Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when a terminal illness cuts time tragically short. Alexis Thind’s father was a pilot for the majority of his life until a brain tumor made it impossible for him to fly. Only 8 months after his passing, Alexis is following in her dad’s footsteps by piloting around the world and helping people along the way.
For as long as she can remember, Alexis Thind’s dad loved to fly.
From his time served as an F-5 fighter pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force to flying as a 787 Captain with Air Canada, he was dedicated to his passion every single day.
“Growing up, my dad often told me he’s never worked a day in his life because that’s how much he loved flying. In hindsight, it’s hard to distinguish his passion for piloting from his unwavering work ethic,” Alexis told Tank’s Good News.
Alexis says that though her dad’s job as a pilot often made him absent for holidays, she never resented him and looked forward to hearing stories of his travels.
“He was every bit as committed to his family as he was to aviation. When he came home, he always had foreign treats and a thrilling story to tell from his travels. I wouldn’t trade my childhood as a pilot’s daughter for anything,” she said.
Last year, at age 59, Alexis’s father was diagnosed with Glioblastoma—a terminal brain cancer.
“It was terrifying to watch the most intelligent and capable person in my life slowly lose his mind, body, and independence to an aggressive brain tumor,” Alexis said.
A few weeks after his first brain surgery, between radiation and chemo treatments, Alexis’s dad decided to construct a flight simulator for his daughter so that he could impart as much knowledge onto her as possible while he still could.
“The flight simulator was my Dad’s idea, but working on it was something we did together,” Alexis said. “It was incredibly frustrating for him at times because his hand-eye coordination was failing so simple tasks that required fine motor skills sometimes took hours.”
But Alexis’s dad was determined.
“He spent hours watching how-to videos on YouTube and soldered a maze of wires onto circuit boards with shaky hands. Despite strict orders from doctors, he even wrestled with some power tools to create a wooden frame around the computer screens,” Alexis said.
Though it was devastating to witness the man she knew as her father slowly slipping away, Alexis says that working on the simulator alongside him taught her more about flying than any textbook ever could.
“He always told me a pilot never gives up, even in the direst of situations, and he certainly demonstrated that during the 14 months of his illness.”
In his final months, Alexis remembers her dad full of courage. One day before moving into hospice, he passed his decades-old flight briefcase on to Alexis.
“It broke my heart because in that moment, he was handing over everything he had worked for since he was a little boy. Together, we looked at each item in his case, from stickers he kept for kids on his flights, to his prized Bose aviation headset,” Alexis said.
With all that her dad taught her over the years, Alexis says there’s one piece of advice that will always stay with her.
“Being a good pilot is about who you are on the ground, just as much as it is about what you do in the air,” she said. “He also loved telling me to ‘keep the blue side up!'”
While aviation played such a major role in her childhood, Alexis admits that it wasn’t the career path she envisioned for herself at first.
“I went to University and completed a degree in Political Science, intending to pursue a career in law so I could make a positive difference in the lives of others,” Alexis told Tank’s Good News. “My Dad had encouraged me to go into aviation for years but I didn’t see how I could make a tangible impact working as a pilot.”
It was her introductory flight that ignited a passion for flying.
“Long story short, after an introductory flight, I was hooked. I have since learned that there are endless ways to make a difference in the world as a pilot,” she said.
Before his passing, Alexis promised her father that she would honor his memory by making a positive difference in the lives of others facing debilitating medical conditions—and she is already making strides to do so.
Most recently, she has applied to fly a leg of a 12,000km charity flight to Alaska called the ‘Northwest Expedition.’ The expedition raises funds and awareness to fly low-income individuals living in rural areas to central medical care.
“Opportunities like these are a way for me to combine my passion for aviation with my desire to help alleviate some of the stress felt by families enduring medical hardships,” Alexis said. “In addition, I have raised over $25,000 in tributes to my father for the oncology advancement fund at the hospital he was receiving treatment.”
For Alexis, the best part about flying is the ability to give back while doing what she loves.
Through her work, she has been able to kindle a passion for aviation in young people—especially young women—just as her father did for her.
“The world is anyone’s to explore, and what better way to see it than from the air.”
When asked what she imagined her dad would think about her life today, Alexis said she hopes he would be proud of who she’s become.
“I hope he would tell me that I’m staying true to the promise I made and that he’s proud of the daughter and pilot he raised.”
To learn more about Alexis and her dad, visit her Instagram account, @eh_lexis.