Award-winning CO’s flight program under provincial review

Kevin Elliott is in a one-of-a-kind job these days. And if he has anything to do with it, that distinction will soon be a thing of the past.
Elliott, a 14-year conservation officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources (the last six have been spent at the district office here), is currently the only CO in Ontario whose licence to fly aircraft has been incorporated into his job description.
“To take my passion for recreational flying and combine it with my CO work …. to be able to be both …. that’s a breath of fresh air for me,” he smiled.
And it is that passionate combination of his love for flying and his work that recently won him an award to boot.
As noted in the Times last week, he was honoured with an Amethyst Award during a ceremony at Queen’s Park earlier this month for his work in developing and implementing a new system of providing aviation enforcement services in Northern Ontario.
Since 1994, Elliott has been carrying out his CO patrols and law enforcement from the air–a “pilot” project he spearheaded, in co-operation with the MNR’s provincial air service in Sault Ste. Marie, as part of the ministry’s employee program focused on saving money.
The experimental stage of that project ended recently but its success may result in the possible addition of two other MNR positions just like Elliott’s across the province.
“Up until last year, it was just a trial program but now it’s under review provincially. It’s gone beyond the test phase,” noted Elliott, who holds both a private and commercial pilot’s licence.
Over the past three years, Elliott has developed his flying CO program (which covers the northwest region from the Manitoba border to Terrace Bay and Geraldton) to incorporate the enforcement needs requisitioned from MNR district offices across the zone.
With a flying schedule based primarily on the seasonal habits of anglers and hunters, Elliott spends between 80 and 100 days (300-350 hours) per year flying the region solo or with a CO in the passenger seat–especially during heavy violation periods.
“I can function on both sides as a CO and as a pilot. I can land and lay charges [if necessary] or assist another CO,” he noted.
Elliott was assigned a small lightweight two-seater aircraft called a Maule. Despite the fact it was classed as a non-traditional bush plane, he said it has been an asset to his work by providing him with easy access to small area lakes if need be.
“It is a short take-off and landing aircraft–about a third the size of what [the MNR] normally used,” he noted, referring to the Turbo Beaver.
“[The Turbo] is an excellent bush plane but it’s sort of like using a Land Rover when a pickup would do,” he added.
Elliott expects the MNR may soon assign another flying CO based out of Geraldton, but covering the northwest region, and that move could mean a positive change for his present workload.
“[The program] has really blossomed to the point where I’m oversubscribed for service,” he stressed. “The MNR never had a tool like this
“I look after almost two-thirds of the province. Another position would help divide the workload,” he remarked. “I get spread so thin right now that the effect can get diluted.”
But even though his flight schedule may get a little hectic at different times of the year, Elliott isn’t complaining too much. Just the fact he gets to fly and work at the same time makes him a happy man.
Elliott was among 21 government individuals, partnerships and groups presented with an Amethyst Award for outstanding achievement as Ontario public servants.