If you’re looking for Michel Allard, chances are you’ll find him at St-Lazare Airport. This summer, he’s been tinkering with his recreational Seabee aircraft. He expects to enjoy it in the coming years. The retired pilot still has the itch to fly, like many other members of his family.
Allard recently retired after more than 45 years as a commercial airline pilot. He spent more than 40 years with Air Canada. He touched down for the last time May 28 at Trudeau Airport. When the plane came to a final stop, he felt a combination of emotions – including relief.
« I had 450 passengers behind me. The only thing I was thinking was ‘don’t screw up’, » Allard says with chuckle. « I never scratched a plane in my career. I didn’t want to do it on my last landing. »
For the 63-year-old, flying is a passion. It’s something many members of his family share. His brother Jean, 61, his son Philippe, 32, and his nephew Frederick, 22, are all active commercial airline pilots. The patriarch of the Allard family, the late Wilfrid Allard, was also a pilot.
« Three generations of pilots. It’s not very often you see something like that. It’s special that they’re carrying on the tradition, » Allard says.
The Allards have called the West Island home for close to a century. Michel grew up in Beaconsfield. He currently resides in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.
One of the highlights of Michel Allard’s career was getting up close and personal with members of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club. He was the pilot for the team’s charter from 2004 to 2006.
« It was nice to meet and chat with the players. They respected me and treated me like a celebrity, » he says.
While his job also took him to some of the greatest cities in the world, Allard says he what he will miss the most is the crew: the flight attendants, co-pilots and ticket agents he met every day.
« I already miss them. But we still keep in touch. They were like a family, » Allard says.
Allard now plans on spending his golden years keeping his recreational plane in tip top shape. He flies to the Laurentians with his family regularly to enjoy the great outdoors.
« When I was in the Boeing 777’s, it was all about the gadgets, the GPS and computers. When I started back in 1978, all we had were paper maps. There were no computers aboard at all, » he says.
Allard will tell you he actually prefers to fly the « old-fashioned » way.