‘I’m going flying’: Dean Bass Memorial Scholarship to help Air Cadets earn their wings

Annual scholarship commemorates extraordinary life and career of former Enbridge rotary pilot

Dean Bass was born to fly.

Bass logged more than 20,000 flight hours over four decades—including 20 years with Enbridge, patrolling our pipeline rights-of-way in Eastern Canada and the U.S. Upper Midwest while based in Sarnia, Ontario.

For more than 40 years—from the moment he obtained his pilot’s license in 1974, to his sudden and untimely passing on October 29, 2018—Bass was known for his resourcefulness, his dedication, his infectious smile and his passion for flying.

During that long aviation career, Dean brought charisma, professionalism and unbridled joy, as well as mentoring expertise for those who wanted to earn their wings.

“I know of several pilots flying professionally today who owe their decision to enter the aviation world to Dean,” says Paul Gingrich, the chief rotary pilot for Enbridge’s aviation services.

“He and I often flew together on patrols, and landed at airports big and small for fuel or a break,” adds Gingrich. “If anyone approached us with questions about aviation, Dean always took time to speak with them, advise them, give guidance or simply show them the helicopter. His enthusiasm was tremendously contagious.”

To commemorate Bass’s extraordinary life and career, Enbridge has established the Dean Bass Memorial Scholarship, an annual $5,000 grant to help cadets at the 44 Sarnia Imperial Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron pursue flight training and pilot certification.

The announcement was made earlier this summer during a dedication ceremony at Enbridge’s Dean Bass Memorial Hangar in Sarnia.

“We’re trying to instill the love of aviation into young people. That’s the key,” says Don Berrill, past president of the Air Cadet League of Canada, and an executive with the 44 Sarnia Squadron since 1972.

The Royal Canadian Air Cadet program, administered by the Canadian Forces and supported by the Air Cadet League, runs for five years, with cadets choosing the power or glider option. There are more than 27,000 Air Cadets in more than 450 squadrons across Canada, with 250 power pilots and 300 glider pilots graduating every year.

“The mantra here is youth teaching youth. What we try to do is get these pilots to the stage where they can take other cadets up for flights, and become pilot instructors themselves. In our gliding program, almost all the instructors are former cadets themselves,” says Berrill.

“On the power pilot side, scholarships like the Dean Bass Memorial Scholarship will allow these young people to build on their basic license by getting additional hours in the air.”

With a current pilot shortage in the aviation world, and high demand expected for the next two decades, the Air Cadets represent a “great breeding ground” for the industry, notes Berrill.

“Almost 60% of commercial airline pilots went through a cadet program of some sort, and about 10 to 12% of cadets go on into the armed forces,” notes Berrill.

“The career aspect is a huge drawing card, in addition to the peer factor: ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ ‘Oh, I’m going flying.’ ”