he’d end up in an aviation business when he started his career.
“I grew up surrounded by pilots, and my own career started off in a truck transport business right out of high school, and we evolved over 30 years. I had intended to be in transportation for longer – I figured it would be a going concern for the rest of my career…but conditions were right, my partners and I were approached by a buyer, their offer was compelling so we seized it and sold the business in 2016.
“So there I was at 47 years of age thinking ‘what now?’ Then I saw Fort Langley Air. I realized it could be larger, more of a going concern. We talked about the possibilities of expansion and started contemplating plans around eco tourism, there was lots going on. I knew about corporate DNA, I had learned partway through my career how an organization can contribute back to the communities that we operate in and what our obligations are.”
FLA is an iconic business which has been around since the 60’s. It originated as the training arm of Skyway Air Services, and in 1999 pilot John Ferguson bought the business and re-created it. Over the years the training arm slowed down to the point where, when Scott purchased it, they had just one plane. He has added four planes since he bought it.
He says, “First and foremost we train float pilots. Float training is very specific — everyone in our training program is already a pilot, they then learn to fly floats — we don’t have any planes on wheels. In fact, I added it up the other day, and more than 2,000 floatplane pilots have been trained at “The Fort” over the years! And right now Canada has a shortage of pilots and bush pilots.”
“Our business also specializes in private clients needing to access properties with water access only, like taking clients to fishing lodges, dropping off backcountry hikers and climbers, delivering someone to their sailboat in Desolation Sound, or flying a cottager from a remote area who wants to come home for the weekend. We also have a significant focus on floatplane tours, which are an unbelievable experience on the West Coast. Additionally we work with industry such as tugboat operators, taking remote crews to worksites and so on.”
Middle school kids want to know – what were your greatest failures and what did they teach you?
“If there’s a mistake that can be made, I’ve made it at least two or three times — broken one of everything! I’ve run out of money, I’ve done OK in business and I’ve also had great successes. I’m a risk taker. I always get up, dust myself off, own my mistakes, surround myself with excellent people, show respect for them and trust that we’ll build something even better. And I gift a lot – time, money, service. It always comes back to me in ways I don’t expect.”
What are the next steps for FLA?
“We’ve purchased a hangar in PItt Meadows Airport (YPK) on the north bank of the Fraser River, and have upgraded the hangar at our Fort Langley Airport location where we do most of our training. We have a focus on float training, custom charters, sightseeing, industry, and promoting the coast and BC’s wilderness.”
“We are really excited to announce the upcoming launch of PIC Aircraft Rentals. In March, 2019 we will open our aircraft rental division, where we will make floatplanes and wheeled airplanes available for rent.
“And we often BBQ on Fridays at our hangar in Pitt Meadows, so check us out if you are in the area! “
To find out more about Fort Langley Air, visit their website here.