Airline president, air ambulance pilot, Santa Claus, Wayne McLeod dies after months-long battle with cancer
Mentor, industry leader, and Northern aviation pioneer Wayne McLeod has died. He died Friday at his home in Winnipeg after a months-long battle with cancer.
“Wayne was an incredible and special person, jovial, giving, and self-less,” read a statement on the Keewatin Air website. McLeod was President and Chief Executive Officer of the company. “He’ll be missed greatly, and all who had the honour of knowing him have many stories to share of his leadership, character, generosity, and humanity.”
Generosity, humanity, themes that those who knew McLeod repeat over and over.
“Wayne’s experience was well respected by his industry peers,” said Northern Air Transport Association Executive Director Glenn Priestley in an email. “His leadership as President guided NATA into a more prominent position of support for northern and remote aviation in Canada.”
On top of being a past president of the organization, he was an active board member until the end.
“Most importantly, he was a friend and we are so sad at his untimely death,” said Priestley. “He was such a presence. Such a mentor to me and many others. Such a kind man who left us way too soon.”
McLeod started with Keewatin in 1996, flying King Air planes out of Rankin Inlet. He then moved on to fly the company’s LearJet Air Ambulances. He also earned a name for himself thanks to his passion for operating safe air ambulances in Canada’s sparsely-populated North.
Keewatin bills itself as one of Canada’s most comprehensive aeromedical organizations, getting urgent medical cases out of Nunavut to Southern hospitals. More than 1,500 patients and their families rely on Keewatin’s medical transports every year.
He would also stand in for Santa in northern communities around Christmas, said a biography.
“To commemorate Wayne’s tremendous contributions to Keewatin Air, we have secured the registration C-FDWM and will operate one of our medevac aircraft in honour of Wayne’s memory,” Vice-President Pam Plaster said in an obituary to be published in the Nunatsiaq News.
The company will also rename its President’s Award in honour of McLeod.
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