SUDBURY -- Students from a southern Ontario helicopter school visited northern Ontario this week to train in severe winter elements.

For the past 12 years, Great Lakes Helicopters has been running a training course on a private piece of land north of Massey. With forests, lakes and cabins for all, it’s the perfect location to teach students what to do if they are forced to land in a remote location during winter.

“We’re doing a winter course that involves advanced flying in the snow, whiteout conditions, deep snow,” says Dwayne Henderson, general manager of Great Lakes Helicopter.

“We’re also preparing the students for instances where they may have a mechanical issue or where they may have to land because of weather and then what to do once you’re on the ground, survival shelter, signal fires and other basic survival techniques.”

Henderson, a pilot who first began flying in 1992, says the offerings of winter weather in the north provide ideal training conditions.

He says it serves as a great opportunity for students to try new things.

“It’s not just flying around Kitchener-Waterloo or Sudbury airport or the other standards. This is real life flying, they are in the snow, you’re in the remote north and the isolation is what people get excited about. They really like the idea that this isn’t a simulation, this is actually doing it. This is what you’re going to be doing when you get your commercial licence.”

It’s not just the flying students are doing, but learning how to make shelter and even a signal fire should they need to flag for support.

“There’s not a lot of other people around so you can’t just go and ask someone. You’ve got to figure it out for yourself,” says Julia Bos, a student.

With a large amount of its students coming from Conestoga College, Great Lakes Helicopter offers programs for members of the general public who are looking at developing their pilot skills.

Henderson says it’s a feeling like no other.

“It’s a wonderful experience as I’m sure you had yourself. It scratches an itch for people that want to do it every day and it’s a great experience for people that only get to do it once or twice.”