Jessica James said growing up in Nimpo Lake made her who she is – who, at just 27, is the star pilot of the new reality TV series Lost car rescue.
She spent her early years in the small community, leaving with her parents at age 14, eventually settling on Vancouver Island, where she graduated from high school in Ladysmith.
But she would continue to return to work during the summers at The Dean on Nimpo resort.
“Nimpo and the Chilcotin have such a big piece of my heart,” she said. “Because Nimpo is such a small community, everyone feels like family…I feel so lucky to be able to grow up there.”
She enjoys the practical skills she learned growing up in Chilcotin, from exposure to aviation – Nimpo Lake being the seaplane capital of British Columbia for a long time – to fishing, boating boating and quad biking.
She started young, her first flight was just six months old.
His father was a pilot throughout his childhood and his mother was a co-pilot.
“I have very fond memories of going flying with both of them and taking family trips.”
“They were a good team in the cockpit,” she said in an interview with the Tribune.
This exposure likely helped James consider flying as something she could do growing up.
When she was just a little girl, her dad Stephen James even made her a paper and cardboard airplane cockpit to play with, which a lot of little girls probably couldn’t tell.
James earned her private pilot’s license as she tried to decide what to pursue in her post-secondary education.
She then fell in love with aviation and decided to get her business license.
James said women can struggle to break into commercial aviation, even more so in the field she decided to work in, flying seaplanes where there are even fewer women, but she said that she hoped that would change.
“You definitely have to have a passion for it,” she said, as women face even more barriers in the industry.
James also said that while she may not have had female pilot role models growing up, she had female mentors and was supported by fellow Airmen, men and women, who helped her to get to where she is now.
She hopes her role in the TV series can also help change the minds of women who engage in this type of theft.
“I’m very, very grateful to have this opportunity,” James said.
The team turned into family for James during the project.
“Dave is like another grandfather I found along the way and the other three are like brothers,” she said, which she appreciates as an only child.
Although James is only part of a crew of five, she plays a key role as a pilot, helping Matt Sager, who is the team leader and the one who started the salvage company that later led to the reality series.
Sager started looking for rare cars on his own with a pickup truck, car trailer and $1,000 seven years ago.
From those early days, he built the company and its current team, which now includes using his 1948 Stinson taildragger aircraft to help with the search from the air.
Once he started using the plane as a tool, Sager said he realized he would need someone’s help to fly after a few close calls.
“It’s a lot to deal with,” Sager said. “I can’t chase cars, fly a plane and talk on the radio at the same time.”
Sager had known James for years – they met in flight school and James lived with Sager and his then-girlfriend as roommates.
Sager’s parents even bought his childhood home on Lake Nimpo, where the family spends a few months every winter and where James joins them every year for their New Year’s Eve party. James is still close to Sager and his current wife. .
“Jess is probably the nicest person I’ve ever met – almost too nice,” Sager joked, describing her as “a rare gem.”
He also described her as a kind of spirit akin to himself, in that they both like to engage with the people they meet and the stories along the way in finding cars. .
Since they met, Sager had been flying privately, but James had continued to obtain his commercial license and log commercial flying hours.
They had flown together several times since they were roommates and he had great respect for her as a pilot.
“There’s no place for a softie up there in the air,” he said, describing James as someone who doesn’t rush and isn’t a pushover in the air. the cockpit.
“I like to take control and Jess will give it back to me directly if I take control of his plane,” Sager said.
While he knew she would be a good fit for the project when he was developing his team, Sager also said he didn’t want to stand in her way when she was doing so well in her profession. and if she left her post, her place would be filled.
“It seems like a tough thing to advance in aviation as a woman,” Sager said. “It always seems like they’re working so much harder to do the exact same job.”
But when she was laid off from her job flying commercial seaplanes between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, he wanted her to join the team as a pilot.
James said it was difficult to fly the classic plane and trying to get Sager to watch the cars from the air, at just over 500ft, combined with all the obstacles that may come up. when landing in fields and on roads. “kept her on her toes” especially in northern BC
“I definitely had good practice on my crosswind landings,” she laughed, adding that the tail drag requires you to have quick hands and feet.
But these were perhaps less likely to phase James than some other young drivers.
“I’m so grateful because I grew up listening to all the bush pilot stories,” James said.
For Sager, there was no doubt that James was the pilot for the job.
“Jess was my first-round pick,” Sager said.
The show Lost car rescue premieres Thursday, Jan. 13 at 9 p.m. on History and will document a team of men and one woman – James – who spent the summer locating and recovering rare cars in the Peace Country of British Columbia